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Legally Changing Your Name: A Step by Step Guide

Life events like marriage and divorce can prompt the need for a legal name change. Typically, the name change process in situations like these is straightforward. However, when you must change your name on your birth certificate, the procedure is more complex.

Samantha Freeman, Legal Assistant at Whitehurst, Blackburn & Warren outlines scenarios where legal name changes are required and describes how to navigate that process.

“In my year and a half at WBW, I have helped with a legal name change at least four or five times,” Samantha says. “In nearly all of these scenarios, the client’s name as it appears on their birth certificate differs from how it is spelled on their driver’s license.”

When asked what would cause the two forms of identification to differ, Freeman replied, “Individuals have not always been required to provide their birth certificate in order or obtain a driver’s license. Now, we are much more accustomed to providing several forms of identification like our social security card, birth certificate, and residency documents.”

No matter the reason behind the name differences in the forms of identification, here are the steps to follow to rectify the problem:

  1. Create a petition to change your name. You must notify the court of your request to change your name. This includes providing your current name and address, proof that you are 18 or older, documentation of where you were born, what you desire to change your name to, and the reason for changing your name.

  2. Electronically file your petition with the court.

  3. Publish a notice in the newspaper. You are required to send a notice to the local paper stating your current name, the intent to change your name, and the case number of your filing. The notice must appear in the newspaper at least once a week for four weeks. The purpose of the notice is to make the name change petition a public record and allow for the possibility of someone objecting,” Freeman explains. “Objections also must be filed with the court.”

  4. File a proposed order for the judge to review and sign. The judge will review your petition and consider your reasons for requesting a name change. Provided no one objects to the petition and your request does not violate any laws, the judge should grant the change. Once the judge signs your petition, your attorney will electronically file it. “It’s important to note that you can’t change your name in order to commit a crime or ‘fraudulently deprive others of any legal rights under the law,’” Freeman adds.

  5. Update your records. Appropriate documentation will be given to you to take to the health department to update your birth certificate. You are also responsible for updating any other agencies where there was a discrepancy.

The legal name change process technically can be done without hiring an attorney. However, legal professionals like Freeman and her colleagues at WBW are experienced in matters like these. If you are looking to legally change your name, reach out to the professionals at WBW. We can help you through the process with ease.

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