How to Legally Change a Name on a Birth Certificate

By Brette Sember, J.D.

How to Legally Change a Name on a Birth Certificate

By Brette Sember, J.D.

Once your name is entered on your birth certificate, it becomes your legal name. You can only change your name on a birth certificate by a court order. When you marry or divorce, the marriage certificate or divorce decree are legal documents that change the legal name you use, but they do not impact the legal name on your birth certificate.

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Name-change proceedings to alter your birth certificate name are generally relatively simple. Each state has its own procedures and forms, so be sure to research your state's particular requirements. If you want help with your name change, you can choose to use an online service provider who can assist you with the paperwork and filing.

Follow these steps to change your name on your birth certificate.

1. Identify the necessary forms.

Call the county courthouse for the county you live in, or look on your state's website to learn which court handles name changes. Find the form you need—often called a Petition for Name Change or something similar—on the court website or at the courthouse. There may be additional forms that go with it that you will need to complete.

2. Complete the forms.

Follow the instructions for completing the form(s). You will likely need to include a certified copy of your current birth certificate. You may be able to upload the form, mail it, or drop it off in person. There may also be a filing fee.

3. Undergo the necessary background checks.

The court might do a background check on you to determine if you have a criminal history. In some states, you have to submit fingerprints, which you can usually have done by the state or local police.

4. Publish the notification.

Most states require that you publish some sort of notice in a local newspaper about your name change. The court will let you know what it should say and which newspaper to use. You will need to submit proof of the publication to the court.

5. Attend the hearing.

Your case will likely be scheduled for a hearing, although some name changes may be approved without one. At the hearing, the judge may ask some questions and you might have to explain why you want to change your name. If the judge approves, you will receive an order from the court. Obtain a certified copy of the order from the court clerk's office.

6. Update the birth certificate.

Check the website for your state's vital records department. Most states have a form you must fill out to request a birth certificate with your new name. Include the certified copy of the court order you obtained, as well as a copy of your original birth certificate, and submit the form according to the instructions on the form or on the website. There may be a fee to file the form.

These simple steps will legally change your name on your birth certificate. If you have questions about the process in your state, check with the court clerk's office in your county.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.