Getting a Legal Court Order

In order to file for a legal name change, you need to go to probate/family court in your county. Probate Court locations can be found here.

Paperwork required

  • A certified copy of your birth certificate (if you do not have a certified copy of your birth certificate, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w.htm has information on individual state policies and fees.)
  • If applicable: any previous name change decrees
  • Name Change Petition Form
  • If applicable: letter from spouse acknowledge they are aware of your request for a name change

Name Change Petition Form

You can get the form at the probate court, or you can download a copy of the form here. MTPC can also email you a copy of the form.

When filling out the form, you are the petitioner: fill in your current legal name and address.

Under “Reason for change,” some people choose to write “common usage,” “personal” or simply, “It’s the name that I use.”

To change your name, you do NOT need:

  • to be on hormones;
  • to have had surgery;
  • to have a note from a therapist.

As long as you are not changing your name in order to commit fraud, you have the right to change your name either through a court process or through “common usage.”

You may be required to publish a notice in the newspaper, especially if you are changing your first and last names. In practice, few courts require publication when just changing your first name, but it is a possibility to be aware of. If you have a good reason for the notice not being published, you can file a motion to waive publication. A sworn statement has to be filed with the motion explaining why you don’t want a notice published. You may have to present your reasons to a judge. Publication requires a separate fee that can vary, and you can usually choose which paper to use for this.

Each probate court has different process for handling name changes — in some courts you may go before a judge or before a judge’s clerk; in other courts, the judge looks at the petitioner’s paperwork outside the petitioner’s/your presence. You may be able to finish everything in one day, or the Clerk’s office may ask you to return in two weeks. If you are not requesting a fee waiver, you can drop off your documents and the court will process them in around a month.  If you face difficulty changing your name as a result of a criminal record, you may wish to contact a lawyer.

Fees

The fee for a name change is $185 as of 2015, and may continue to rise over time. However, the fee should not prohibit anyone from changing their name.

Local courts differ on the type of payments (cash, check, credit card, etc.) that they will accept.

Call your court to find out the accepted methods of payment in that location.

If you can’t afford the fee:

If you receive public benefits, have an income below your local poverty line, or otherwise cannot afford $185, fill out the “affidavit of indigency.” The Clerk of the Court can help you fill it out if you have any trouble. Do not pay any fee you cannot afford.

You can get the “affidavit of indigency” form at the probate court, or you can download it here. MTPC can also email you a copy of the form.

Obtaining Extra Copies

You will likely want to obtain several certified copies of your legal name change in order to change the documents listed below, and to change bank accounts, health insurance, student records, and any other changes you need to make. You can obtain certified copies from the probate court in which you filed your name change. There will be a fee (the cost varies from courthouse to courthouse) associated with obtaining certified copies.

Under 18?

MTPC gets many questions from people under 18 who want to obtain a name change. For those under 18, at probate court, you must have a parent approve the name change. Once that permission is obtained, the rest of the process should be the same as for non-minors, although there can be small differences depending on the office you go to. Some steps are at the discretion of the judge or clerk, and therefor difficult to predict. We generally recommend youth who are concerned seek out a lawyer with GLAD.

    1. If your parents agree with you that your name should be changed, a custodial parent or guardian can fill out a change of name for you on your behalf.
    2. Your parent(s) will find out if you attempt to obtain a legal name change.
    3. If you have another parent who does not live with your custodial parent or guardian, that person will need to be notified. Your custodial parent or guardian can ask the court’s name change clerk for more information about this process.
    4. If you have safety-related concerns about publishing your new name or providing it to a parent, you should seek legal advice (see below).
    5. If your parents do not agree what your name should be, the court will decide based on its determination of your best interest. If you want to change your name and believe that one of your parents will object, we recommend that you seek legal advice. Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) provides advice on name change issues.
    6. Whether or not you go through the court process, it is legal to change your name by just changing the name that you use. Unfortunately, this method of name change will not allow you to change your legal documents like state ID, driver’s license, passport, etc.