Procedure for Legal Name Change (U.S.)

What’s the first step?

If I want to change my name and have it be official, legal, and documented, who do I contact? What office of what branch of the Government?

What documents do I need to have with me?

Can I do this anywhere in the U.S.? I currently live about 3,000 miles from the county of my birth. It would be a real bitch if I would have to go back there to get this taken care of.

If anyone could tell me exactly where to go in Los Angeles County that would be great!


ruadh, you kick ass! You kick fucking ass!

Well, I’ve been planning to post the same question for a while, because I’m considering the same thing myself.

I’ve already researched it online, so the info I am looking for is a little more subjective. I live in Pennsylvania, I was born in New York City. I will be 21 in about 3 weeks. I want to change my middle and last names, keeping the first the same. From what I’ve read online, the judge must feel that the name change is reasonable, and can deny it if they think it is unnecessary.

My mother divorced my father when I was young and remarried. I consider my step-father to be my father, and I want my last name to match that of my mom and “dad.” I’ve wanted to do this since I was very young, but since my mother had an amicable divorce she didn’t do it, and I was never adopted. I have a few other reasons, too. My birth name is really ugly, while my parents’ last name is not. I am tired of having to explain to everyone and their momma why my parents and I have different names. I am at the ass end of the alphabet and they are not. The list goes on… Doper judges/lawyers/people with experience, do you think this is a reasonable name change?

I used my parent’s last name when we lived in New York (got paid with it, filed W-2s, etc.), but when I transferred to high school in PA, they refused to let me use it without a legal name change. I also have a bank account (joint, parent’s and mine)with my parent’s last name. However, my own accounts, driver’s licence, car, social security, bills and college ID are all in my birth name.

I want to get this done before I graduate college, so that this name is on my diploma, and because I think there will be less hassle if I do it before I am “out on my own.”

bienville, sorry for the hijack and best of luck! Hopefully you will get some good info out of this, too. Keep us posted!


Mercury, I’m not a judge, but that sounds like a damn fine reason to me. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.

Well, I’m not an expert in the subject but my understanding is that judges in practice will not deny a name change without good reason (e.g., if they have valid concerns that you’re doing it to evade debts, or that you haven’t really thought it through, etc.).

Merc, you should be fine. I’ve probably seen 200 name changes happen (my type of case gets heard by judges in the same court division as name changes), and this is always accepted as a valid reason. (If you were a minor, and your father objected, the result might be different.)

(Although IAAL, I’m not one in your state. This is general, anecdotal information about what happens in my state, and isn’t legal advice to be relied upon in yours.)

In all US jurisdictions, you can use pretty much whatever name you want, so long as you’re not doing it for fraudulant or otherwise nefarious purposes. To have the name-change documented and official, you will need to go through whatever procedure has been established in your state, which usually includes filling out a form and going before a judge.

Thanks for all the great feedback! In NY, I could use my parents’ name, because it was obvious that I’m not doing it for any nefarious purposes. In high school and college, however, you can’t call yourself anything except what’s on your birth certificate. Since I won’t be getting married for a long time, I think it’s totally worth it to change my name now, so it will be on my college degree.

Hopefully, the fact that I will be 21 will make things a little smoother re: my mom’s divorce. There will be a small fallout; I am on my birth father’s health insurance, so he will find out (though my mother will probably make me call him and tell him). He’s going to be mad, but I think it’s worth it.


Hey, Mercury
Don’t sweat the hijack, Bi-ATCH, It’s all good. Helpful stuff for both of us.

Good Luck!

“For reasons of personal preference” was good enough for my judge!

Most of the people in my wife’s family changed their name with one exception. He got a judge with a long foreign name and when he said he wanted to change it because it was foreign and hard to pronounce, the judge simply denied the request since he didn’t consider that a good enough reason.

On the other hand I changed my name without the benefit of a judge. Actually, my parents did and I went along for the ride since I was an infant. A few years ago when I asked for a copy of my birth certificate (of course, I gave my birth name) sent to my current name, they replied that if I could prove that I used this name for at least ten years, they would send me a birth certificate in the new name. So I sent them photocopies of college diplomas and passports going back to the 60s and they sent me a new certificate. So now my new name is official to all intents and purposes. This was Pennsylvania, BTW.

Getting a passport was a matter of getting someone who knew me under both names to fill out an affidavit to that effect. My parents were still alive and they were the only ones in the world. They are both dead so I don’t know what I would do if I had to get an original passport today. Of course, with my new birth certificate…

Wow, I’d never heard that before, but I’m not too familiar with PA law. Since my world is pretty much limited to school right now, I am going to get it done legally since the university is pretty strict about what they call their students. I could probably call myself whatever I wanted to in class, but my diploma would have the real name on it, and that’s what would be called at graduation.

My name is hard to pronounce, but I think the new one is harder for people who aren’t familiar with it. (Spelled similarly to an English word, pronounced differently.)

Shoshana, thanks for telling me about the reasons of personal preference. I know why I want the name, I just didn’t know how to say it.

Ok, now for legal question part II: if the judge in my parents’ county (very conservative area) denies the request, would I be able to try again in the county I live in for school (college town, less conservative)?



I was born in NY and plan to do this in time as well, so this is some useful stuff here. Thanks guys!