How to Legally Change Your Middle Name

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

How to Legally Change Your Middle Name

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

If you want to change your middle name, you must follow your state's specific procedures. In most states, you need a court order to change your middle name. While the required steps to change your middle name vary by state, there are some similarities in the process that apply in most states.

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1. Determine whether your state has a specific form for name changes.

Most states provide name change applications, name change petitions, or similar forms through the states' official court system websites or other state government agency websites. If you are not sure what your state requires, contact your local courthouse in person or online. Some states also require criminal background checks, so you may need to complete a criminal history release form or similar document authorizing such checks.

2. Gather required identification documents.

If your state or county requires you to provide proof of residency before changing your name, you need to gather documentation showing you meet the state or local government's requirements. Generally, you can submit a utility bill in your name, driver's license or other state-issued identification cards, a copy of a lease, or a property tax statement. Your state or county judiciary may accept other records in addition to or instead of these documents.

3. Submit your completed forms and pay required fees.

Fill out the required application, petition, and other required forms carefully to avoid unnecessary delays in processing. Follow your state or local government's requirements to submit the forms and pay the required fees. In some cases, people on limited incomes may qualify for fee waivers or reductions.

4. Publish a notice of your name change in a legal newspaper, if required.

Your state or local government may require you to publish a legal notice in a newspaper, notifying the public about your name change. Other states require name change applicants to provide documentation that they notified interested parties of their intentions to change their names.

If you must comply with a publication requirement, make sure you use an approved newspaper and that you publish the notice according to required timeframes. For example, you may need to publish notice once each week for two consecutive weeks.

5. Attend required court hearings.

After the court has received your application, petition, or related documents, and proof of publication (if required), there will likely be a court hearing to rule on the matter. Not every state requires name change applicants to attend these hearings, but some states do. Be sure you understand your state's expectations. If the judge approves your application or petition, the court issues a formal order, officially changing your middle name.

6. Update your name with government authorities and identification documents.

The court order is the legal document that changes your name. However, you still need to take additional steps to update your name with government agencies. Provide certified copies of the court order when updating your driver's license, passport, Social Security card, and other identifying documents.

You should also notify your utility companies and financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, brokerage firms, insurance companies, and any other service provider that has records linked to your former legal name, so they can update their files.

If you want to change your middle name, follow these steps, and be sure to understand the differences there might be in your local/state laws when going through the name change process.

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.