Top 10 reasons people change their names

There are good reasons and, sometimes, unusual reasons why people change their names.

by Michelle Kaminsky, Esq.
updated May 15, 2023 ·  3min read

People choose to change their legal names for an array of reasons and, sometimes, for no reason as all. It's perfectly legal unless it is for fraudulent or deceptive purposes. 

Here are some of the most popular reasons people decide to change their names.

Man signing contract with pen

1. Dislikes current name

A name change request can come about simply because a person doesn't like his or her name as given at birth. Perhaps they'd prefer something more unique than Britney or Ashley or something less unique than a homespun name that combined parents' names.

In this same vein, people with names that could be embarrassing, especially if mispronounced or misspelled, may also seek name changes.

2. Changing name following divorce

If a woman has taken her husband's name upon marriage, she may decide to reclaim her maiden name upon separation or divorce or take on an entirely new name. Some states may provide an easy way to do revert to a maiden name, so be sure to check your state's laws.

3. Husband taking wife's name upon marriage

It's becoming increasingly popular for a husband to take his wife's surname, but the process is streamlined in only California, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, and North Dakota. In those states, the name change process is the same as for a wife taking her husband's surname upon marriage, but in others, more paperwork is necessary.

4. Changing child's surname to mother's or father's

In the case of an absent father, a mother may wish to have a child's surname changed to hers. On the flip side, if a formerly absent father is now in the picture, a name change to the father's surname may also be desired.

5. Couples combining or hyphenating surnames to form a new one

Another popular trend with married or cohabitating couples is the creation of a new surname using parts of each partner's name or simply hyphenating the two last names for a brand new joint surname.

Again, some states permit the combining or hyphenation of married couples' surnames with only simple paperwork, so be sure to check the law in your state.

6. Desire for a less or more 'ethnic' name

People with names that are identifiably "ethnic" sometimes request name changes for various reasons, including ease of pronunciation and spelling.

On the other hand, some individuals would like to reclaim their ethnic heritage by returning to a surname that may have been lost over the years or by the adoption of a new one.

7. Transgender name changes

Transgender people often request name changes to reflect gender. Names can be changed to simply the masculine or feminine form of the current name or can be new names altogether.

8. Religious reasons

Whether it's because of a recent religious conversion or simply to honor a person's religious deity, name changes for religious reasons are quite common. Take, for example, Steve Kreuscher who changed his name to In God We Trust to honor the help God gave him during hard times.

9. Same-sex partners sharing surname

Although same-sex partners may not be allowed to legally marry in all states, they can choose to share a surname, which can be particularly convenient in financial or legal transactions.

10. Political statement

Although some may consider it extreme to change your name to support a cause, name changes for political reasons are not unheard of. In the past 10 years, Christopher Garnett became, Brandi Valladolid became, and Marvin Richardson legally changed his full name to Pro-Life.

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Michelle Kaminsky, Esq.

About the Author

Michelle Kaminsky, Esq.

Freelance writer and editor Michelle Kaminsky, Esq. has been working with LegalZoom since 2004. She earned a Juris Docto… Read more

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of the author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.