Have you ever thought about legally changing your name?
No matter what motivates you to take this step — a marriage, a divorce or just a deep-seated desire to do so — you’ll often have to deal with a barrage of paperwork after the fact.
And changing a child’s name can get awfully complicated at times.
Do not despair, though! The following tips can help you navigate the naming game.
1. Getting married or divorced? If so, changing your name should be a relatively simple process so long as you remember to take care of it when everything is being made official. No additional court proceedings are typically needed.
2. Get the forms you need. For other kinds of name changes, you can go online in many cases and download the name-change forms you need by starting with this Web site. Click on your state on the map, then scan the list of courts for your state’s “state court,” “judicial department,” “judicial branch” or “judiciary.” From that link, look for a “district court” or “circuit court” link for your area, and then search for “name change.” If it’s just too hard to find the forms you need online, you can swing by your local county courthouse and get the necessary forms there.
3. Follow instructions carefully. It’s imperative that you do exactly what’s asked of you on the forms so you don’t run into problems or get hit with unnecessary delays. In many cases, you may have to agree to be fingerprinted and to share fairly detailed information about your employment background and your criminal history.
4. Brace yourself for the bill. The cost of a legal name change varies from county to county and from state to state. It can be spendy, though. Here are a few examples to give you an idea of what you might encounter: The filing fee in Hillsborough County in Florida is $267.50. In Harris County in Texas, it’s $197. In King County in Washington, it’s $108. Some counties also charge fingerprinting fees.
5. Change your driver’s license. Once your name change is official, contact your state’s department of motor vehicles or licensing and get this important piece of identification updated first. To avoid waiting in long lines, you can call your nearest office and make a definite appointment for an in-person visit.
6. Get a new Social Security card. Call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 and ask for Form SS-5. You also can visit this site and download the form from there. (Just type “SS-5” into the search field to find the form.)
7. Need a new passport? If so, you can call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778 or visit the Web site of the U.S. State Department and download form DS-5504 or DS-82, depending on your circumstances. (Again, you can type those form numbers into the search field.)
8. Consult with your employer. Make sure your place of employment knows about your name change so your paychecks, withholdings and W-2 forms appear with the correct name on them.
9. Contact everyone you do business with. Remember to notify your bank, credit-card companies, insurance carriers, medical providers, county tax assessor, state licensing boards, schools, frequent-flyer programs, utilities and the administrators of any and all accounts you have. Your name also may need to be changed on your will, car registration and deeds or mortgages.
10. Both parents must agree on a child’s name change. If one parent ignores a petition for a child’s name change altogether, the parent seeking the change is more likely to get his or her way. But if a dispute arises, a court must decide whether the name change is in the child’s best interest. If your situation reaches that stage, consider hiring a lawyer for help.