There’s a reason you feel irked when someone gets your name wrong—your name is an important part of your identity. Your name may represent your culture, your community, your personal identity, your familial ties and even a connection to your ancestors. Your name represents who you are. And when your name no longer fits your identity, preferences or pronouns, it may be time for a legal name change.
So, how can you change your name to better fit your marital status, personal preferences or identity? Read on to understand the process for legally changing your name.
How Do I Officially Change My Name?
You can change your name for just about any reason, provided you take the appropriate steps to change your name on your birth certificate, Social Security card and passport. While laws vary by region, the process generally involves the following steps:
- Fill out the required paperwork.
- File a petition with the court clerk and pay the required filing fee.
- Publish the name change.
- Attend the hearing and receive a court order.
- Update any accounts, paperwork and ID with your new name.
- Start using your new name.
It’s important to note that the process for legally changing your name varies according to your reasons for doing so—divorce vs. marriage, personal identity or immigration—so it’s important to understand how to get a name change in your unique circumstance. When in doubt, consult with an experienced family lawyer to help you navigate this important life milestone with confidence.
How Can You Change Your Name After Marriage or Divorce?
In the case of marriage, you can skip the petition portion of the legal procedure to change your name. Simply notify the Social Security Administration by completing and submitting Form SS-5, along with a certified copy of your marriage certificate and a copy of your passport, driver’s license or other proof of ID and citizenship.
If you are going through a divorce, most states let you restore your maiden name during the divorce proceedings, which can help you maintain a sense of identity during a difficult life transition. The judge will issue the order, which you can then use to notify other government entities about your name change.
Who Should I Notify About My Name Change?
This step in changing your name requires a little legwork and patience. In addition to informing your family and friends of your new name, you will also need to alert several other entities to keep your affairs running smoothly. Some of these entities will incorporate your name change with little to no fuss, whereas others may ask for a court order to alleviate concerns about fraud or identity theft.
Be sure to inform your postal service, employer, bank and all applicable government agencies of your name change. You may also need to update legal documents — titles, accounts, deeds, powers of attorney and estate planning documents, etc.—that include your old name. If you need assistance updating these documents, consult with an experienced lawyer to walk you through the process.
How Much Does it Cost to Get Your Name Changed? Can I Change My Name for Free?
The legal procedure to change your name will require you to pay filing and court fees. Additionally, you will also need to pay for new identification, such as an updated driver’s license or healthcare card. However, you don’t need to pay to update your name on your Social Security card. Your updated IDs will allow you to revise your voter registration, bank accounts, medical records and anything else that requires your legal name.
If you are a new immigrant to America, you can change your name for free, according to Ilona Bray, legal editor at Nolo. When immigrants apply for naturalization under U.S. nationality law, they can ask for their names to be changed at no additional cost when citizenship is granted by filling in their new chosen name on USCIS Form N-400. However, there’s one catch.
“This name-change service is available only through USCIS offices where the swearing-in (oath) ceremonies are held in a courtroom and presided over by a judge, not a USCIS officer,” Bray says. “Only a judge has the authority to grant your name change at the swearing-in or oath ceremony,” she adds.
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Talk to a Lawyer About How to Get a Name Change
You’ve likely given a great deal of thought to your name change. While the process to change your name may appear easy at first, one small oversight can lead to delays and frustration. Consider seeking the help of a lawyer who is familiar with the laws surrounding name changes, so you can use your new name with confidence and pride. For assistance with your legal name change, contact LegalShield.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How much does it cost to get your name changed?
The legal procedure to change your name will require you to pay filing and/or court fees. You will also need to pay to update your driver’s license in most states. It’s free to update your name on your Social Security card.
How do I officially change my name?
Fill out the required paperwork, file a petition with the court, publish your name change, receive a court order and update your accounts and ID.
How easy is it to change a name?
Changing your legal name requires some legwork and patience. A dedicated lawyer can help you navigate this process with confidence and ease.
Can you change your name for free?
When American immigrants apply for naturalization under U.S. nationality law, they can ask for their names to be changed at no additional cost when citizenship is granted, with a few exceptions.
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