A Guide to Change Your Last Name Legally

OpinionFront Staff Sep 29, 2018
Whatever the reason for change of name be, it should be legitimate and legally sound.
It is not possible to change your last name without a proper court order, which gives you the explicit permission to do so. The laws governing change of name in the United States of America are regulated by state laws and are thus mandatory.
'Original Petition for Change of Name' should be filed in the applicant's county. The applicant (petitioner) must file the petition in his/her county superior court. He can also submit the documents to the district clerk who will assign the suitable court, where the case must be heard. The petition must be signed by the petitioner in front of the notary.
Depending on whether or not the services of an attorney are being availed, a change of name can cost anywhere between $200 - $500. Apart from collecting this form from the court, the applicant can also use an e-form (electronic form), which can be accessed and downloaded from state-owned court websites.

Requisites for Petition to Change the Last Name:

  • Information regarding sex, age, date of birth, race, and social security number.
  • Complete proposed name.
  • Existing legal name.
  • Residential address.
  • Explanation for wanting to change the name.
  • Current driver's license number

  • Whether the petitioner is registered as a sex offender or not.
  • Information regarding past criminal records, state identification number, or FBI number, if any.
  • Current driver's license number.
  • Case number and court details for an offense, if any.
  • A statement stating that the petitioner has never been charged beyond a Class C misdemeanor.

Clause Two

The second clause of the petition, requires that the present name and the proposed name of the applicant or (applicants) be mentioned in detail. This form currently provides the option of changing the names of four related applicants. Any additional names must be listed in a second attachment along with the petition.

Clause Three

The third clause, allows the court to notify the public about the applicant's pending application for change of name or last name through a show cause notice, so that third parties can appear at the court and dispute this change. A written objection must be submitted to the court at least two days before the hearing of the case.
Applicants who are listed under government confidentiality programs such as Safe at Home: Address Confidentiality Program by the Secretary of State or others or are victims of domestic violence or rape are exempted from such disclosure of information.

Clause Four and Five

The fourth and fifth clause provides for individuals who are under 18 years of age. Such minors can get their name changed only through an adult. The change can be availed by the following parties on behalf of the minor:
  • By the mother
  • Both the parents
  • By the father
  • A close relative
  • A guardian - Such a guardian will need to attach a decree for changing the name as well as a declaration of guardianship, along with the petition. A separate attachment will be required for each of the minors listed in the petition.
  • Others (such individuals have to specify more details)
  • Some states require that children over 10 years of age must give their written consent for allowing their name to be changed.
  • Children who have been relinquished to an adoption agency, can change their name through the agency itself

Clause Six

The sixth clause requires that, the complete details of each of the listed applicants be mentioned in separate attachments. The total number of attachments along with a number of pages must also be specified in the form.

Entering the Order

Once the petition has been filed, it shall be served and the petitioner will be summoned by the court for a hearing before the judge. The order must contain all the information mentioned in the original petition, in order for it to be validated by the judge.
The petitioner will need to testify that all the information in the petition is accurate and true to his/her knowledge. The petitioner will need to prove to the judge that the change in name is not detrimental to the public, and is not intended for evading any financial or criminal liability.
The petition is more likely to be granted if the petitioner has a clean record. In case of a past felony conviction, the judge will take into consideration the certificate of discharge and completion of probation by the petitioner. A mandatory period of 2 years should have passed since the completion of probation to get approval for petition of name change.
Once the 'Order for Change of Name' has been granted by the court, the petitioner will need to inform the Social Security agency, Department of Motor Vehicles, banks, insurance company and other providers about it to continue availing these privileges under the new name. A 'Certificate of Change in Name' must also be obtained from the court as a proof.
The order shall be published in a popular newspaper and posted by the court clerk in three major public places in the state. The news of the change in name must be published four times in order to fulfill the criteria of mandatory publication.

Changing Last Name After Divorce

Once the divorce is finalized, a woman can change her name by filing the petition at the same court where the divorce case was heard. In some states the former name is restored during the divorce proceeding itself, however, this provision must be specifically availed.
The petition must contain all the needful information regarding the divorce case, such as the case name, number, name of the parties, child custody, etc. A form for Ex Parte Application For Restoration Of Former Name After Entry Of Judgment Or Order must be filed with the court clerk.
The original copy stays with the clerk, along with two copies. Once the order is approved by the judge, the copies of the order are mailed to the applicant's. Thereafter, she can resume using her former name.

Changing Name and Gender

A Petition for Change of Gender and Issuance of New Birth Certificate must be filed by the applicant. Following are the requisites:
  • The petitioner will need to provide information regarding the present name, county, and the proposed name.
  • Information regarding the previous gender and subsequent change.
  • A request is made to the court to issue a new birth certificate stating gender and name change.
  • The petitioner has to get the physician's report (an affidavit) stating that the treatment is in accordance of Health and Safety Codes.
  • A show cause order for change of name will also be issued to interested parties to object to this petition at the hearing.
Once the order for a change in name and gender is ratified, the applicant must file the order of the Secretary of State office along with the necessary fee.
The law does not allow for whimsical changes of name. The court will allow the changing of last name legally, only after having scrutinized every aspect of the petition and whether it is necessary or not. Seeking the assistance of an attorney will help expedite the procedural aspects of the case.