What's the first thing a person shares with a new acquaintance? Their name. Both given and family names play an oversized role in the day-to-day matters of life, so anyone who hates their name is at a real disadvantage.
Fortunately, all states have legal procedures for allowing their residents to alter or totally swap out their names for a name they prefer.
Changing a Name in the State of Texas
In Texas, a resident can easily change their name as part of a marriage or divorce, but those seeking to change their names for other reasons must jump through additional hoops.
Each county in Texas, including Bexar County, can require local court forms and will have their own fee schedule. But the procedures are set by state law and are uniform across Texas.
Residents of Bexar County, Texas who want to legally change their name for reasons other than a marriage or a divorce must obtain permission from a civil court judge to do so. Residents must initiate a name change action by filing documents with the Bexar County District Clerk. It’s beneficial to familiarize yourself with the county's specific procedures to avoid unnecessary delays.
Texas Name Change Process
Not everyone fits well with the name they were given at birth. This explains why there are so many nicknames out there. "Tony" suggests a totally different personality than "Anthony Jacob," and "AJ" has even different nuances. And, a total new name can be even more dramatic. Since a person's name tells the world so much about their personality, and even their gender, heritage and family, a name change is an important alteration in someone's life.
Each state, including Texas, permits name changes, but respects the significance of the subject by requiring that this be accomplished through a court proceeding. Even more hoops are required when a parent decides to change the name of their minor child. Both parents must consent to the name change; if that is not the case, the court will hear evidence and make a decision as to what is in the best interests of the minor.
Texas' process is straightforward when it comes to marriages and divorces. But if the individual has other reasons to change their name, they need to fill out an application, submit it to the appropriate court, post notice of it to notify interested parties, and attend a court proceeding. Any Texan wishing to change their name for any reason should get an overview of the state's procedure.
Reasons for a Legal Name Change
It is most common in Texas for an individual to consider a legal name change when they make a major life change. Most name changes occur when someone is getting married or divorced, or adopting a child.
Texas allows adult name changes for any reason other than an attempt to defraud creditors or hide from the law. Name changes are permitted for those who simply dislike their given name, want to distance themselves from their family, or have fallen in love with another epithet.
Name Change for Minors
Name changes for minors under 18 years of age are a slightly different matter. If both parents agree that a name change is appropriate for their child, the court procedure is relatively easy.
When the two are not in agreement, like when a divorced parent wants to change the child's name to match theirs rather than use the name of the other spouse, the process can get more difficult. It can turn into a full-blown trial where a judge will determine what is in the best interests of the child.
Texas Name Change at Marriage
Getting married traditionally involved the bride switching out her father's last name for her new husband's last name. But this is neither required nor currently the norm in every community throughout the country. Changing a last name at marriage in Texas is not required by law, but either spouse may decide to take the other's last name when they get married, or use a hyphenated version of both their names.
Is court action required to accomplish this? It is not. In fact, Texas law does not contain instructions about changing a last name after marriage, nor is there any single legal form to fill out. Rather, the newly married person can just decide to do it. That decision mandates that the person contact all relevant government agencies to let them know of their new legal married name.
Such Texas agencies include the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) for a new driver's license, the Social Security Administration for a new Social Security card, and the United States Department of Justice for a new passport. They will also need to change their voter registration, which can be done online.
Name Change in a Divorce Filing
A Texan can easily have their prior last name restored as part of a divorce, but it isn't automatic. The party wishing the maiden name restoration must request it in the divorce petition, waiver or answer.
When the judge finalizes the divorce with a court order, the divorce decree reflects the name restoration and serves as the person's certified name change document. Note that this is a restoration of a prior name only; it is not possible to use this simplified procedure to get an entirely new last name.
Like with a change of name during marriage, the person changing their name will need to contact all of the relevant government agencies, one by one.
Name Change After Texas Adoption
Under Texas law, a child may have only one legal set of parents. In a Texas adoption proceeding, the court is asked to name people who are not the child's biological parents as their legal parents. If the biological parents have not given their consent or been adjudged unfit, the court has to determine whether adoption is in the child's best interests.
Since adoption is a way for new parents to welcome a child into their family, most adoptive parents give the child their family name. The parents also may select a new first and middle name for the child. They can prefer a last name that is completely different from the parents’ last names, for example, to match a sibling's last name.
The process is not very different from marriage or divorce name changes in Texas. The parents set out the new name in the Texas adoption application. Once the adoption becomes final and there is a Judgment of Adoption, the child's new official name is reflected in the state adoption certificate. The parties can fill out a form to have a new birth certificate issued in the child's new name.
Name Changes in Bexar County
An adult residing in Texas who wishes to change their name outside of marriage or divorce must file a petition with the court in the county where they live.
The procedure is longer, but the only real issues are whether the person is changing their name to defraud creditors or avoid prosecution. It starts with filling out two state forms, an Original Petition for Change of Name and an Order for Change of Name.
Unfortunately, the person is on their own for drafting these forms. The Bexar County District Clerk does not provide standard forms for the petition and order, but it is not hard to find sample forms online. The petition must be signed before a Texas notary who also signs the document.
Obtaining a Fingerprint Card
The person next needs to obtain a fingerprint card through the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) from an outside company called Safran. Find a convenient location by proceeding to the "locations" section at www.ibtfingerprint.com. File the petition, fingerprint card and pay the filing fees of $350 with the Bexar County District Clerk.
The county clerk's office sets a court hearing date at which the petitioner must appear and provide testimony about why they want to change their name.
The judge will approve the Order for Change of Name if there are no felony convictions on the person's record, they are not required to register as a sex offender, and the court finds that it does not conflict with the public’s best interest. Once the judge signs the order, the name is legally changed.
When a Court Might Not Grant the Name Change
If a Texas judge determines that the change is not in the public interest, a name change application can be denied. This will happen if the court determines that the name change is intended to defraud creditors, to escape criminal prosecution or civil lawsuits, or to escape child support orders.
Generally, this is not the case in a name change proceeding, but a person with a criminal history will have a harder time getting their name change petition approved.
Changing the Name of a Child in Texas
The legal procedure for changing the name of a minor in Texas – anyone under the age of 18 – is similar to changing the name of an adult. However, the catch is that the other parent must be notified in most cases. The petition must be filed by a parent or guardian on the child's behalf in the district clerk’s office in the county where the child lives, not where the parent lives.
Filing Fees for a Child's Name Change
The fee for filing a petition to change the name of a child in Bexar County is currently $350, but it's important to contact the district clerk’s office in the county where the child lives to learn whether the filing fee amount remains the same.
Low-income petitioners can ask the court to waive the filing fee by completing and filing a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs.
Child's Name Change Due to Divorce
If both parents are in agreement, the name change petition proceeds much like an adult petition. But these cases are often brought by a recently divorced adult parent who wishes to restore their own name and also to change the name of the minor child to match their own.
The petitioner parent is legally obligated to inform the other parent of a potential name change for a minor, regardless of who has custody or even whether the other parent is named on the birth certificate.
- Bexar County District Clerk: Bexar County District Court Fee Schedule
- Vote Texas: Register to Vote
- Texas Law Help: Name Change
- Texas Law Help: Texas Adoption Law
- DSHS: Texas Certificate Adoption Form
- Texas Law Help: I Want to Change My Child's Name
- Texas Law Help: I Want to Change My Name
- Bexar County: Fee Schedule
- Texas State Law: Changing Your Last Name After Marriage
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.