Name Change Forms | How to Legally Change Your Name

Updated May 31, 2023

Name change forms vary by state and allow an adult or minor (child) to change their legal name. This allows a person to obtain a decree from their local court and change their name on their bank accounts, credit cards, and government agencies.

Name Change after Marriage

If an adult changes their name during the marriage ceremony at their local town hall (city clerk’s office), they can use their marriage certificate or license to change their name and DO NOT need anything else.

By State

Table of Contents

How to Change Your Name

People change their name for a variety of reasons. By far the most common reason people change their name (last name) is due to marriage or divorce. Other reasons include:

  • Entertainment Stage Name
  • Gender Transition
  • State Witness Program
  • Troubled History
  • Dislike of Birth Name
  • Restoring a Former Name
  • Family Fallout

The process of changing your name is not difficult however it requires a tedious effort to do so. There are many steps, which can be slow at times, that are required to successfully change your name. It’s easy to change your name in social settings, all you have to do is introduce yourself with your desired name. It’s changing all your documents that is the hard part which includes your identification card, social security card, birth certificate and credit cards. The following are the steps to successfully change your name.

Step 1 – Clerk of Court

person collecting name change documents for county court's office

The very first step in the process of changing your name starts by going to your local county clerks office. There, you will find out if you need a lawyer for the process, but typically your county clerks office will give you information pertaining to self-help so you can do the name change on your own without hiring a lawyer. Each state has their own procedure so it’s important to go to your local county clerks office to gather this information.

What to bring to your local county clerks office?

You will need the following:

  • Valid State Identification Card
  • Pay Stub or Utility Bill for Proof of Residency
  • Social Security Number and Full Name
  • Money for Information Packets and Forms
  • A Pen for writing

Step 2 – File a Petition for a Change of Name

person filling out mailing information on manila envelope

A Petition for a Change of Name form must be completed. It’s the primary document used in order to submit your name change request. This document can be mailed or submitted online depending on your state. Once the form and other documents are completed, go to your local county clerks office to have them reviewed. This can save a lot of time and trouble if you made a mistake filling out the form. If completed by mail, make certain to make 2 copies of the form and send the original. A filing fee is required by most states, however in some cases it’s possible to apply for a fee waiver.

Knowledge Tip: The reason for making copies is because you will need to provide a copy of the petition for a change of name form when publishing your new name in the newspaper. Look at Step 4 for more information.

Step 3 – Set a Court Date

person at county clerk's office setting court date

Once the petition is filed with the county clerk, they will issue you a court date which will allow you to present the reason(s) for changing your name. Typically the court will issue the court date in 4-6 weeks from submitting your petition. It may seem like a long wait for a rather simple court hearing. However in most cases, there will be actions that you must complete before the court hearing and the long wait gives you plenty of time to complete the necessary actions. This leads us to our next step.

Step 4 – Publishing Your New Name

person on phone with local publications

One very common thing that most states require is the requirement to make a publication in your local newspaper of the new name change. It’s always a good idea to call your local newspaper and ask the cost of publication. Making certain that you have enough money to cover the court filing fees and newspaper publication costs is imperative. If required, your state will give you the correct document which is used in your newspaper publication. You will also need a copy of your petition for a change of name form. Once printed in the newspaper, save it for your future court date.

Step 5 – Sign Decree at Court Hearing

person signing decree document at court hearing

Bring all documents to your court hearing. Arrive early and do not be late. It’s your responsibility to find the correct court room if you do not have an attorney helping you through the process. If the judge approves your application, a decree will be signed which is the most important document because it allows you to change your name on all the most sensitive documents including your passport, driver’s license, birth certificate and social security card. Once you have all your sensitive documents changed, you can then go to your bank and have the name of your debit/credit cards changed as well.

Name Change After Marriage

General information about changing your name after marriage:

  • State Residency – Not one state requires you to be a resident in their state to get married. Some states have some small differences but in general, you can marry in any state regardless of where you’re from in the United States. In Florida, not only do you not need to be a resident to get married, you do not need to be a citizen of the United States.
  • Age Requirement – 18 years of age
  • Identification – Valid photo ID
  • Cost – $110-$200 (Varies by State)

For educational purposes, this instructional guide will take you from the very first step (engagement 💍) to changing your name after marriage.

Step 1 – Apply for a Marriage License

person applying for marriage license at county recorder's office

Go to or contact the local county recorder’s office in the county you plan to do the marriage ceremony and/or apply for the marriage license. A marriage license must be issued before a marriage ceremony takes place. The county recorder’s office is the only place you can apply for a marriage certificate. After applying for a marriage certificate, the County Clerk will then issue your marriage license.

To obtain a Marriage License the following must be true:

  • Both spouses must apply in person and carry valid ID
  • A ceremony must be performed before the marriage license expires
  • Disclose the number of past marriages (if any) and of they ended

Step 2 – Set up a Marriage Ceremony

couple's marriage being officiated in county clerk's office

A Marriage Ceremony is inexpensive when done by the state. Most states charge between $25-$60 dollars when performed by a Marriage Officiant. A Marriage Ceremony must be done within 30 days to 90 days, depending on the state, from the marriage license date of issuance.

Where? – When a marriage ceremony is done by the state, it’s typically performed in the county clerk’s office. Nothing fancy, but it’s inexpensive and gets the job done.

The qualified person performing the marriage ceremony must return the original marriage license to the County Clerks office within the state required timeframe, which is usually within 10 business days. The county recorder’s office will officially process and record the marriage.

Step 3 – Request Certified Copy

person obtaining certified copy of marriage license at clerk's office

Request a certified copy of your original marriage license. It comes at a fee but it’s a must have if you wish to change your name on sensitive documents such as IDs and bank cards.

Social Security Card Name Change

  • Cost: Free
  • Application: Cannot apply for change online, must do it in person
  • Form: Fill out and print Form SS-5

To change your name on a Social Security Card you will need to visit a local SSA office by entering your zip code. After you have found the office you can either visit during operating hours or call and make an appointment.

If you were recently married or divorced, bring your license or decree.

Updating your name with the Social Security Office will in effect update your name with the IRS.

Passport Name Change

To change your name on a US Passport an applicant will need to do the following:

If applying less than 1 year after your previous passport was issued you will need to gather the following:

  • Complete Form DS-5504 either online or in PDF
  • Your Current Passport
  • Original Name Change Document – Such as a Marriage License, Divorce Decree, or Certificate signed by the Judge.
  • New Passport Photo (colored)

There is no fee under this circumstance (unless you want the forms expedited) and all the above documents should be sent to the following address:

National Passport Processing Center
Post Office Box 90107
Philadelphia, PA 19190-0107

If applying more than 1 year after your previous passport was issued you will need to gather the following:

  • Complete Form DS-82 either online or in PDF
  • Your Current Passport
  • Original Name Change Document – Such as a Marriage License, Divorce Decree, or Certificate signed by the Judge.
  • New Passport Photo (colored)
  • Renewal Fees – For Adults, For Children

For residents in CA, FL, IL, MN, NY, or TX complete all the above documents send to the following mailing address:

National Passport Processing Center
P.O. Box 640155
Irving, TX 75064-0155

For all other residents send to the following mailing address:

National Passport Processing Center
P.O. Box 90155
Philadelphia, PA 19190-0155


How much is it to change your name?

As it varies by state, changing you name typically costs under a few hundred dollars. It’s after you change your name that the fees add up with things like a new drivers license, social security card and passport. All of which will cost money to replace. Again, states charge different fees to replace IDs and documents.

How long does it take to change your name?

At a minimum, it will take about 6 weeks from start to finish. Depending on the state, the process to change your name could take anywhere from 6 months to 12 months. For example, in Florida it’s required that you must have your fingerprints submitted to the Department of Law Enforcement for a criminal records check and you cannot request a petition to change your name until the court receives the results. It’s these types of requirements that can slow down the process to change your name.

Can I change your name?

If you are a legal guardian of a minor under the age of 18 it is possible to change his or her name. It’s illegal to impersonate the identity of another individual with the intent to change their name. The answer to this question is: No, you cannot change the name of another adult.

How to change your first name?

Yes, it’s just your first name but in order to legally change it you need to file a petition for name change in the county where you live. However, it’s typically not needed to change your first name if you have a formal name like Matthew and you want your name to appear as Matt on sensitive documents.

How to change your last name?

There are two routes to go when changing your last name. The easiest way to change your last name is through marriage. The other route is by filing a petition to change your name in the county where you are a resident which takes a little longer.

How to change name of driver’s license?

You either need a certified copy of your original marriage license or an original certified copy of the decree (court order) to change your name.