• Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

How to Change Your Last Name After Marriage (2022 Guide) – Forbes Advisor

ByElla E. Kidwell

Oct 12, 2022

Follow these steps to have your name changed legally through a court.

1. Choose your new name

In the United States, we have great freedom to choose a new name, but it is not absolute. That’s why, before we start the name change process, we need to determine if the name change you’re proposing is legal. Here are the limitations of a name change:

  • No rude names. You may not change your name to anything racist, obscene, intimidating or otherwise offensive. Sorry, not sorry. And before you say, “How do I know if the name I want is obscene?” we’ll take a sideways look because you probably already know that. As Supreme Court Justice Potter said in one of the famous pornography cases, “I know it when I see it.”
  • No confusing names. You cannot replace your name with anything confusing, such as a number, punctuation mark, or symbol. For those of you who remember, Prince may have changed his name symbolically, well, symbolically, but that wasn’t exactly legal.
  • No stealing celebrity names. You may not change your name in a way that could mislead or infringe on another person’s rights (such as a brand name). Taylor Swift has worked hard to earn her reputation, and no one else can try to take advantage of that by taking her name.
  • No hiding place. You cannot change your name to avoid liability, i.e. legal obligation such as debt or criminal penalty. You also cannot change your name for the purpose of committing a crime, to be clear.

2. Gather the documents

There’s a reason we talk about documents before the name change process, and if you’ve ever shown up to the DMV unprepared, you know why. If not, here’s what happens:

If you’re lucky, a DMV representative will stand by the door and ask if you have all the documents you need, and fire you if you don’t. If you’re unlucky you’ll take a number and wait forever, only to make it to the counter and then be turned away because you don’t have the correct documents.

Of course here we are talking about a court, not the DMV, but the principle is the same. Save time and figure out what documents you need before you start. These will depend on a) your state of residence and b) the reason for your name change.

If you’re an adult and just want to change your name, you’ll probably need the following, but it varies by state:

  • A completed application or petition for name change
  • A copy of your birth certificate
  • Identification proof
  • Proof of residence (documents with your name and address, such as a utility bill)
  • An affidavit of proof of good character from two citizens of the county
  • A sworn statement declaring your tax or child support obligations, if applicable
  • State and federal criminal background and fingerprint checks
  • Payment of required fees

An “affidavit” means that the person filling out the document must sign it in front of a notary public, who will then notarize the document by stamping it. (This can also be done in front of a judge, but notaries are more commonly used.) A notary public can charge a small fee.

Since each state has its own very specific requirements, find out what you need ahead of time so you can move quickly through the process. In most states, the process is handled by a state court (not a federal, county, or city court).

3. File for renaming

The good news is that putting your paperwork together is the hardest part of a legal name change, or at least the most tedious. Once you have your documents in order, go to court and file them with the court clerk.

Depending on your state, you may need to post a notice of your name change request. The court clerk should be able to explain this process, which usually involves paying for a notice in a local newspaper. Alternatively, the court can take care of this for you.

The court clerk may ask you for additional information to support your request for a name change.

The court clerk will review your name change request and, if they decide that you have good reason to change your name, they will grant your request. In some states, you must attend a brief hearing before a judge to have your name change approved. It may take several weeks or months to receive your name change certificate, again depending on the state.

In some states, you will get a certificate or court order that can be attached to your birth certificate. In other states, you will receive a new, amended birth certificate.