Legal name changes take place for many reasons, including birth, marriage, divorce, adoption, death or simply personal preference. Usually that person's identification will not reflect the name change immediately, so it might be necessary to verify that the name change is legal. This isn't difficult but could take some time, depending on how you choose to go about it. There are three main ways of checking on the status of a legal name change, one of which is usually slower than the others.
Just Ask For the Documentation
Ask the person in question if they have their name change documentation paperwork with them. This is always advised for the first week of having a new name, before the authorities have processed any legal name change and you thus have no ability to verify the name change elsewhere. The name change may take a number of forms:
A marriage license. In many states, a marriage is the only document someone needs to prove that she has legally changed her name to that of her husband after a marriage.
Restoration of former name order. In most states, it's possible for an ex-wife to change her name back to her pre-married name after a divorce. Generally, there will be a court order showing that the wife has restored her former name.
Court order or other official with a state seal. When someone wishes to change their name for other reasons, they generally can do so by petitioning the court. If the petition is successful, the person will receive a court order or other official paperwork bearing a state seal, or papers that have been notarized to notify anyone that it is a legal name change.
Asking for ID with the former name on it is a quick way to verify the old name. It saves time and will give you the same information as contacting state agencies.
Use the DMV
Call the Department of Motor Vehicles. If someone has changed their name, they have ten days to change their name with the DMV. The DMV will have these documents on file and can verify that it is a legal name change. The DMV will not allow a person to change their name without legal paperwork like a divorce decree, marriage license or a court document stating that the change was made. So, in effect, the DMV has done all the verification work for you.
Verify With the Social Security Administration
Contact the Social Security Administration. They can verify a person's legal name change. The Social Security Administration can be rather slow about getting back to you, therefore, they should be used as a last resort when requiring an urgent verification of a name change.
Verify With the Court
Where a name is changed for reasons other than a marriage or divorce, generally, the person changing his name will need an order from the local county court. With a court order, the person can change their legal name on their passport and other government-issued documents. Unless the name change involves a minor, court orders are typically a matter of public record. This means anyone can search the court records and see a copy of the order, which will contains the person's previous and current names.
To get a copy of the order, speak to the court clerk of the county court where the person is located. Some courts have a public access site where you can search the public records and order copies for a small fee.
If someone has been entered into the Witness Protection Program, they will not have formal ID of their former name. This is for security reasons.