The Basics: What is a Name Change Form?
Major life events like a marriage or divorce may prompt you to change your name, but some people change their names for a variety of personal reasons. Most states allow you to start using a new name without paperwork (i.e. common law name change). If you want banks or government institutions to officially recognize your new name, a court order from your state court is usually required (i.e. court decreed name change) to register your new name.
Asking government institutions to recognize a name change usually requires you provide the following:
- Legal Document: a certified marriage certificate, final decree of divorce, or name change judgment from the court is needed
- Identification: driver’s license, state ID card, naturalization certificate, or passport with your birth name
- Date of Birth: a birth certificate, adoption record, or hospital record
Some states require you to publish a notice in your local newspaper notifying people of your proposed name change. Anyone affected may then attend the scheduled hearing.
As a reference, people often call a Name Change by other names:
- Application for Change of Name
- Certificate of Name Change
- Change of Name Hearing
- Name Change Judgment
- Name Change Petition
- Petition for Change of Name
When a Name Change is Needed
Why do I need a Name Change?
A court decreed name change is often needed by government institutions like the Social Security Administration for benefits, IRS for tax returns, and State Department for passports.
The process of legally changing your name varies state by state but usually requires filing a petition in your local court and attending a hearing where others may comment or object to the proposed name change. Your new name is official when the court issues a judgment granting the name change.
|Birth Names||Celebrity Names|
|Frances Ethel Gumm||Judy Garland|
|Margaret Mary Emily Hyra||Meg Ryan|
|Natalie Hershlag||Natalie Portman|
|Caryn Elaine Johnson||Whoopi Goldberg|
|Eric Marlon Bishop||Jamie Foxx|
|Allan Stewart Konigsberg||Woody Allen|
|Norma Jeane Mortenson||Marilyn Monroe|
|Demetria Guynes||Demi Moore|
|Frederick Austerlitz||Fred Astaire|
|Katherine McMath||Ginger Rogers|
|Peter Gene Hernandez||Bruno Mars|
|Steveland Judkins||Stevie Wonder|
|Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor||Lorde|
|Audrey Perry||Faith Hill|
|Amanda Lee Rogers||Portia De Rossi|
|Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta||Lady Gaga|
|Reginald Kenneth Dwight||Elton John|
|Tara Leigh Patrick||Carmen Electra|
|Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson||Katy Perry|
|Mark Vincent||Vin Diesel|
The Consequences of Not Getting a Name Change
What happens if I do not get a Name Change?
Even if you have been using a new name with your family, friends, and co-workers, you will not have the legal right to change your name with government agencies like the Social Security Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles until you obtain an order from your local court.
Should you change your name after marriage?
According to a June 2015 New York Times article, women are increasingly keeping their maiden names, especially if they are Asian, Hispanic, have an advanced degree, or “made a name” for themselves professionally before marriage. More than ten years ago, however, a 2004 Harvard Study found that there was a decrease of women keeping their maiden names, at least in Massachusetts.
Independent of these trends, a 2010 Dutch study found that women who adopt their partner’s names are judged as “more caring, more dependent, less intelligent, more emotional, less competent, and less ambitious” compared to women who kept their own names and even took home nearly $500 a month more in salary. Maybe Lucy Stone, the first American woman to keep her name after marriage in 1855, was on to something.
An earlier 2013 New York Times article offers another solution — become a “situational name user” — use your maiden name in professional situations and your married name in social situations.
If you choose to not legally change your name, carefully purchase plane tickets using the name on your driver’s license to avoid getting stuck in the airport because your ticket does not match your ID.
The Most Common Name Change Situations
Who needs a Name Change?
A Name Change is commonly used in the following situations:
|Reasons for a Name Change||Name Changes NOT Allowed|
If you are undergoing a gender change or reassignment, the courts of California provide guidance on how to change your name and gender through the court process. Consider a “Sealed Name Change” if you want to seal court records so they cannot be seen by the public. For example, if you are changing your name to protect yourself from an abuser in a domestic violence situation.
Completing a Name Change
Once you have a marriage license, divorce certificate, or court order granting your name change, you will need to notify government institutions, banks, and others to complete the process of changing your name:
- Social Security: use Form SS-5 to change your name on your Social Security Card and visit your local Social Security Office
- Driver’s License: visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new driver’s license and change your vehicle title and registration AFTER receiving a certificate from the Social Security Office approving your name change
- Taxes: file IRS Form 8822 – Change of Address – to update your tax returns but you do not need to change your name with the Social Security Administration if you want to file your taxes jointly, just select “married filing jointly” according to the IRS
- Naturalization Certificate: Form N-565 allows changes to your citizenship document
- Passport: change the name on your U.S. passport with the U.S. Department of State or check change of sex marker information if you are in the process of completing a gender reassignment
- USPS: complete the change of address form with your new name and new address
- Elections: update your voter registration card at your local election commission office
- Banks: order new checks and credit cards by contacting your banks
- E-mail: change your personal email (i.e. Gmail) and work e-mails accordingly
- Business Cards: ask your human resources office at the office for help
- Social Media: change your name on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
- Others: doctors, insurance companies, clubs, retirement plans, and memberships