How to Legally Hyphenate Your Name

By Liz Cobbs
To legally hyphenate your name in some states requires going through a court proceeding.

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Hyphenating a name generally occurs when a woman gets married and keeps her maiden name while taking on her husband's last name. Some women show their marriage license as proof of their newly hyphenated name. However, some states require women to legally change their name through a court process. A legal name change is also required for people who want to hyphenate their names without getting married.

File a name change petition in probate court or circuit court in the county in which you live. Procedures for legal name changes vary from state to state. In some states, name changes are handled by the circuit court's clerk's office. In other states, the county probate court handles them. Call your local county courthouse to find out which court handles names changes in your area. Also ask about the cost for filing the petition. Check to see if the court in your area has name change petitions on the Internet that you can download.

File a request for a name change hearing. Petitions for hearings are filed in the court clerk's office. In some cases, the clerk's office will automatically schedule a court hearing after the name change petition has been filed. Prior to holding a court hearing, some states require applicants to have their fingerprints taken so police can conduct a criminal background check.

Publish the name change hearing form in a local newspaper. States require applicants to place a legal notice of the hearing in a newspaper of general circulation in their county. After the notice is published, newspapers will give applicants a proof of publication statement to take to court.

Attend the court hearing. Take a certified birth certificate and the proof of publication statement to show the judge. The judge may answer questions to the applicant about reasons for wanting a name change. If the judge is satisfied with the applicant's information and answers, the judge will sign an order granting the name change.

File the name change order with the clerk's office. Some states require this procedure. Applicants will also receive a copy of the name change order.

Notify employers, banks and government agencies of the legal name change. The court order can be shown to an employer, Social Security Administration, Department of Motor Vehicles, credit card companies and utility companies as proof of the new hyphenated name.

About the Author

Liz Cobbs has been a professional writer since 1985. She has worked as a staff reporter at "The Ann Arbor News" and "The Ypsilanti Press" newspapers, and as an assistant manager of editorial services at Eastern Michigan University. Cobbs earned a B.A. in music theory from Wayne State University and an M.A. in communication from Regent University.

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