Certificate copies certifying a legal name change are available through your county vital records or public health office. Once your name is legally changed, you need certificate copies to update your name with schools, banks, employers and public agencies. Some institutions or agencies keep the original certificate, so having additional copies on hand expedites the process.
What Is a Name Change Certificate?
Several types of certificates and documents serve to designate a new name. Marriage certificates record the new name directly on the certificate when signed and recorded. Divorce decrees are court orders outlining all directives in a marriage dissolution. An individual has the opportunity to designate a name change in the final divorce documents filed with the court.
Some states also have a dissolution of marriage certificate that concisely records the name change. Adoption orders are another court order example that legally records name changes. Other court orders might involve transgender name changes, paternity surname changes or corrections to birth certificates.
Some people simply petition the court because they didn't like their original birth name. Any of these court orders serve as legal certification of a name change.
The Need for Certificates
Once a name is legally changed, for whatever reason, many agencies and institutions need the new information. Employers amend paycheck information. Banks amend account owner titling. The Social Security Administration, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the U.S. Passport Agency need updated records for new identification card issuance. Most agencies and institutions don't accept photocopies of the certificate.
Certified Copies of the Original
The original or a certified copy of the original is required as proof of the new name. A certified copy attests the document is an exact replication of the original and is considered equal to the original.
The U.S. Passport Agency requires an original certified certificate. The Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles accepts a certified copy of a marriage license, civil union certificate or divorce decree, but does not accept photocopies or religious marriage certificates.
Institutions such as banks and schools also require certified copies of the name change, but will accept the re-issued passport, state identification or driver's license to conduct the name change. If you are willing to wait for your new identification, you won't need as many copies.
Note: When a certified copy is required, a notarized copy does not suffice.
Where to Get Name Change Certificate
Name changes are granted at the county court level. States may refer to the records office as vital records, department of public health, or health statistics office. As such, county court vital records maintains most certificates in the same location. Court orders are available at the court clerk in the county where the name change hearing occurred.
Original copy requests are made in person, via phone, mail or fax in most counties. Some also have email correspondence requests available.
Ordering Certificates Online
Most county health or vital records offices offer an online order form. Complete the information requested, which will minimally include, a current valid ID copy, identifying information such as birthdate and Social Security number and current contact information.
Allow for Fees and Processing Time
There are additional screening and postage fees associated with phone, fax and mail orders. Ask the clerk about specific fees. It takes up to six weeks to process and receive a new copy via mail. For urgent requests, it is best to go to the records office in person. There may be additional fees for expedited processing.
Fees for Certified Copies
Applying for the name change involves court fees and is, therefore, more expensive than obtaining additional certified copies. Most counties will offer certified original copies for $10 to $25 per copy. Some states charge less for additional copies of the same certificate.
For example, Hawaii charges $10 for the first copy and $4 for each additional copy made at the same time. Call to confirm payment options before you arrive. Most accept cash, cashier's check, credit card and money order.