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The Steps on How to Formally Change Your Name for Legal Purposes

written by: Kristie Lorette•edited by: Doreen Martel•updated: 5/10/2011

Whether it is because of a marriage, divorce or you simply want to, you have a legal right to change your name, but need to know how to start changing it. Changing your name, no matter what the circumstances is a legal change, and therefore requires you to take the steps to legally change your name

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    How do I legally change my name? It's a question that many women ask after a divorce or marriage. Men and women both may ask the question if they have another legal reason for making the change. Learn how to make a legal name change. A name change is a legal change, which means that you also have to go through the legal process of making a name change. In order to make the change legal, there are three primary steps that you have to take. If you are changing your name because of a marriage or a divorce, if the court has already approved the name change, then you do not have to go through the step of petitioning the court.

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    Prove Your Identity

    The first thing that the court is going to require is for you to prove your identity. The court needs to know who you are now before they can grant a name change of any kind. Generally, to prove your identity, you must supply the court with a certified copy of your birth certificate. You will also have to supply a government-issued photo identification card, such as a state identification card, driver’s license or a military ID card. If you are changing your name because of a divorce or a marriage, you also need to supply legal documents such as a marriage certificate or a divorce decree.

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    Petition the Court

    You then have to petition the court (county court where you live) to change your name. Contact the county clerk’s office of the county court where you live for more information. The representative that answers the phone can provide you with the application, forms and documentation you need to complete in order to file the petition with the court. Typically, you have to cite the reason you are changing your name--divorce, marriage, etc. You may have to appear in court before the judge to explain your reason for changing your name, but this is not always the case.

    Generally, if the name change is due to a legal change in your status, such as a divorce or marriage, filing the petition is usually enough. If you are choosing a legal name change, first name, last name or both, then you may have to appear before the judge and explain the reason for the request to change your name.

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    Name Change with Other Agencies

    Once the court grants your name change, your work is not done. You now have to submit the name to other government agencies, personal creditors, your employer and more. This includes changing your name with the Social Security Administration, on your driver's license and with personal accounts such as bank and credit cards. The agencies and companies will require you to show the legal document or documents that granted the name change through the court system.

    You now no longer have to wonder how to legally change your name. Now you have the three steps you need to take to make the name change. It is up to you to comply with the necessary requirements.

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