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 Your Legal Name in Maryland


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Legal Name Change Options

There are a number of reasons people change their name, including unifying a family, getting married or starting fresh with a new self image. It is illegal to change your name to avoid debt collectors or evade arrest, and many states have laws prohibiting sex offenders and other convicted felons from changing their names. The reason for your name change can affect the process of changing your name, and once your name is legally changed, you must change your name on financial documents to avoid confusion and maintain access to your money and bills.

How to Change Your Last Name Without the Court

Whatever your reasons for changing your last name, state laws offer several ways for you to do it. Often people want to change their names because of marriage or divorce, and states offer relatively simple name change procedures as part of these legal events. Otherwise, going to court specifically for a legal name change may be a good option, but you can change your name without a separate court process.

Got Married & Want to Change Stepchild's Name in Illinois

Blended families that unite stepparents and stepchildren are fairly common. In most cases, stepchildren and their stepparents do not share a last name. A biological parent has the right to petition the court to change the child's surname to match that of his parent and stepparent. Illinois law requires parents petitioning for a name change to demonstrate proof that the name change benefits the child rather than just the parents.

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