Posted on Jun 6, 2011 in Local resources, Other stuff
I’d like to change my last name to reflect the name of the man who raised me — my stepfather. What is the procedure for doing this?
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There are numerous reasons you might want to change your name, ranging from getting married to gender reassignment to simply wanting to get a fresh start with a new name.
The good news is that you can legally change your name inexpensively, and even, if you choose, without an attorney. (We recommend you steer clear of a lot of the sites that pop up under a web search for “legal name change” and the like, as many of them are trying to sell you services you don’t really need.)
In the US, the actual name changing is done on a state level, which usually means visiting your county courthouse. No matter the state, you will need to have with you either an original or certified copy of your birth certificate (the latter can be obtained from the county recorder from where you were born).
Fortunately, the process has usually been streamlined and simplified over the years — and in many states, you can grab the forms and instructions you need online. For example, the Civil Court in New York State offers DIY forms to make name change petitions, and the California courts have a self-help center offering form downloads and other assistance.
Typically, the paperwork you submit will be reviewed by a court clerk, then given to a judge who gets to say yes or no to your name change.
Nolo, the self-help legal experts, have outlined the reasons you can’t change your name, all of which are obvious and understandable: you can’t change your name it to get out of paying debts, keep from getting sued, to be racist or obscene, to be intentionally confusing, to take the name of a well-known public figure, etc.
Note that name changes are public, and you must pay to publish your new name — along with your old one — in a newspaper in order to make it official. If you need to keep your name change private (as Washington state says, for such reasons as “reasonable fear for his or her safety or that of his or her child or ward”), tell the clerk before you file the petition, so they can show you how to request your records be sealed.
After you complete your name change, you’ll have to alter it on your credit cards, household accounts (cable, electricity, etc) — and also update it on various other government records. Here are a couple links to get you going!
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