Why You Might Want to Change Your Name
Most people associate name changes with marriage. Indeed, as you form a family with your new spouse, you may wish to share the same last name. This will necessitate one, if not both, of you to change your name legally. A surprising new trend in popularity is creating a new last name or combining two last names into one instead of one person taking their new spouse's name.
Other situations in which someone may need a legal name change include:
Additionally, some people elect to change their name for professional reasons or simply because they do not like their given name. For example, some people associate negative feelings with their name or do not feel it speaks to who they are. In some cases, someone may wish to change their name to differentiate themselves professionally from someone with a similar name.
Restrictions for Name Changes
Generally, the courts will approve a legal name change for any legitimate reason. However, you are not allowed to change your name for fraudulent purposes or to avoid liability. For example, you cannot change your name to avoid debt or family court orders such as child support or spousal support. You are also restricted from changing your name to one that contains offensive words or content, such as slurs or profanity. Generally speaking, your change of name must be both to your benefit and the benefit of the public.
Petitioning for a Name Change as an Adult in Texas
In Texas, name changes are governed by the Texas Family Code, Chapter 45. These statutes outline who may file for a name change, requirements for petitioning, and exclusions that may inhibit someone from petitioning for a name change. Subchapter A outlines name change provisions for children, while Subchapter B outlines name change protocols for adults. These statutes also provide guidelines for name changes in a divorce suit and on receiving a change of name certificate.
You may also petition the courts for a name change outside of marriage and divorce situations. For a name change to be legally valid, the courts will need to sign an Order for Change of Name. This Order will contain the same information as the initial petition, and it must also state how the change is in the best interest of both the petitioner and the public. The petitioner will also be required to testify to the contents of the Order in open court.
To change your name, you will need to provide:
- Your current name and place of residence
- Your age, sex, race, date of birth, driver's license number, and Social Security number
- The full name you are requesting
- The reason you are seeking the name change
- Whether you have been the subject of a final felony conviction
- Whether you are subject to Chapter 62 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (sex offender registration)
- Any assigned FBI number, state ID number, or any other reference number in a criminal history record system
- Information about any criminal charges above a Class C misdemeanor
- A complete set of your fingerprints
Additionally, if a warrant was issued or a charging instrument was filed or presented for a criminal offense, you will need to provide the case number and the court involved.
Do You Need an Attorney?
Regardless of why you are changing your name, it is worth consulting with an experienced lawyer before doing so. The name change process can be complicated and requires filing paperwork with the courts. An attorney can help you with your paperwork and filing, represent you in court if necessary, and generally ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible.
Changing the Name of a Child
Legal name changes for children are fairly common. Whether you are a stepparent adopting a stepchild or changing your child's last name so that it matches your own, you will go through a similar process to that of an adult name change. You will file a Petition for the Change of Name of a Child, and the courts will need to sign an Order for Change of Name. However, there are some key differences and additional steps that must be followed.
One primary difference is that the courts require the petition be served to any parents with active parental rights, conservators, or guardians of the child, notifying them of the intended change.
You will also need to provide the courts with:
- The current name and residences of the child
- The reason for requesting the name change
- The full name being requested
- Information regarding any court order associated with the child and which court has continuing exclusive jurisdiction
- Whether the child must register as a sex offender
Additionally, if the child is ten years or older, the courts require the child's written consent to the name change. This must be included with the petition. As with an adult petition, you will need to appear in court and have the Order for a Change of Name of a Child signed by a judge.
When an Order has been granted for a child, you must notify the Social Security Agency to have a new Social Security card issued for the child. You must also inform the Department of Motor Vehicles if the child has a driver's license. Furthermore, if the child is associated with child support or child custody orders, you must also send a copy to the Bureau of Vital Statistics' Central Record File.
Potential Restrictions on Name Changes for a Child
The courts take name changes for minor children very seriously. With the Order for a Change of Name of a Child, you will also need to include a statement that outlines why this name change is in the child's best interest. When determining whether to grant a name change for a minor child, the courts will consider how the new name will affect the child. For example, the courts are likely to deny a name change if they determine that the new name would cause embarrassment or inconvenience for a child.
The courts will also consider:
- If the name change helps the child identify with their family unit
- How long the child's name has been in use
- The age and maturity of the child
- Whether or not the name change would be convenient for the child or the custodial parent
- If there are any concerns regarding parental alienation or the bond between the child and a parent
- Whether one parent contests the name change and why
What Happens After an Order Is Granted?
If you are successful in petitioning the courts for a name change, you will need to make sure that you notify the Social Security Agency and the Department of Motor Vehicles of the change. These agencies will then issue you or your child a new Social Security number and driver's license. You will also need to contact banks, credit card companies, insurance providers, employers, doctors, and healthcare providers with your or your child's updated information. In some cases, you will require proof of the legal name change. You can request a name change certificate from your district court clerk for a small fee in these cases.