There are many reasons why Texans might wish to change their legal names. Last name changes are most common, particularly when it comes to marriage and divorce. But anyone who wants to change their first, middle, or last name will be required to provide some supporting documentation as well as make an application to the local court. After a name change in Texas, however, a person's identification documents will not automatically update.
The person who has legally changed their name must go through individual procedures to update their driver's license, passport photo, Social Security number, and any other legal documentation. The step-by-step instructions provided in this guide will help individuals work through the process of changing their name in Texas.
While the name change process in Texas takes more steps than in most states, the process is not too complicated, and with some planning and preparation, a person can be legally granted a name change. Visiting your local courthouse or a law library for reference materials may assist you in this process, or alternatively, you might consider consulting an attorney.
What are the reasons for name changes in Texas?
There are many common reasons for seeking legal name changes in Texas and elsewhere. People may choose to change their first, middle, or last name. Some people decide to legally change their birth name because they've never liked it and prefer to be known by a different name. A person might consider something about their name to be an obstacle to their chosen profession. Some people may wish to legally change their name because they are transgender, and the name they were assigned at birth does not match the gender marker on their legal documents. In this case, a person's birth certificate may also be updated, although there are no other circumstances (outside of a clerical error) where a person's birth certificate will reflect a name change.
Of note, a gender change is not guaranteed in Texas and is up to individual judges. Additionally, any request for gender change on legal documents may require additional information from medical professionals.
Regardless of someone's reason for seeking a legal name change in Texas, the court ultimately has discretion in granting the request, so any applicant should make a compelling case for the name change in order to increase their chance of approval.
The process to change your child's name is completely separate. Legally changing your own name in Texas will not automatically change your child's name.
Texas name change requirements
Before initiating a name change in Texas, you must meet the following requirements as well as provide documentation that proves:
- You are at least 18 years old (you will need separate paperwork for a child's name)
- You're filing your petition in your county of residence
- You've been a resident of Texas for at least six months and your current county of residence for at least 90 days
- You're not filing with intent to defraud anyone or to avoid creditors
- You do not intend to harm an existing person with your chosen name, such as a celebrity
- Your new name is not vulgar
- Your name change is for a good reason, as granting the name change is at the discretion of the court
- You haven't committed a felony
- If you have committed a felony, you've either been pardoned, or it's been two years since your release from prison or completion of probation
- You're not a sex offender
- If you are a sex offender, you've notified your local authorities that you want to change your name
- You've provided proof of any felonies and Class A and B misdemeanors to the court
How to legally change your name in Texas
If you are seeking a name change after marriage in Texas or as part of a divorce in the state of Texas, you will not need to go through these steps to change your name. Your new name can be added to the marriage certificate or the divorce decree without a separate court order. You may choose to return to your maiden name during the divorce proceedings. In order to update your identification documentation, however, you will need to obtain a certified copy of either your marriage license or your divorce decree from the county clerk's office.
There are other potential name changes in Texas that may not require a court order, such as a clerical error on a birth certificate.
For all other name change requests, you will need to go through the following basic steps. The entire process can take anywhere from a few days to six months, so be aware of the time frame and remain flexible.
1. Complete the adult name change petition
You will need to obtain the adult name change petition either online or in person at your county courthouse. The petition and the required form ask for basic personal information, and you should be able to fill out these fields easily by following the provided instructions.
The petition should not be signed until you can do so in the presence of a notary public who will witness your signature and apply their seal to the form.
2. Have your fingerprints taken
You will need to submit a copy of your fingerprints with your petition for a name change. Included in the fingerprinting will also be an FBI criminal background check to verify any information related to criminal convictions.
The Texas Department of Public Safety can help you schedule an appointment for these services. The fees associated with these services are less than $50 and may be paid online by credit card or in person by check or money order. Cash will not be accepted.
3. Pay the filing fee
There is a processing fee required by the court in order to process your petition. Prices may vary from county to county, but the average is between $150 and $300.
There are also options available for those unable to afford the fee. If you cannot afford to pay for the name change filing fee, you will need to fill out a Statement of Inability to Afford Court Costs. This form will ask you to provide financial information, including whether or not you receive public assistance. In addition, you will need to provide proof of your participation in these programs. You will also need to list all of your expenses as well as any assets.
4. Complete the court order to change an adult's name
An order to change an adult's name must be completed using the same information from the initial petition. This order should be completed in full and also left unsigned. The form will only be signed by the court if your petition for a name change is granted.
Should you need help filling out any of the paperwork associated with the order to change your name, consult an attorney or an authorized online legal service. You may also consider visiting a law library and reviewing relevant texts in order to help you fill out the paperwork.
5. Make copies of all relevant court documents
You will need to make copies of your petition, fingerprint card, name change document, court order, and, if you are using it, the Statement of Inability to Afford Court Costs. You should make at least three copies of all documents for your own personal records.
6. File your papers with the court clerk
After you have made copies of all your court papers, you will need to file the original documents at your county's district court. You should also bring along your copies of the documents so that the clerk can stamp them as "filed."
Filing electronically may be available in your county, so if you wish to e-file, you can call the district court clerk to see if it is a possibility.
Make sure at this time that you also obtain your court date assignment from the clerk.
7. Attend the court hearing for your name change petition
You will need to bring all of your paperwork to your court hearing: the order, your petition, a copy of your fingerprint card, your identification, and any relevant criminal record, convictions, and/or pardons. If you are unsure whether or not to bring certain documentation, the clerk is available to advise you ahead of your hearing.
If your name change request is approved, the judge will sign your order at the conclusion of your hearing.
8. File the order with the clerk
Once the judge agrees with your name change request and has signed your order, you still need to file the order with the county clerk. When you file your order, request at least two certified copies of the order that you will use to change your name with all the various official agencies.
9. Complete the necessary paperwork to update your name on all official documents
Now that you have successfully changed your name legally in Texas, you will need to update your name on all of your official identification issued through government agencies. You will need to obtain a new Social Security card through your local Social Security office, a driver's license, a passport, and car registration. Other important updates include bank accounts, voter registration, credit cards, insurance, mortgage companies, and anyone else who sends you mail, including all utility billing. For name change concerns related to your tax concerns, you should consult with your tax professional.
Be aware that legally changing your name does not exempt you from any debts accrued under your previous name. While you may feel a new name provides you with a fresh start, your creditors will not agree!
The Texas name change process may require a few more added steps than other states, but by taking your time to meet the requirements and file all the necessary paperwork, you will legally change your name in Texas in no time.
Find out more about legally changing your name