Fastest Way to Legally Change Your Name

By Jeff Franco J.D./M.A./M.B.A.

All 50 states allow you to legally change your name, regardless of whether it’s the result of a marriage, divorce or personal preference. The fastest way to legally change your name is to familiarize yourself with the laws of your state to avoid unnecessary delays due to oversight of the proper procedures. However, when your name change doesn’t relate to a marriage or divorce, the legal process is going to require more time and the filing of additional documents.

Marriage or Divorce

Women commonly take their husbands' last names after marriage -- and in some cases, resume using their maiden names after a divorce. In Texas and New York, for example, the fastest way to legally change your name after marriage is by indicating the name change on your marriage license. In the event you later divorce, you can revert back to your maiden name if you indicate it in the final divorce decree you file with the court.

Adult Name Changes

When your decision to legally change your first, middle or last name doesn’t relate to marriage or a divorce, the process in most states isn’t as simple. In Texas, state law requires the filing of an Original Petition for Change of Name in the district court of the county you reside in. However, the filing of a petition doesn’t guarantee that a judge will permit the name change. The existence of a felony charge on your criminal record or a court order requiring you to register as a sex offender are common reasons for Texas courts to reject your petition. New York employs similar procedures to legally change your name, but in addition, you must publicize the name change in a newspaper after the court approves your petition.

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Changing Child’s Name

As a parent, you have the authority to legally change your child’s name. In most states, the process for legally changing a minor child’s name is the same as changing your own. However, state governments employ additional legal safeguards to ensure that the name change is in the best interest of the child. Texas still requires the filing of a petition to initiate the child’s name change; however, the court requires that the other parent receive notice of the petition’s filing and provides that parent an opportunity to object to the name change. When both parents disagree, the court schedules a hearing before ruling on the petition. Additionally, when changing a child's name in Texas, if the child is 10 years of age or older, the child’s written consent to the change of name must be attached to the petition.

Notifying Government Agencies

Since your goal is for all parties to identify you by the new name, it’s imperative that you notify a number of government agencies once you legally change your name. The Social Security Administration will officially recognize your new name only after you provide the agency with an original or certified copy of your marriage license, divorce decree or court order granting the name change. Moreover, you must also notify your state’s department of motor vehicles office to obtain a new driver’s license or identification card with your new name.

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How to Change a Name on a Texas Driver's License


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What if I Didn't Request a Name Change in Divorce Papers in Maryland?

In a divorce, you may want to change your last name back to your maiden name. However, if you forgot to request a name change in your divorce papers, or you simply changed your mind after your divorce became final, you can still request a name change in Maryland. You must complete the appropriate form and receive a court order for the name change to be recognized legally.

How to Create a New Last Name When You Marry

Although you are not required to change your last name when you marry, you may do so if you wish. The most common way is to adopt your spouse's surname when you sign the marriage certificate but other procedures and choices are available as well. For example, if you changed your name from Brown to Brown-Smith after your first marriage, you could continue to use the same name after your marriage to John Green; revert to the last name of Brown; adopt the name Brown-Green or Green-Brown; or perhaps change both spouses' names to Breen if your state allows you to create a new last name.

How Do I Get New a Birth Certificate After a Name Change?

Most name changes do not require a change to your birth certificate. In fact, state offices of vital records will refuse to change the name on your birth certificate if you changed your name due to a marriage or a divorce. Many states will, however, change the name on your birth certificate if you changed your name for reasons such as adoption or gender reassignment surgery. State laws vary on the procedure for changing the name on a birth certificate.

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