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Name Change

Many people, whether adults or minors, have the need for a legal name change as a result of marriage, divorce, adoption or simply a desire to have another name. Generally, you can change your name so long as it is not for a fraudulent purpose, such as avoiding debts; the new name will not affect other people’s rights; or the new name is not a curse word. In the case of a minor, the court looks to the best interest of the minor when considering the proposed new name.

There are generally three ways to change your name:

1.Usage – In some states using a name as your own has the affect of making it your name.

2 .Court Order – A court order is recommended to change your name and is required by most states.

3. A marriage certificate serves as proof of name change.

Name change actions can take anywhere from a day, to six (6) months (sometimes even longer). The time it takes for such action to be ordered/decreed varies not only from state to state but from county to county and courthouse to courthouse as well.

In order to file for a name change, one must meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file. In other words, in order to petition a state for name change, you must be a permanent resident of that state. All states require a Petitioner/Applicant to be a resident of the state — often for at least six months and sometimes for as long as one year — before filing for a name change there. Someone who files for a name change, typically, must offer proof that (s)he has resided there for the required length of time.

When a name change is sought for a minor, any parent or adult who retains parental or custodial rights over a minor has a right, based in statute, to be notified and must provide consent or waiver of consent to legal actions regarding the minor. The actual law will vary from state to state, but the general rule is that both parents must consent to a name change for a minor. As a result, there could be controversy over whether the minor’s name should be changed, and a hearing in front of a judge is more likely. Ultimately as stated above, the judge will decide what is in the best interest for the child. Therefore, the reason for the change should be significant, such as adoption or bringing a stepchild into a family.

Remember that changing a name is not the same as a legal adoption or the removal of parental responsibilities. If your son lives with your ex-wife and changes his last name to that of his stepfather’s, you are still required to pay child support.

After you have changed your name you may need to change records including:

a. Social Security Card,
b. Drivers License,
c. Passport,
d. Post Office,
e. IRS,
f. Voter Registration,
g. Banks,
h. Credit Cards,
i. Doctors,
j. Insurance Companies,
k. State Tax Authority,
l. Clubs,
m. Memberships,
n. Employer and
o. Retirement plans.

Some of these agencies or businesses (such as the Social Security Administration) will insist on seeing documentation of your name change. Others will not. Some will just need a phone call, while others will need to see you in person or get it in writing. It is recommended that you keep your documentation in a safe secure place so that it is readily available when needed.

When sending a letter, be sure to state clearly your new and old name and explain that you want them interchanged. Enclose a copy of your court order to prove you’re for real.

Also, do not immediately throw away your old identification. It may be necessary to prove who you once were. Some IDs, like your passport, may carry an A.K.A. (”also known as”).