Changing your name legally is a straightforward process that will probably be approved by the court, if you follow the procedures and understand what is allowed and what isn’t.

However, the change itself is just the beginning of a process. You will need to notify a number of governmental and non-governmental entities to ensure you don’t create problems in the future. So, let’s look at the process to successfully change your name and ensure that everyone who needs to know is informed.

Why are you changing your name?

You don’t need to have a good reason to change your name, but you must not have a bad one. In other words, your intent may not be to deceive someone, for instance by taking on the name of a celebrity or to avoid a debt or to escape criminal liability. The courts also won’t allow name changes that use punctuation, numbers, or an offensive term.

Assuming your name is not a problem, and your intent is pure, here are some common reasons for legally changing your name:

  • You’re getting married and taking your spouse’s name or getting divorce and reverting to your former name.
  • You’re giving an adopted child your family name.
  • You want your name to reflect a change in your gender.
  • You are simplifying the spelling or pronunciation of your name.

Obtaining your name change

If you are not changing your name because of marriage or divorce, the law in your state may require you to get court approval for the change.

If you need to seek a court-ordered name change, the first step usually involves filing a petition with your local court clerk. In most cases, such petitions, when correctly filed, will be granted and you will receive a court decree approving the change.


Now that you have changed your name it’s vital that you notify the government as well as others. The first place to update your name is with the Social Security Administration. You’ll be instructed to file Form SS-5, which is available on or by calling 800-772-1213. If your name on your tax return doesn’t match SSA records, it can delay the IRS processing of that return and any refunds will take longer to receive.

The court will likely address in its order where you need to publish the name change and how much time you have to have it published.

You’re not done. Here are some other places you will want to report your change in name:

  • Driver’s license, along with vehicle title and registration
  • Voter registration
  • Your employer
  • Schools
  • Selective Service System
  • Health insurance
  • Bank account, credit cards, and investments


Changing your name is not the most complex of legal issues, but it is important that it be done correctly to avoid long-term complications. If you are considering a name change,  Marler Law Partners wants to help you do it right. Contact us for a complimentary consultation today.