Most states recognize an inherent right to change your name for non-fraudulent purposes. If you want to change your last name due to marriage, divorce, or adoption, most states do not require a court. Most states do, however, require a court order to change your middle name. Although the laws of the various states differ on the procedure, certain principles are common to every state. Consult the law of your state for the exact procedure.
Obtain proof of residence in your state. A state driver's license, a state tax bill or a copy of a long-term lease should be sufficient. Some states require you to have resided in-state for a set period of time -- 30 days, for example -- before you may file a name change petition.
Download and print a name change petition from the website of your state government. Some states do not offer such petitions, instead requiring you to draft your own. If you live in a state that requires you to draft your own petition, your petition must include all of the information required by the state name change statute.
Complete the name change petition. You will be asked to provide identification details about yourself such as your current name and address. You will also be asked to explain the reason you want to change your name.
Gather any required supporting documentation. Some states require a copy of your credit report, while others require a certified copy of your birth certificate.
Submit your name change petition to the court clerk of the appropriate state court with jurisdiction over your county of residence, together with any required supporting documentation and the appropriate filing fee. The court will schedule a hearing date and notify you. Some states do not require you to attend a hearing.
Publish a notice of your intent to change your name in a newspaper of general circulation in the county of your residence. Some states do not require publication. North Carolina, by contrast, requires you to post your notice on the courthouse door. The purpose of the notice is to give anyone a chance to object to your name change.
Attend your name change hearing. Bring proof of publication of the name change notice. If there has been an objection to your name change petition, you might be required to defend your name change petition at the hearing. If your petition is approved, the judge will issue a name change order and the court will send you a certified copy of the order.
Use your certified copy of the name change order to change your middle name on identity documents such as your driver's license, personal ID, Social Security card and passport. You will have to fill out forms and pay various fees to replace your identification documents.