How to Get a Court Ordered Name Change

So you don't like your name---want to change it? You can legally change your name by filling out a few forms and forking over a few bucks.

Legal (also known as court ordered) name changes are handled by state governments through their court systems and each state manages the process, which normally takes about two months, a little differently.

Instructions

Go to your local county courthouse or search your state government website for the required forms. Usually you must file your petition for change of name in your county of residence. Most states also require a copy of your birth certificate or proof of birth.

Fill out the required forms and pay any required fees. On the forms, you must supply your proposed name, and declare that you are not changing your name for any illegal purpose (such as evading debt or a lawsuit, etc.).

Provide an explanation for why you want to change your name. Some reasons might be that your present name is hard to spell, embarrassing or confusing; your proposed name suits you better; or your proposed name is an ancestral name or a combination of family names.

The court will issue an order notifying any interested parties that they must show cause why your petition should NOT be granted. In other words, you have the right to change your name unless someone presents the court with a valid reason why not. You may also have to post legal notices in a local newspaper (for a fee) to announce your name change request.

If no objection is filed within a certain length of time (varies by state) before your hearing date, the court may grant your petition without a hearing.

Check with the court to find out if there will be a hearing. If so, bring copies of all documents to the hearing. If the judge grants your petition, he will sign the original decree and you will have your new legal name.

Warnings

  • The court can refuse to grant your new name for a variety of reasons, including:
  • - Name chosen for fraudulent purposes (you intend to do something illegal)
  • - Name interferes with the rights of others (you can't choose the name of a famous person to profit from it)
  • - Name is intentionally confusing
  • - Name could be considered "fighting words," including threatening or obscene words, racial slurs or other words likely to provoke violence
  • Name change requests are public records and can be viewed by anyone. If you want to keep your name change private for safety or other reasons, check with your county court clerk before you file your petition. The clerk will tell you how you can request to seal your records and/or avoid publication of your name change.
  • Put your original decree signed by the judge in a secure place. It is a permanent record of your legal name change.

Tips

  • You do NOT need a court-ordered name change if you are changing your name through marriage. Your marriage certificate serves as your proof of name change and is the legal document that government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, your state's department of motor vehicles, etc. ,will require to change their records.
  • You must be at least 18 to change your name legally. If you are under 18, you will need your parents or legal guardian to sign the court forms.

References

About the Author

Anne Coletta is a freelance writer in Southern California, specializing in technology and software. Clients include Intuit, Inc. and Qualcomm, Inc. She also created and produced a cable series on government/public affairs for C-SPAN. With more than 20 years of experience, she still enjoys researching and writing about the new and different. Coletta received a Bachelor of Arts in history from Davidson College.