In general, anyone can legally change their name for any reason except to commit fraud or evade the law. To make it official, you'll need a court order legally changing your name. The procedure for getting that order depends on the state and county where you live—and the cost will range from $150 to $436.
State Charges to Change Your Name
States assess a variety of charges for changing a name in its overall cost to you—so your state may include some charges that other states simply overlook (and vice versa). Such charges can include:
- Court filing fees
- Fees for certified copies. A certified copy is a photocopy with an official seal on it. The cost of a certified copy varies according to the locality and the length of the document but is typically $20 or less. This
- Fees to publish a notice in a newspaper
- Fees to an attorney to prepare name change documents for you. You may also have attorney’s fees if someone opposes the name change and you decide to have a lawyer represent you at the hearing.
- Fees for changing the name on a birth certificate
Changing Your Name After Marriage
If you plan to follow the traditional approach and take your husband’s last name after marriage, you may be able to change your name on all your official documents by simply providing a certified copy of your marriage certificate. You do not need to file a petition with the court.
However, if you are planning a less traditional name change after marriage—such as creating a new last name for both spouses or having the husband take the wife’s last name—you will most likely have to petition a court for a name change.
Changing Your Name After Divorce
If you changed your name when you got married but want to go back to your former name after your divorce, you can ask for your name to be changed as part of the final divorce decree. If you do this, a certified copy of the divorce decree will usually be sufficient to change your name on all of your official documents.
However, if you did not request a legal name change as part of the divorce, or if you also want to change your children’s names, you will need to petition the court for name changes for yourself and/or your children.
Requirements for Changing a Child’s Name
Minors under the age of 18 cannot change their own names—a parent must file the name change petition. The procedure and cost for changing a child’s name is the same as for changing an adult’s name, except that the parent filing the petition must take the extra step of serving the other parent with notice of the name change petition.
If you don’t know where the other parent is, you will need to make serious attempts to locate that parent, and if you cannot, you will probably have to publish notice of the name change in a newspaper.
A name change can be an important part of a fresh start after a marriage, divorce or other life events. A name change is a simple legal proceeding that doesn’t usually require a lawyer, but you do need to make sure you prepare the paperwork properly and follow all the court’s rules and instructions.