Whether you’re hyphenating surnames with your partner or have recently gone through a divorce, changing your name can be a milestone—and a fresh start.
Legally changing your name is simpler than you might think, but it also comes with several imperative steps. Streamline the process with our legal name change checklist and start rocking your new last name in (relatively) no time.
You might be returning to your maiden surname after a change in your marital status. Or perhaps you decided to adopt your fiancé or fiancée’s last name long before you officially said, “I do.” It’s possible you’re changing your name to better suit your gender identity, or because you’ve never felt at home in the name you were given at birth.
Whatever the case may be, in the United States, you’re at liberty to an easy name change —with a few caveats:1
Making your name change valid requires a legal process. Don’t worry—it rarely requires a lawyer, but it does require paperwork.
The exact documents you’ll need will depend on your reason for changing your name and the state in which you live. Typically, though, you’ll be asked for the following:
To change your name after you’ve gotten married, you’ll need the necessary official document or form, a copy of your official marriage certificate, and proof of identification (such as your driver’s license or photo ID).
If you’d like to return to your maiden name after a divorce, you can ask the judge presiding over your divorce proceedings to restore your maiden name during the process. This ensures your new (or rather, former) name appears on your Decree of Dissolution.
But divorces are notoriously chaotic, and you may forget to request as much during your proceedings. If so, you will have to file additional paperwork after your divorce decree. This may include a court order, your criminal record, and your state’s required forms. For more information on name changes after a divorce, make sure to visit our resource center to get the appropriate help you need.
You may be wondering how to change your child’s last name after adoption—or decide to take your adoptive parent’s name. In this case, you’ll need an official copy of the original and amended birth certificate and the adoption application.
To adopt a new name for other reasons, you may need:
Once you have your legal name change documents in order and have paid the required fees, you can file for a name change with the clerk of courts at your local courthouse. Depending on the state you reside in, you may have to publish a notice about your name change in the newspaper. In some cases, you may have to appear before a judge.
Then, you’ll need to exercise a little patience: it may be several weeks before you receive your name change certificate.
Your SSN will remain the same even after you’ve swapped your name for your maiden name (or a new first and surname altogether). However, you’ll need to inform the Social Security Administration and file for a “corrected” card that includes your new name.2
To accomplish this, you will need to provide Social Security with the required documents, such as:
None of us like to stand in line forever at the social security office—or anywhere, for that matter. Fortunately, you can fill out applications online and mail them to Social Security or submit them in person at your local field office.
If you plan to travel internationally after your name change, you’ll also need an amended passport with your new name before you can jet off to new horizons.
Once your new social security card has arrived, mail in the applicant fee (if your current passport is more than a year old), your change of name document (such as your marriage license), a color passport photo, and proof of U.S. citizenship.3
Remember to plan well in advance of any anticipated travel. Receiving a new passport can take up to nine weeks, but if you need it sooner, you can pay an expedited fee.
Whether or not you plan to travel out of state, you’ll also need to change your name on your driver’s license (or other government-issued photo ID). Check out the requirements with your city’s DMV to ensure you have all of the necessary paperwork before heading in.
Think of the most important entities that will need to be made aware of your name change. You’ll want to tell your employer, family, and friends, yes—but also:
Just be sure to have your name-change certificate easily accessible for proof—and reward yourself for your patience and efforts. A name-reveal party, perhaps?
Few of us say yay when we have to deal with red tape. But with this checklist in hand, you can take the guesswork out of the process.
GOV+ is committed to giving you upfront, current info on all things related to government applications—and ensure you have a smooth ride by allowing you to complete all the steps on one easy platform. This journey is made all the more effortless when you use our name-changing services.
Check out GOV+ today to learn how we can streamline your next application.
1. US Birth Certificates. How to legally change your name: full guide. https://www.usbirthcertificates.com/articles/how-to-legally-change-your-name
2. Social Security Matters. Need to change your name of your social security card? https://blog.ssa.gov/need-to-change-your-name-on-your-social-security-card/
3. Travel.State.gov. Name change for U.S. passport or correct a printing or data error. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/have-passport/change-correct.html