In most states, any adult aged 18 and up who wants to change their name can file a petition for a change of name in the family court in the county where they reside. Most states have forms of these documents available to help people change their names without the help of an attorney.
What Must be in the Petition for a Change of Name?
The petition to change your name must include important legal information for a name change to be granted. The petition must describe who you are, where you live, why you want to change your name, and whether you are doing so in good faith and without the intent to defraud your creditors. A court will not grant a change of name if you want to change your name to avoid creditors.
The forms you’ll need can be found on most state court websites for free.
If you need assistance, most family law attorneys will help you file a petition for a change of name for a reasonable fee. You may hire a lawyer to assist you with a portion of the process or to do the whole thing.
Most state court rules allow a lawyer to assist a person with their case without taking over the entire case. This is referred to as a limited scope of representation. A lawyer with limited representation will usually charge a flat fee or, by the hour to help you file the petition for a change of name.
This article will walk you through the steps you must take to legally change your name.
What are the Steps Necessary to Obtain a Change of Name?
There are typically four steps necessary to complete the process of changing your name. Those steps are as follows:
- File a verified petition for a change of name.
- Have a short hearing in front of a judge.
- Have the judge sign a judgment changing your name.
- Publish a notice in your local newspaper that your name has been changed.
How to File a Petition for Name Change
Before filing a petition for a change of name, it must be “verified.” “Verified” means you swear or affirm that the facts of the petition are true and accurate. The petition must then be signed before a notary public. Most banks and lawyers have notaries who can notarize a signature for a small fee.
After the petition has been verified, it needs to be filed with the circuit court in your county.
What Will the Filing Fee be to Change a Name?
The filing fee for a name change will vary from state to state. The filing fees for your local court should be available online.
What if you Can’t Afford the Filing Fee for a Change of Name?
In most states, there is a process where you can ask the court to waive the filing fees. If you cannot pay the court filing fee, you may apply to have the fees waived. This is known as In Forma Pauperis. In Forma, Pauperis means that you are filing as a poor person who cannot afford the cost. You can usually find this form on the court website for your state, or you can ask the county court clerk for a copy. They will be happy to assist you.
To ask for a filing fee waiver, you will be required to provide detailed financial information, such as employment information and bank account balances, to the court so the judge can determine whether you are eligible for a waiver of the filing fee.
What Happens After You File a Petition for a Change of Name?
In some states, the person who filed the verified petition won’t have to go to court for a hearing if it was done right. However, you must check with the court clerk in your circuit to see if you are required to appear. The name will be changed if the court agrees with the petition or after a short hearing to gather evidence.
Send a Copy of the Name Change Judgment to the Bureau of Vital Statistics
After the judgment is signed, you will want to send a copy to your state’s Bureau of Vital Statistics. The Bureau of Vital Statistics will amend your birth certificate to show the new name. The court order must have all the information needed to find the person whose name is being changed and tell them who they are.
Publication of the New Name in a Local Newspaper
After the judgment is signed, you must publish notice of the name change in your local newspaper. Most states require that the information be published weekly for at least three weeks. After the publication, you will be required to obtain a verification from the newspaper that the notice was published in the newspaper. The newspaper will have this form.
You must then file the publication verification from the newspaper with the Clerk’s office. If you do not do this, your name change will not become effective.
How to Change a Minor’s Name
Changing a minor’s name is more challenging and takes a few more steps than changing an adult’s name. The basic steps below will guide you through changing a minor’s name.
The following are the steps to changing a minor’s name:
- File a verified Petition for Change of Name by Parent For Minor Child.
- File both parents’ written and notarized consent forms agreeing to the name change.
- File a Petition appointing a parent as the child’s next friend, with the consent to act as the next friend, and a proposed order.
- File a written notarized consent of the child (Typically only required if the child is 14 or older) to the name change and the appointment of the next friend.
- A short evidentiary hearing.
- Entry of judgment.
- Publication of the name change in the newspaper.
How to File a Petition to Change the Name of a Minor
The petition will be filed, along with supporting documents in the county where the child resides. The petition must include all the information necessary for a name change to be ordered. In general, to change a minor child’s name, the petition must consist of basic information about each parent and the child, the reason for the name change, and whether the name change is in the best interests of the child.
Petition for Next Friend Appointment for a Minor Name Change
A petition to be appointed as the next friend for your child is a formalized request asking the court to allow you to act on your child’s behalf. Forms for the petition to be appointed next friend, the consent form, and the order appointing a parent as next Friend can typically be found on your state’s court page.
Do Both Parents Have to Consent to a Name Change for Their Child?
In most states, changing a minor’s name requires each parent’s written consent. The consent must be notarized. If there is no father listed on the child’s birth certificate, only the mother’s consent will be necessary. If there is no known father, a copy of the birth certificate should be obtained to show this to the court.
The written consent must be filed along with the petition to change the child’s name. If both parents’ written consent is unavailable, service of the petition will need to be served on the non-consenting parent.
In most states, if the child is 14 years or older, they must provide written, notarized consent to the name change and the person named as the next friend.
Service of the Petition to Change Name Must Be Served on the Non-Consenting Parent
If the written consent of each known parent is not filed, a copy of the petition and a notice of the hearing date must be served on each non-consenting parent. Most states require that the nonconsenting parent be provided with at least 30 days’ notice before the hearing date. The service will be sent by registered or certified mail to the last known address of the parent who doesn’t agree. Most of the time, the court clerk’s certificate that a copy of the petition and notice were sent to the other parent by registered or certified mail is enough to prove service.
A Hearing Will Be Necessary if One Parent Does Not Agree to the Name Change.
Most name changes involving minors required a court hearing. The court will be required to determine if the name change is in the child’s best interest. This usually requires a short evidentiary hearing. Most courts will send you a notice of hearing informing you of the date and location of the hearing. If a hearing is required, you should consider hiring an attorney to represent you. This can typically be done for a small fee.
If the parents are not in agreement on the name change, the court will have a hearing and determine if the name change is in the best interest of the child. Both parents will be allowed to tell the court their thoughts on the matter. If the child is older, in most states, around the age of 14, the court will want to hear testimony from the child as well.
Publication for a Change of Name of a Minor
A minor’s name change must be published in the local newspaper. After receiving the name change judgment, you will be required to publish notice of the name change in a newspaper in the county where the child lives. Most states require notice to be published once a week for three to four consecutive weeks. Once published, you will be required to file proof of publication with the Circuit Clerk’s Office or the Court Administrator’s Office.
Send the Name Change to the Bureau of Vital Statistics to Change the Minor’s Birth Certificate
When a parent makes a request and provides a certified copy of the name change judgment, the Bureau of Vital Statistics will amend the birth certificate to show the new name of a child.