There is a legal process available that makes it possible for an adult to have their name changed. Aside from the obvious reason that an individual does not like their given name, there are many events throughout one’s life that may prompt them to change their name.

Some examples of when a person might request a name change include:

  • Changing their surname (i.e., last name) when they get married;
  • Reverting back to their former last name after a divorce;
  • Selecting a new name if they undergo surgery for a gender change; and
  • Various other personal reasons, such as religion, politics, or to make it easier to pronounce or to spell a particular name.

In addition, while it is not the most common situation, a person may also have their name changed if they enter a witness protection program. However, the name they receive will generally be chosen by the law enforcement agency in charge of their placement in such a program.

How Do You Change a Name as an Adult?

There are several requirements that must be completed before a person can petition to have their name changed. Depending on the reason why they are changing their name and also on the relevant laws in their particular jurisdiction, these requirements generally include:

  • First, they must petition the local court (or other administrative body that handles name changes) by filling out the following documents:
    • A name change form or application;
    • An order to show cause for the name change (i.e., why are you changing your legal name?); and
    • A decree to have your name legally changed.
  • After filling out the proper forms, the person must file them with the court clerk where they will also have to pay whatever amount is required by their state’s filing fee.
  • Once that is done, a judge or magistrate will review the information on the forms and determine whether to grant or deny the name change request. In most cases, the judge will grant the petition.

It is important to note that some states will require the person to post a notice in their local paper before they can begin using their new name (e.g., on letters, credit cards, etc.). If a state does require a newspaper advertisement, the person should be prepared to pay a separate fee to the newspaper for publishing it.

What Can Prevent Me From Changing My Name?

There are certain scenarios in which a person might be prohibited from having their name changed. In some cases, they may have to provide notice to a person who has an interest in their name change. However, this typically only occurs when the person is attempting to change a child’s name; it does not usually happen during the process of an adult name change.

The more common reason as to why a person may be denied from requesting an adult name change involves criminal matters. For example, it is illegal for a person to change their name for the purpose of avoiding arrest or other legal consequences. This act is known as fraud, and if convicted, the person can face criminal penalties.

Another reason a name change petition will be denied is if the person is infringing on another individual’s rights. For instance, if the person wants to change their name to someone else’s with the intent to assume that person’s identity and to collect on their benefits, then not only will their request be struck down because it is illegal, but they can be charged criminally for it as well.

Finally, a person will be stopped from changing their name if it contains a racist remark, other hateful or fighting words, or symbols that make their new name confusing, such as !, *, or $.

Do I Need a Lawyer’s Help to Change My Name?

Petitioning to have your name legally changed can be an intimidating experience. A name change can affect everything from your personal credit cards to important legal documents, such as your birth certificate or passport.

While it is possible to complete the process on your own and though not every state requires you to file a name change petition with the court, you may want to speak to a local family law attorney just in case.

An experienced family law attorney can review the local laws and procedures relating to name changes, and can ensure that you notify all of the proper government agencies. They also can look over any of your petition documents before you file them with the court.

Additionally, a lawyer can also determine whether you will face any restrictions based on the new name you have chosen. If a court has already prohibited you from changing your name, then you may need to hire a lawyer for further legal advice regarding your next steps.