How to Change Your First Name Legally

By Lisa Magloff

The process for legally changing your first name is the same as for legally changing your last name. It differs somewhat from state to state, but in all states you need to ask permission from the court and obtain an order from a judge. This order allows you to change your birth certificate and other documents. In some states, you must also undergo a police check before beginning the name change process, as some people are prohibited from legally changing their name, for example, people on the sex offenders register.

Step 1

Obtain a petition for name change. You can obtain copies of the petition form from the county court in the county where you live.

Step 2

Fill in the petition. The petition will generally require you to list your reason for wanting a name change. The form may also ask you for information about criminal convictions and may ask you to certify you are not changing your name to evade legal obligations, such as debts.

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Step 3

Sign the petition and have it notarized. In some states, such as New York, you will also have to submit a certificate of disposition if you have any criminal convictions. The certificate can be obtained from the court where you were convicted.

Step 4

File the petition with the civil clerk of the county courthouse in the county where you live. You will also need to pay a fee. The amount of the fee varies by state. The clerk will then assign you a case number and a date for your court hearing.

Step 5

Attend your name change hearing. Answer any questions the judge asks. Once finished, the judge will sign your name change order, and the court clerk will give you a copy.

Step 6

Publish your name change if you live in a state where this is required. In some states anyone who has changed a first or last name must announce this in a local paper. The exact requirements vary by state. The clerk in your county courthouse can give you all the details. You can be excused from publication if the judge has decided it is too risky. For example, if you are a victim of a hate crime and do not want to publish personal information.

Step 7

Submit proof of publication to the clerk's office where you filed for your name change. Buy certified copies of your name change order from the clerk. You can then take a certified copy of the order to the state vital records office and request a new birth certificate. You can also use certified copies of the order to change your driver's license, passport, Social Security card and any other identification you have.

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