How to Change Your Last Name

Five Methods:Changing Your Name After MarriageChanging Your Name After A DivorceFiling a General Name Change PetitionChanging Your Name and GenderChanging Your Name in Other Countries, Informally, etc.

Did your parents think naming you North West would be cute? Get married or divorced? Taking on a new identity? Just really, really bored with your current moniker? There are a number of reasons you'd want to change your name, and we'll cover them all.

Method 1
Changing Your Name After Marriage

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    Wait until after you get off the plane. If you're going on a honeymoon immediately after your wedding, book your travel under your maiden name. When you arrive at the airport, your passport and/or driver’s license will still be in your maiden name, so your tickets need to be as well.
    • It takes 4-6 weeks for your passport to be processed.[1] If you have this amount of time before your honeymoon, you may take action immediately after your wedding. It is possible to expedite the process, but why take the risk?
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    Inform your employer that your name will be changing. If possible, give them a target date for when you expect to have your new name. If you regularly receive checks from anyone else (such as tenants), inform them as well.
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    Apply for a new Social Security card (US only). In order to change your name on your driver's license, insurance, bank account, and so on, you'll need to be issued a new Social Security card first. In a few situations, they may say you need a court order; if so, you can find directions to that at the bottom of this page. But odds are you probably won't.[2] Repeat: You do not need a court order.
    • The need for a new card applies to all last-name changes in the US, including names that are changed upon marriage, divorce, naturalization as a US citizen, or a court order (i.e., changing the name of a minor in the case of adoption, or for identity protection).
    • Download and complete the SS-5 form.
    • Take the form to your local Social Security Administration office, along with your birth certificate, current driver's license, current social security card, and any other necessary documentation (such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree, court order, etc.).
    • Wait to receive your new Social Security card in the mail. It should arrive within 10 business days of completing your transaction at SSA.
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    Change your driver's license or state-issued ID. Visit your state's local driver's license division office to get a new license. Take your old driver's license, your new social security card, and any documentation that led to your new social security card (like your marriage certificate) with you.
    • Some states will allow you to keep your old license with a hole punched in it. This invalidates your license as a primary photo ID, but it still shows your picture and your old name. With your old ID, you may be able to move on to other steps without your new ID. Check with your DMV to see if this is possible.
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    Take care of the small stuff. Change your name on your bank accounts, credit cards, insurance, licenses, passport, investments, tax forms, and any other official documents containing your old last name. Now that you have two forms of identification (your new social security card and your new driver's license), you can go about changing your name on all of your other legal and financial interests.
    • To change your name on your passport, you'll need the Form DS-5504, completed, along with a certified copy of your marriage license and a small photograph of you. Where you mail it to will be listed on the form.[3] It is available online.[4]
    • Visit your employer's human resources department as soon as possible, so that you can start receiving your paychecks with your new name, as well as for withholding taxes. Yippee, no tax evasion accusations for you!
    • If you are a licensed professional, change your name with the licensing board and any associated organizations. Many will require a copy of the marriage license or other official legal proof of the name change.
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    Know how to cash or deposit wedding checks. Your friends and family may have written your soon-to-be-new name on checks to you for your wedding. Here's what to do:
    • Make sure that if there are two names or Mr. and Mrs. on your checks, that you both sign the back of each check to ensure a speedy deposit.
    • Both you and your spouse need to go to the bank together. You may also want to put each other’s names on your accounts or open a new joint checking account.
    • Make sure you have your marriage license and your ID with you. The bank will use this to update their records.

Method 2
Changing Your Name After A Divorce

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    If your divorce is not yet final, include it in the paperwork. The judge will ask you what name you'd like to take. If you're taking your maiden name, the process is very simple and straightforward -- the court will do the work for you. However, if you're taking a new name entirely, you'll probably have to file a petition later, but that's easy too.
    • Certified copies of your divorce papers should be given to you from the clerk of the court. This will include the information on your new name and provide you the documentation you need when you go to the DMV and whatnot.
    • Once the divorce is final, you should then go about covering your tracks -- that is, changing your social security card, your driver license, your passport, insurance, etc. The processes are outlined above. In addition to the divorce papers, you'll want to have your birth certificate handy. The main thing to do is to start with your Social Security card and go from there.
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    If your divorce is final and did not include a name change, contact the county clerk where the divorce was filed. If at all possible, come equipped with the case number, the date it was filed, and the names of the parties involved. Bring identification with you, including your birth certificate.
    • At the office, they should give you the Form FL-395 (it's also available online).[5] They may ask for a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Paperwork should then take them a matter of weeks to complete. Once you've received the go-ahead, you'll then go about covering your bases, contacting banks, the DMV, etc.
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    If you finalized your divorce elsewhere and do not wish to return, file for a name change at your current local court. If you moved after your divorce, it may just be easier to file a petition for a name change. That process is outlined below. But if it's more convenient, visit the county where the divorce was filed. They'll be able to assist you in reinstating your maiden name.
    • Again, if you're looking for an entirely new name, don't bother going back to your old stomping grounds; you'll need a petition for a new name anyway. It's all paperwork, so you might as well skip the unnecessary step.
    • Make sure you retrace your steps. If you have accounts or connections in your previous place of living, inform them of your name change. Take care in alerting all government organizations, the post office, banks or groups you may belong to and the like.

Method 3
Filing a General Name Change Petition

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    Go to your local court clerk. He or she will be able to fill you in all the information you need to change your name. You'll be given the Form NC-100 (the petition to change your name), in addition the the Form NC-110, 120, and Form CM-010 to take to a notary public. This is all extra legal stuff about cause, publishing and establishing your specific case for the court review.
    • You'll generally need a semi-legitimate reason to change your name. Unless you try to change it to a number, something offensive, or a celebrity's name, they'll probably say yes. One guy even changed his name to "They."[6]
    • You may be able to find all the paperwork online. Do a quick search before you load up the car. It's possible you can print them out and go straight to the bank.
    • Always keep copies! The people at the courthouse are humans and things can get lost, so keep a copy for yourself.
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    File your notarized forms with the clerk. It is then that you'll get information on your hearing -- the date, time, judge, etc. There will probably be a filing fee that will you be asked to pay at this juncture. If you cannot afford it, you may ask to have it waived.[5]
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    Publish the order in the newspaper. Seems kind of archaic, doesn't it? But some courts still require that you publish the order to Show Cause for Change of Name once a week for three or four weeks in a row. [5][7] It'd be more resonant if they had you place it on Twitter, huh?
    • You will have to pay a cost for publication. This varies paper to paper, region to region. Even if you get your court fee waived, it will not waive this fee.
    • You may have reason to keep your name change confidential. If so, the courts will understand, assist you, and this will not be part of your name changing process.[8]
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    Have the hearing. In some cases, you will be required to attend in person. Others, not.[7] You will be informed of what your specific circumstances are. If successful, the judge will sign your NC-130, which you can then take with you in changing your passport, driver's license, and the rest of your life, really.
    • The process for going about changing everything else is outlined in the above Changing Your Name After Marriage section. In general, when you're making your rounds at the Social Security Office or the DMV, bring your birth certificate and all your paperwork with you, in addition to a good, long book.

Method 4
Changing Your Name and Gender

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    Visit your local county court. The clerk will give you the necessary paperwork to get started, including the NC-110, NC-200, and NC-220. You may be able to find the necessary forms on your county's website. Take the paperwork to get certified by a notary public (your bank can help you there).
    • Every form you get, make a copy of. The clerk should be able to do this for you. If they don't do it automatically, just ask.
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    Have your doctor fill out an affidavit. It will inform the court that you have undergone clinical treatment changing your gender. He can either then use the Declaration of Physician — Attachment to Petition (Form NC-210) or write his own.
    • This must be done by a licensed physician -- not a nurse. If he does write his own, make sure it's complete and thorough. And legible.
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    File your forms with the court clerk. From here, the process is the same as any other name change (see the above section), apart from the fact that a gender change is tacked onto it. You'll have a hearing scheduled and need to publish the Order to Show Cause just as everyone else does. When the judge says okay (which he probably will), the paperwork is over!
    • Now it's on your shoulders to alert the necessary organizations. Go to the DMV, the SSA, alert your post office, get a new passport, call up the bank -- basically just cross your Ts and dot your Is.

Method 5
Changing Your Name in Other Countries, Informally, etc.

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    If you're in Canada, get started on the application. That's pretty much it for the process. As long as you include the fee (can be upwards of $100) and fill it out, you're generally on your path to becoming the next Rainbow Puppy-Dog, or whatever floats your boat.
    • Quebec has the strictest requirements, taking each on a case-by-case basis and requiring serious reasons for the name change. If you're in Quebec, you'll need a convincing reason for the courts.
    • It all depends on your area when it comes to who you send your form to. This could be the ministry of government services, court of justice, registrar of civil status, or vital statistics office. The information is available online.
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    If you live in the UK, change your name by deed poll. You're in luck -- the process is pretty easy. The meat of the application is you promising to use your new name in good faith. Luck you!
    • Once obtained, all you need do is send copies of your Deed Poll to the various organizations that have your information. It's almost like magic compared to the US procedure.
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    If you are a minor, get one parent to support your name change. All you need is one. The other (if present) needs to be informed and can contest the proposal, but you can still get the court hearing. The judge will determine which side he agrees with and you can go from there.[9]
    • Each state is a bit different. Talk to your parents and figure out what the regulations on name changes for minors are. A guardian can take the place of a parent if the situation calls for it.[7]
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    Take into account the "usage" method. Sort of like common-law marriage, if you've used a name for long enough, your court may recognize it with zero paperwork done on your behalf. Currently 46 states do so.[10] The exceptions are Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, and Oklahoma. That being said, before you assume anything, it's best to check.
    • However, even if this applies to you, your bank and other institutions may not buy it. They may require other documentation that you don't have. If this is the case, you'll have to file a petition.


  • Try to change your name on everything around the same time to avoid complications. For example, if you change your driver’s license but not your credit card, you may not be able to verify your identity with your license if asked to by a store clerk.
  • There are companies out there that will guide you through the process of changing your name, typically for a fee. There are normally checklists that you should follow to ensure a successful name change.
  • Your marriage or partnership certificate should arrive in the mail a few weeks after your ceremony.
  • Prescriptions written in maiden names may have to be rewritten if your health insurance is in your married name.


  • Only government agencies like the DMV and Social Security may charge fees for changing your name, and those are mostly to cover the re-issuing of your documentation. Beware of any other organization that tries to charge you for changing your name.
  • If you immediately move to another state after marrying, make sure you change your Social Security card as soon as possible so that you can immediately apply for a new driver's license. Some states require that you get a new license within 10 days of moving.
  • Beware of identity theft! It is not unheard of for not-so-nice people to steal your old name. Because of your marriage or domestic partnership license, your old name is not entirely gone and can be linked to your new name. Make sure you shred or otherwise destroy any unnecessary documentation for your old name.
  • Keep your marriage/domestic partnership license safe and secure, especially during this transition. It can be expensive to replace.

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