LEGAL NAME CHANGE
Changing your name or your child’s name legally and permanently is not just a matter of signing
it differently from now on. Nearly all states require that you go through a formal, legal process
to effect the change, as defined by each state’s laws.
Most states begin by requiring you to file a petition for a change of name in the county
courthouse of the state and county in which you are a legal resident. Part of a typical
application for this change will be a section asking you to give the reason for the request.
Usually a petition can only be denied for “good cause,” such as the applicant having a criminal
or bankruptcy record. After payment of the processing fee, appearance in court is not normally
required, and you will be notified some time later that the change is official. In some states,
your proposed name change must be published in the Legal Notices Section of the local
Once you officially receive your new name, you must immediately assume it. This entails
perhaps the hardest part of the process. You must change all legal documents that reflect your
old name, such as your driver’s license, voter registration, deeds, credit cards, social security
number, etc. For a woman going through a divorce, the easiest way to handle all of this is by
requesting that the judge make a return of the maiden name as part of the divorce decree. A
woman that is getting married does not have to fill out a legal name change form; however, she
must follow the individual processes of having all of her information changed on her driver’s
license, voter registration, social security card, etc. The woman may call each place to see what
requirements they have for the name change.
There is an added step required when you seek to have your child’s name changed. In some
states, you must always seek the other biological parent’s permission, while in other states you
need only seek such permission if you were previously married to the other parent. If after a
reasonable effort you