Every U.S. citizen has a constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment to change their name to anything they want as long as they start using the name and notifying legal agencies about the legal name change. Any person can change their name by filing an application in civil court and paying the fees related to the process. The applicant should provide a valid explanation for wanting to change their name. In addition, a court has the right to reject the name change if it is found that applicant has intent to commit fraud by concealing his or her identity.

Some choose to change their name simply because they do not like their original name, while others do so for marriage or divorce purposes. Also, a significant number of individuals may resort to legal name changes in order to avoid harassment or harm from others.

What Are the Procedure a Name Change?

Specific procedures to legally change your name are:

  1. Choose an appropriate name: Make sure that your name is appropriate and a legal name
  2. Fill out the Petition to legally change your name
  3. File your petition with your local Civil Court
  4. Pay your filing fees
  5. Attend your hearing to see if your petition has been approved
  6. Get a new drivers license and social security

What Are the Common Situations When a Name is Changed?

Here are a few typical reasons for seeking a name change and the required procedures: 

  • Marriage
    • Change all identification cards, accounts, and important documents like social security cards, and driver licenses
  • Divorce
    • You can have the judge handling your divorce make a formal order to restore you former name
  • Child Name Changes
    • Can be done when in the best interest of the child
    • Usually occurs when the child's mother remarries

What Are the Restrictions for a Name Change?

There are several situations where you are not allowed to change your name. A name change cannot be done:

  • With a fraudulent intent (change your name to avoid the law, etc.)
  • To interfere with the rights of others (you can not change your name to George W. Bush, or assume an identity to get benefits from being that person)
  • If you change your name to something that is intentionally confusing like a number or punctuation symbol
  • If your name will equate to a racial slur
  • If your name will equate to fighting words

Who Should I Notify of My Name Change?

After you have legally changed your name, make sure you notify the following personnel and organization of the legal name change:

  • Social Security Administration
  • Department of Moto Vehicles
  • State Taxing Authority
  • Passport Office
  • Creditors and Debtors
  • Your Bank
  • Employers & Schools
  • Post Office

Do I Need an Attorney for my Name Change?

Consulting with an attorney regarding any significant legal matter such as a name change is always a wise thing to do. Because of the complexity of some name change documents it is highly recommended that you contact a family law lawyer regarding a name change.