People often change their name when getting married, after a divorce, or for a host of other reasons. The steps to changing one’s name differ depending on the context in which the change occurs.
When Getting Married
If you are getting married and decide to change your name, you must first apply for a marriage license. You will need to write your previous and new name on the application. Simply filing the application does not change your name. The name change is effectuated when the officiant signs the marriage license and delivers it to the county or city clerk’s office. You will need to request and receive a certified copy of the marriage certificate as proof of your new name when updating the Social Security Administration and Department of Motor Vehicles.
When Getting Divorced
If you are going through a divorce and want to change your name, you can file a name change affidavit during the divorce proceedings. That way, when the court signs the divorce decree, it will include an order for a name change. The order becomes the pertinent document to show agencies and organizations when updating information about your legal name.
If you decide to change your name through this process, the court can only change your name back to your maiden name. If you want to adopt a completely new name, you will need to file a separate petition as outlined below.
All Other Situations
Outside of the marriage and divorce context, you can change your name for good cause. To change your name, you must petition the court in the county or city in which you live. You must have lived in Virginia and that specific county or city for at least 6 months to be eligible to file the petition there.
Circuit courts generally have a form that you can use when petitioning for a name change. The form asks for information about any former names you’ve had, your date of birth, your place of birth, your parents’ names, and any previous felony convictions. The form must be acknowledged by a clerk or notary but need not be notarized. In addition to the form, you will need to include your birth certificate and filing fee in the name change application. The filing fee varies among different counties and cities.
Once you have submitted your application, a judge generally will issue a name change order without holding a hearing and will mail you the order. However, Virginia does not allow people to change their names for fraudulent purposes or in ways that would infringe the rights of others. If the court has suspicions about the purpose of your name change, it may schedule a hearing in which you will need to appear and explain to the court why it should grant you a name change order.
Changing a Minor’s Name
This petition process is slightly different for changing the name of a minor. In the case of a minor, the courts still have forms that ask for similar information, but these forms must be notarized. A court will only order the name change if it determines that the change is in the best interest of the child. If all parents and guardians agree to the petition, then the court generally does not hold a hearing. However, if one parent objects to the change, the court will hold a hearing, and it becomes much more difficult to convince a court to order the name change.
Further Steps after the Legal Change
After changing your name legally with the state, you must update the DMV and receive a new driver’s license. You must also update the federal government and receive a new social security card from the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you have a passport, you will need to receive a new one from the U.S. Department of State.
Additionally, you must update any insurance policies, bank accounts, voter registration, vehicle registration, utility bills, credit cards, mortgages, and professional licenses or certifications. You should notify your employer of your name change so that it can update any necessary payment and tax information.
Getting a New Social Security Card
The Social Security Administration has a form that you can fill out to receive a new Social Security card. You must include, along with the form, a recent document that shows your name change; therefore, the document must identify both your previous and new legal names. You will also need to show an unexpired identification document. All documents attached to the form must be originals or have a signature, stamp, or raised seal from the issuing agency. The SSA does not accept photocopies.
You can mail the application to the SSA or visit a local Social Security office. The SSA will mail your new card to you, and it should arrive in approximately two to four weeks. The SSA does not charge any fees for requesting a new Social Security card.
Getting a New Driver’s License
You must wait at least 48 hours after applying for a new Social Security card before requesting a new driver’s license. You can begin the process of requesting a new driver’s license online but will need to make an in-person appointment at a local DMV to finalize everything. You will need to bring the document that shows your legal name change, your current driver’s license, and, if you started the application online, the confirmation email. It costs $20 to request a new driver’s license.
Whatever your reason for changing your name, should you run into any roadblocks or required legal hearings, make sure to contact a trusted attorney. At Davis Law Group, we can help give you peace of mind, whether that’s a new name, an estate plan, a business plan or any other personal or corporate legal solution. Contact us today.