How to Change Your Name

Legally Change Your Name

There is an old saying about you can choose your friends but not your family. The same thing applies to the name you were born with. You’ve probably heard the names of some people and wondered “what were their parents thinking?” What might have seemed cute when you were a baby does not mean it weathers the test of time. But luckily a name is not permanent. There are several reasons why a person might want to change their name. What is really great about it is that as long as you fill out the proper paperwork, you can choose a really cool, classy name. So if you have a really terrible moniker that you just can’t live with and have often wondered how to change your name, here is your salvation.

Reasons To Change Your Name

There are several reasons why a person would want to change their name. Other than being placed in witness protection, the most obvious reason would be because that person is getting married or divorced and needs to change their name. If you are getting married, the first step to getting your name changed is to apply for a marriage license. To do this you will need to contact your local county clerk a couple of months before the big day and fill out a marriage license application. Before you send it back to the county clerk, make sure that both signatures are on the paperwork. Otherwise, you may be standing at the alter when someone tells you that you cannot get married just yet. Once your marriage license is ready, requests several copies because you will need them to file your name change with different government agencies and institutions. Getting a divorce is easier as far as a name change goes. When you get a divorce, you can request that the judge presiding over the divorce proceedings issue a divorce decree.  A divore decree simply restores your name to what is was before you were married. Just like a marriage license, you will need multiple copies of this decree to send to several different agencies.

Another common reason for changing one’s name is when an immigrant becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen. This was common practice in the early 1900’s when New York was invaded by boatloads of immigrants whose names were changed after they were processed. This practice to some degree is still in effect today. All aliens have the opportunity to change their names during the application process for naturalization. One the application form, there is a question that asks if the applicant wants to legally change their name.

And finally, some people just don’t like their name. For whatever reason, they may want to shorten it, use a professional stage name, or legally change their name to something else completely different. It is a right of every American. All they need to do is fill out the proper forms. You usually need to justify or give a good reason for a name change or else the court will not grant you one. Reasons for your name change being declined is if you want to include numbers or vulgar words in your name. Also, it is against the law to change your name for fraudulent purposes such as avoiding creditors or using someone else’s identity.

How To Change Your Name

There are two ways to go about changing your name. You can do it yourself or hire a lawyer to do it for you. There is usually no court appearance required and doing it yourself is cheaper. Every state has different applications to fill out but generally the county clerk’s office handles the paperwork. You can always find out which is the correct one by calling your county courthouse. In most states, to legally change your name requires three documents: a Petition for Change of Name, an Order of Name Change, and a Notice of Hearing Regarding Application for Name Change.

When changing your name, you will also have to pay any filing fees. The amount varies from county and state and in some cases you can ask for it to be waived or it can be deferred. You may also be required to post a public notice about your name change. This could involve running an ad in the local newspaper or other form of public media. The purpose of this is to alert any creditors or claimants against you.

And lastly, when choosing a new name, pick something that is easy to spell, remember, and that you won’t regret after it is all said and done. Some people change their names to something unique and trendy that, after they become older, just sounds foolish. Any name changes should involve careful consideration because you are going to have to live with it.

File The Name Change

Aftere the courts have approved your name change, it is up to you to notify the appropriate organizations such as government agencies and financial institutions about the change. Aftert the judge signs off on the application, you will need to get several certified copies from the Clerk of the Court.

You will need to file your name change with Social Security. To do this, fill out the social security card application and make sure that you have proof of everything from your identity, citizenship and marital status. Look up your nearest Social Security office and take or send all of your documentation to them. This is very important because you use your social security number for almost everything and it needs to be accurate. Also, the IRS uses your Social Security number to process your tax returns.

You will need to change your diver’s license at your loval Department of Motor Vehicles (or DMV). Take a certified copy of your marriage license, divorce decree or court order along with your old driver’s license. Drivign without the correct information on your license is an offense and can result in fines and suspension of license.

Make sure other institutions and departments are aware of your name change. You will need to notify your Human Resources department, credit card accounts, doctors, lenders, local voter registration, and your bank so that they can update their records. Not being able to access your bank account because you never notified them of your name change could lead to some serious problems. And if you travel a lot, don’t forget to notify the U.S. Passport Agency. If your passport was issued more than one year ago, you must renew your passport by filling out a DS-82 renewal form and pay the renewal fee.

A Different Approach To Name Change

Going through the courts for a name change can be time-consuming and expensive. If you don’t want to hassle with all the paperwork and aggravation of an official name change, there is another way to go about it. Simply start using your new name and have it changed over the course of repetition. Many professionals in industries like music, movies, and other entertainment forms do it this way. They take a stage name but never file it in a court of law. It is perfectly legal as long as you do not get involved in anything fraudulent using your new name.  Every U.S. citizen has a constitutional right which is backed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Once you change your name, you cannot go back to using your old one. But if you disliked your name that much to begin with, you probably won’t mind.

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