Since the beginning organized societies people have changed their names for many reasons, such as marriage, divorce, adoption, religion and others.
The laws of the USA allow citizens to change their names, but the procedure varies from state to state since the US operates under a federal system of government. The different states have different requirements to effect a change of name: whilst in some states persons wishing to change their names
just need to start using their desired name without any court order in other states that would be illegal.
The procedure of a name change however depends largely on the reason for the change of name and the legal process that is followed. Generally we can group these procedures under:
- Change of Last Name Due to marriage
- Change of Last Name For other reasons: adoption, divorce religion
- Change of name in a state that does not require a court order
Procedure for change of last name due to marriage
The laws of the US recognize that a woman may take her husband’s last name when they become married, so persons wishing to change their name for this reason need no court order, you will however need to contact government and private agencies with your records to update or renew your status.
The first thing you need to do is announce your change of last name publicly by getting it published in the newspapers.
Next, you need to get extra copies of your marriage certificate. You will need to present this to all the agencies you would contact as proof of your change of name.
The next step is to make a list of all the agencies that have your records; it is important to update or renew all your past records when changing your name or you may no longer receive the service of these agencies. Your list would include: Social Security, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, Banks, Schools, Employers and other Licensing Boards, Postal Service and others. For immigrants to the US your list must include the United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) and your Country’s embassy for a new passport.
Get the contact of the office in charge of these services. Most of these contacts can be gotten online and forms downloaded to begin the process. Follow the instructions properly and indicate the reason for your change of last name. Send the completed form, a copy of your marriage certificate along with any other document requested by the agency you are dealing with.
In case the contact of the agency cannot be gotten online, visit or call the office in person with a copy of your marriage certificate and ask for help in either updating your last name or renewing your service.
Change of name for other reasons: Divorce, Adoption, Religious or others.
In changing your name for any of the above reasons you would need a court order.
The first step in changing your name is to find out the proper procedure accepted by your state, you can get legal advice online or call a lawyer in your state for guidance, having found this out you must prepare all the necessary documentation and identification needed for the procedure.
You may handle the procedure yourself or you may hire the services of a lawyer or paralegal to handle this for you.
Your next task is to research on the last name you wish to adopt. Even if you have already picked a last name make sure it fits within the limit of the rules your state accept regarding names such as, your name must not be offensive to any race or religion, you cannot take on a celebrity’s name or any name deemed controversial.
After selecting a suitable name, go to the court and get the necessary forms required for a change of last name or you may get these forms online from a recognized site that deals in legal papers. You may be required to pay for these forms. When filling these forms make sure you fill them correctly, report any mistake to a legal advisor before submitting the forms.
Next, file a Petition to Change Last Name with the Court you got the forms from.
You would need to supply some proof of your current identity along with the forms to the court when filing your petition. You would also need to submit details of your identity such as your address, contact of your relatives, and your workplace, your financial and criminal records. You would need to declare all your relatives such as off springs and marriages (divorced or otherwise).
After satisfying the requirements and filing the petition you would be given a receipt for the application to change your name. Your petition would be reviewed by the court and if you have satisfied all the requirements, your Petition for change of last name will be granted, if not you may be summoned to appear before the court and answer questions regarding your past and the reason for the change your last name.
An important document you would need to file along with your Petition for Change of Last Name is an Order to Show Cause for Change of Name Form. Here you are supposed to disclose truthfully the reason behind your change of last name, if the courts find a reason to doubt the intention behind your change of name you would be summoned and your petition may be declined.
If your petition is accepted and your application for change of name is approved you need to formally announce your change of name status as an advertisement in your local newspaper.
After this publication of your change of name status you would receive a Decree Changing Name from the court. This is the final legal step recognized by the court in a change of name procedure.
Next you need to update or renew your status with all agencies that have your past records.
For this, make a list of all the government and private agencies whose service you use, have used in the past or who may have your records. Your list would include: Social Security, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, Banks, Schools, Employers and other Licensing Boards, Postal Service and others. For immigrants to the US your list must include the United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) to update the status of your green card and your Country’s embassy for a new passport.
After making a complete list get the contact of each of the organization on your list. You may get them from the internet, for those that are not available on the internet give them a call or go in person to their office and request their guidance on how to renew or update your status on their record after your change of name. You would need to supply them documentation of your previous name and status with the agency, the Decree for Change of Last Name issued to you by the court and the newspaper ad you published to announce your change of last name to prove that your change of last name has been registered legally and announced to the public.
Change of Last Name in a State that doesn’t require court order.
The procedure to change your last name in a state that doesn’t require court order is relatively simple;
The first step you need to take would be to do a research on the name you wish to adopt. Make sure it falls within the rules for names allowed by your state; such that it is not offensive to any particular group or that it is not controversial.
If you find that your name falls within the laws of your state then you can go ahead and announce your change of last name by publishing it in a local newspaper. With this done you must remember to use your new last name in all your representations.
The next step you need to take is to update or renew your account on all government and private agencies with your record. First you need to make a list of all the agencies and service providers who have your contact. Your list would include: Social Security, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, Banks, Schools, Employers and other Licensing Boards, Postal Service and others. For immigrants to the US your list must include the United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) to update the status of your green card and your Country’s embassy for a new passport.
Having made a complete list get the contact for each of these agencies and service providers, you may get them from the internet, for those not on the internet it is best to call or visit the office of the agency of service provider.
When you contact them provide them with a newspaper clipping of the ad announcing your change of name along with documentation of your previous name and status with the agency.