People make the decision to change their names for different reasons, from getting married to being unhappy with the moniker their parents gave them at birth. While it is possible for anyone to change what they are called amongst their friends, it will be necessary to go through the legal process if you would like the rest of the world to follow suit. In case you are unfamiliar with how it works and you need some guidance, this step-by-step guide should simplify things.
Verify Residency Requirements
There are sometimes residency requirements for anyone who is looking to legally change their name. The specifics will vary depending on where you live. There are some states, like Massachusetts, where the length of residency does not matter. The best way to find out more information would be heading to the official government-based court site in your state and doing some research. If you are unable to find what you need, the next step would be to get in touch with someone at the county clerk’s office.
Gather Documents With Current Name On Them
Depending on where you live, different documents may be requested in order to verify your current legal name. Social Security cards. birth certificates and state-issued IDs are good examples of acceptable documents. In case there is any doubt about what you will be asked for, calling ahead if a great idea. If you want to be on the safe side, you can bring them all with you. Having more than what you need is far preferable to showing up and realizing that you have forgotten something.
Complete The Petition
You can complete and download this and print it from any computer or you can obtain a paper copy from your local courthouse. If you choose to do it at home, verify you are completing the correct one for your state. You will have to provide the following information on the forms:
– Your current legal name
– Your desired legal name
– Your current address
– Your birth information
– The reason you would like to change your name
You may be asked for additional personal information, as a confidential background check is part of the process. Each county has its own requirements and you will be asked to provide your answers under oath.
You may be asked to complete an affidavit verifying the fact you are not a felon and/or have outstanding warrants. Criminal history can hinder you changing your name since this can be seen as a ploy to escape criminal responsibility.
File The Paperwork and Pay The Required Fees
Bring all of your legal documents and the completed petition to your local courthouse and speak to a clerk. They will help you with the filing process. At this time, you will be asked to remit a filing fee. This differs by locale, but it is will fall someplace between $100 and $500.
If you are unable to pay the fee in your state, it is possible to request a waiver. They are usually granted to those who are on public assistance and those whose household income is 125% or less than the federal poverty level. You may request it if you don’t meet either of those conditions, but you will have to prove that paying the fee will cause you significant financial hardship.
Most states will require that you publish notice of your proposed name change in a certain way, and provide proof of that to your judge. This can be a bit tricky, so be sure to find out the rule for this in your area before trying to complete the process. This can cost between $20 and $800, so check out your options.
Attend A Hearing
You will have a hearing scheduled with a judge or magistrate. Before your hearing, members of the public can make objections, but that’s very rare. You may be asked to elaborate more on your reasons for trying to change your name, in your filed petition or at the hearing. Once the hearing is over, you will be given a copy of the signed order. A certified copy of that is what you will need to show as proof your name has been changed. You can also take this to the vital records department and let them know that you would like to amend your birth certificate.
Changing The Name Of A Minor
If you wish to change the name of someone who is under 18, the process is the same for the most part. The main difference is the hearing process. During this time, both parents will be asked whether they are okay with the child’s name being changed if that’s possible to do. If there is an objection, the party who does not want the change will have to offer testimony that explains the reasons for their resistance. The other parent will have to explain why the name change is necessary. After the judge or magistrate hears both sides, they will determine what the next course of action should be.
In the case of emancipated minors, they are allowed to change their names if they wish since they are legally their own guardian. Also, minors that are allowed to legally marry can apply for a name change without the consent of their parents.
The Presence Of A Criminal Record
As was mentioned above, there are some jurisdictions that will restrict anyone who has been convicted of a felony to change their names. In other places, it depends on whether or not the person has any open cases or outstanding warrants. You will have to file paperwork asking for permission to change your name and file it with the civil court.
You should not assume that a criminal record automatically excludes you from being able to change your name. There are many places where this is allowed despite the presence of a felony. With this said, the process for changing your name if you are in this situation is a bit different and it may take more time. Since you are asking for legal permission, you will have to navigate that part of the process first. Once you are approved, you can follow all of the steps that are required of each petitioner.
This may seem like a very long and complicated process, but it is actually not as tedious as it sounds. If you live in the state of California, there is an online resource for a California name change that will walk you through every step of the process. Doing your research and gathering all of your documents ahead can expedite things and reduce the amount of time it takes and the level of stress you experience.