What To Know When Changing Your Name

Changing your name is possible to do if you meet all legal requirements. Learn everything to know when legally changing your name today.

Changing your name is possible to do for a valid reason if you meet all legal requirements. The process begins by contacting the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) to obtain the necessary paperwork and forms. Your legal name is attached to your Social Security Number (SSN), which is the primary form of identification and recordkeeping in the U.S. pursuant to all your affairs. Changing the name associated with your SSN is a comprehensive process.

The most common reason people change their names is marriage. Names are changed for numerous other reasons as well, however. Convenient online name changes services strive to make the process smooth for all applicants. Before submitting any applications, it is advisable to first research all fees, costs and documents required to officially change your name within the law. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know when changing your name.

Is It Legal to Change My Name?

Changing your name is legal under specific circumstances. The change must be made within the rules as set forth by applicable state and federal laws. Official changes to your name must not be made with fraudulent intentions. Violating the rights of another person or multiple people is not permitted as well. The latter law pertains largely to identity theft and the changing of one’s name to avoid certain obligations (child support payments, criminal charges, etc.).

Changing the name of a child is also legal under certain conditions. If a child is less-than twelve months old, his or name is changeable by the U.S. Department of Health provided both parents agree. Changing the name of a child further requires a court order, including both biological parents’ names. The process is substantially easier to complete when both biological parents amicably agree to the change. When parents do not agree, the parent desiring the change receives a summons issued by a court clerk. The petitioning parent must then serve the summons to the dissenting parent, guardian, or custodian as official notice of the case. Finally, changing a child’s name has zero bearing on the parental rights of the parents.

What Is the Legal Process Required to Change My Name?

The procedure for changing your name is different depending on the reason for the change. The type of name change process in which you engage also impacts various elements of the procedure. Three overall strategies exist, with name changes due to marriage or divorce the most common of all.

Changing My Name after Marriage or Divorce

Marriage and divorce are the most common reasons people change their names. Requirements for both processes are similar despite the obvious differences between each core procedure. Changing your name following a marriage or divorce is also the simplest change to legally process. Because both types of events are highly common occurrences, laws are in place to help people navigate the necessary steps with brevity.

- Marriage

Begin by obtaining your marriage license and having certified copies made. Without these documents you will not be permitted to take the next steps in the process. To expedite the process, it is possible to request certified copies of your marriage license in advance. This is possible to have done for a fee of approximately $5-10 per copy. Please note: Prices will vary in each state. Once you obtain your certified copies (obtaining three is recommended), you must contact the SSA to have your Social Security card updated. Applications for this SSA process are available online and at your local SSA office. Documents and information required by the SSA include:

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship.

  • Certified copy of marriage license (proves name change).

  • Valid government-issued photo identification.

  • Current Social Security card.

  • Additional documents as required for non-U.S. citizens.

Once this is completed you are able to obtain a new driver’s license and passport (as applicable). It is advisable to also change your name on all bank, credit card and utility bill accounts. It is further advisable to change you name on your insurance policies and all employer-related documents. Requirements are different for each scenario so be certain to inquire about what is needed prior to submitting for your name change.

- Divorce

The process for changing your name following a divorce is almost exact to what is listed above for changing your name after getting married. Instead of a marriage certificate, however, you will need certified copies of your divorce decree. The rest of the steps are the same, however.

Changing My Name by Usage

Changing your name by usage is a simple albeit not completely comprehensive way to change your name. The process involves you self-changing your name on every personal, business, and social account you possess, albeit without the use of any official documents or procedures. Changing your name by usage is not legal in all U.S. states. Many financial, medical, or other official institutions are unlikely to accept your name change in their systems as well, especially institutions reliant upon the Social Security Number system for billing and legal matters.

Changing My Name by Court Order

If you need to change your name on your passport or any official government or financial documents/accounts, you will need to do so via court order. This is possible by filing a Petition for Name Change form with the applicable court. All requirements as listed above for marriage and divorce-related name changes apply, minus the need for a marriage license or divorce decree. Additionally, you are required to have a legitimate reason for changing your name, while simultaneously disallowed to change it in specific ways.

Legitimate Reasons to (and to Not) Change Your Name

You are not allowed to change your name to one that is intentionally confusing, obscene, threatening, or racist in meaning. Your new name is also not allowed to be a number, punctuation mark or in violation of a trademark. Finally, you may not change your name to benefit from a deceased person’s former name as well.

You are permitted to change your name to match your spouse’s following a marriage. It is legal to revert to your maiden’s name following a divorce as well. Additional approved reasons to change your name include:

  • You dislike your current name.

  • Changing the name of a minor over whom you have legal authority.

  • Changing the name of your entire family.

Additional Information about Name Changes

You must generally visit the circuit court in the county where you live to have your name changed, although requirements might vary in each state. Many states also require a hearing during which the applicable court will review your name change petition. It is possible you will also need to visit your local SSA office and a passport acceptance facility.

Changing your name by usage-only is free. Average costs for other methods range between under $100 and over $500, depending on your state and other factors. Online options are also available for name changes today.

Online Name Change Services Available Now

Multiple online name changes services are available for simple name changes today. LegalZoom is a reliable option for this type of service. Additional online name changes services available today include: