How to Change Your Name

change your name

The process for how to change your name is simple: get legal documentation of the change, then get all your important documents re-issued in your new name. Skipping either of these steps can cause headaches, hassles, and legal issues when you least expect them.

Step 1: Get Legal Documentation of the Name Change

Your name is given to you legally. For most people, their name is registered in the state they were born. This registration is usually done by the hospital or other entity that oversees the birth. Once they register your name and your existence, the state issues you a birth certificate with your legal name.

To change your name, you need a follow-up legal document that changes your name from the one on your birth certificate to something else. In Missouri, this must be done in court. For a child, both parents generally have to consent and/or be formally notified about the change before the court will hear the case. For an adult, the change must be published in a legal newspaper so creditors can be notified of the change.

Once a judge issues an order, you will receive a document that clearly states your new name and the date it is effective. You can proceed with using your new name from that point forward.

Step 2: Get Important Documents Re-Issued

You should stop using your old name and update your important documents as soon as practicable. This will help with a clean transition from one name to the next. Below is a convenient checklist of the documents you need to get re-issued.

You should note that you cannot truly change your birth certificate. If your state does change your birth certificat, that does not mean that your previous name is eradicated from all systems and records. Your name at birth will always be on file with the state. For adults, I have found little to no value in trying to change your birth certificate. For kids, a birth certificate with a new name helps them live without having to explain the change every time they undergo a life transition.

Frequently Asked Questions about Changing Your Name

Q: If I get married, can I change my name without going to court?
A: This depends on the state where you get married and what they include on your marriage license. If you are in a state where your marriage license includes a specific designation of what your new full name will be, then you should not need to go to court to change your name. You should check with a lawyer licensed in your state to be sure. In Missouri and some other states, the marriage license makes no mention of either spouse changing their name. In that case, the only way to legally change your name is by going to court.

Q: Social Security will change my name without a court order. Do I still need to go to court?
A: Yes. Many people are able to go to the Social Security Administration and change the name on their Social Security card without any documented proof. This is very common in states that allow a woman to use a marriage license as proof that they want to take their husband’s last name. With a new Social Security card, you can then get a new driver’s license, passport, and other important documents issued in a new name. The problem with this is that it skips Step 1, so you have no actual documentation of your name before and after the change. This means there is no way to prove that your old name and your new name belong to the same person. This has caused issues for several of my clients when providing documents and identity verifications for things like credit card fraud, adoption (especially international adoption), and claiming retirement/survivor/etc. benefits.

Need help with a name change in Missouri? Call The Lien Law Firm at 314-722-8557 or follow this link to schedule a complimentary case review. If you live outside the State of Missouri, contact an attorney in your current state of residence.