Name Change Guidelines in VA

By Sarah Barton

If you want to legally change your name as a result of marriage, divorce, adoption or simply to free yourself of a name that is difficult to pronounce, you must follow certain procedures to make the change in Virginia. The forms and procedures may vary slightly depending upon the reason for the change and whether you are an adult or minor.


The most common reasons for an adult to legally change her name are marriage and divorce. After marriage, you simply go to the local office of the Social Security Administration and present a certified copy of your marriage certificate along with an application for a Social Security card containing your new name. It is not necessary to file a petition with the court to legally change your name following marriage.


If you are changing your name as a result of divorce, the easiest way is to make a motion to restore your maiden name at the time your divorce decree is issued. In the event you do not seek a name change at that time, you can still file a petition requesting the name change in the circuit court of the county or city where you reside.This is the same petition that an adult requesting a name change for any other reason would file. The court will grant the name change if it determines there is good cause to do so.

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Occasionally, it is necessary to change the name of a minor, as in the case of adoption. In Virginia, one or both of the child's parents or the child's next friend, or guardian, may petition the court for the name change. If only one of the child's parents files the petition and both are living, the other parent must be given reasonable notice of the application and a chance to object. If there is an objection, the court will conduct a hearing to decide if the name change is in the best interest of the child. If the other parent makes no objection, the court will grant the name change if there is good cause for the change.

Contents of the Petition

When you file a petition for a name change, the application must be made under oath and contain the names of your parents, mother's maiden name, date and place of your birth, any felony convictions, and any former names if you have changed your name before. If you are filing a petition to change the name of a minor, provide this information for the minor.

Public Record

When the court orders the name change, your old and new names will be included in a deed book in the office of the clerk of court. It also will be sent to the State Registrar of Vital Records and the Central Criminal Records Exchange, although this will not be required if your maiden name is being restored following a divorce. The court may waive these measures that establish a public record of your name change if you show the court that the health or safety of you or your family members will be in danger if the name change is made part of the public record.

Fraud and Infringement

If there is evidence that the petition to change your name is sought in an effort to defraud others, such as avoiding repayment of a bank loan, the court will deny your petition. Similarly, if you seek to change your name with the intention of infringing upon the rights of others, for example, by taking the same name as a reputable business person or celebrity and attempting to profit from it, the court will deny your petition.

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