How to Legally Change a Name on a Birth Certificate

by Beverly Bird

    Changing a name on a birth certificate requires permission from a court of law. Your birth certificate records your identity on the day you were born. Marriage does not affect this because you did not go by your married name at your birth. Changing who you were “born as” involves a judge's consent and altering vital records.

    Step 1

    Call your county courthouse or check your state’s website to find out what court handles name changes. Get the necessary forms to file a petition with the court for permission to begin legally using a different name. When you file the forms with the court, the clerk will give you a date to appear before a judge.

    Step 2

    Appear in court at the appointed time and explain to the judge your reasons for wanting the change. If he approves your request, he’ll give you an order allowing it. Ask for an extra certified copy. A certified copy is one bearing the judge’s original signature and your state’s official seal.

    Step 3

    Contact the department of vital records in your state. Most states have a specific form or application you must fill out to request a new birth certificate with the name the court is allowing you to begin using. In other states, you might only need to write a letter to make the request. If your state requires a special application, ask the department of vital records where you can get one. There is also usually a fee for changing your birth certificate. If your state imposes one, the department of vital records can tell you how much it is.

    Step 4

    Make a copy of your original birth certificate to help the department of vital records identify it. Mail your letter or application, a check or money order for payment, the copy of your old birth certificate and a certified copy of your name change order to your state's department of vital records. Most states will not accept a photocopy of the order.

    Step 5

    Call the department of vital records again a week or so after you send in your paperwork. Confirm that they have received it and everything is in order. The department should be able to tell you what its current backlog is and how long you can expect to wait before you receive your new birth certificate.

    Tips & Warnings

    • Some states will issue you a brand new birth certificate with your new name. Other states, such as California, will attach your new certificate to the old one; it becomes a 2-page certificate documenting both your names.
    • In some jurisdictions, it may not be necessary to go through the added steps of applying to your department of vital records yourself. For instance, in Minnesota, you can ask the judge at the time of your name change hearing to have the court notify the department of vital records.

    About the Author

    Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.

    Photo Credits

    • BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images