Unofficially changing your name

I don’t like my name (any of it - although I just want to change a few letters in my first name). I’ve picked out what I’d like to change it to, but haven’t done it yet. Besides just introducing yourself by your new name, how do you change it? Can you really just get a driver’s license, credit cards, bank accounts with a new name?

Almost every form of ID that you can get requires some previous form of ID already in that name, and the ones most people really take seriously (driver’s licenses, passports) usually require a birth certificate.

You will require a court order to legally change your name on official and financial documents. It can be done for a couple hundred bucks and half an hour in a court room. Doing so without legal authority could be taken as fraud and could cause some legal problems. Contact a local attorney or paralegal, they can help you through what is one of the simpler legal things one can do.

Common law name changes, for such things as getting married or switching to a preferred name, can often be done just by filling out the change of name form at the DMV and then using that as ID to make other changes. The change can be made if it is not being done to defraud.

Some “official and financial documents” may require more, but your checking and savings typically won’t. Your mortgage might. A house deed might. Racer72’s suggestion to consult an attorney is a good one, especially if you have more than a checking or savings account to change.

You can still call yourself whatever you want though. Lots of people do it without thought. If your name is James Smith, you can go by Jim, Jimmy, or even Slim (if you have a weight problem). I have gone by my middle name since birth and it hasn’t caused many problems at all. Whether someone lets you use an alternate name or spelling for official business is one thing but you can spell it however you want for anything you can control directly.

That is true, Slim. But the OP also asked about such things as driver’s licenses and credit cards. I based my answer on giving a legally factual answer to that specific part of her post.

Thanks everybody. For some reason I thought all that stuff still fell under unofficial. So at very least I can mess with my first name with out any real trouble (as long as I don’t mind it not being used for documents).

Anybody know somebody who went through legally changing their name? Was it worth it?

The official way is to email TubaDiva. Duh. :smiley:

My friend dropped her last name and changed her middle name to her last name, as if, she was Mary Jane Smith and is now Mary Jane, because she wanted to not have her father’s name associated with her anymore. For that reason, I think it was very worth it to her.

I had my name legally changed (the whole thing) when I was thirty. After all these years I don’t remember what it cost, but that probably varies from place to place, as does the exact procedure. In Illinois, I had to go to chancery court and pay to have an ad run in the local law paper for six weeks (to notify any attorney who might know of any pending legal action against me in case that was why I was doing it), then file for a court date appear in front of a judge who read over the paperwork, asked me if I knew what I was doing, then signed the order.

The biggest hassle was notifying people and businesses about the new name, Some of them needed a photocopy of the court order, a few needed a certified copy. I think I still have one or two of those filed away, but if I need to I can request another from the records office. My Dad never would call me by my new name (I was named after him), which got to be a family joke, but other than that it wasn’t much of a problem.

My niece changed her name about 10 years ago, she went through the court hearing while my wife and I were visiting the family in California. Her case was called, the judge read her application, asked her a couple of questions, made a quick joke and it was done. A good way to get whacked up side the head is to call her by her given name.

I live under an assumed name. In grade 5 there were 4 other students with the same name as myself, one had the same first and last name. At that point I said, “hey, people, just call me ‘Frank’* from now on.” I started handing in assignments with “Frank” on it and the new name slowly caught on. Actually, I kept it up and by about grade 10 everybody knew me as Frank. In fact, it became so entrenched that by grade 11 the administrators kept bugging my parents to come over and officially change my registration back to Spezza. (My only regret from high school is not having graduated and received a diploma in my false name.)

Socially everybody calls me by my assumed name with the exception of my family. Though my nieces call me by my assumed name (UNCLE FRANKIE!!!). On more than a few occasions I’ve had people whom I’ve know for years come up to me and say, “what? I didn’t know Frank wasn’t your real name!!”

Most people just assume I’ve decided to go by my middle name, but no, I really did change my name to what I picked in grade 5. Today, I no longer even like to be called by my given name. To be honest, it sounds fake to me.

Regardless, to the OP, yes you can change your name to whatever you want. And depending on how persistent you are, you can get that new name on “official” documents. However, be wary, by using an assumed name you can also screw things up for yourself and end up with two identities (which isn’t always a bad thing). (My dual identities caught up to me in high school one day when the VP caught me doing something and then in his office, while he was digging up my records realized, "wait a minute, you’re in here twice pause and combined you have over 150 detentions!! That was a bad day.)

  • Neither my real nor assumed name.

All it takes is one sympathetic or lackadaisical government employee to set in motion a sea change.
I hated my fullname, but a shortened version was ok. So when it came time to swtich from learner’s permit (old name) to full license (new name, still in use 26 years later), I simply put a splotch on the copy of my birth certificate (dripped water/whiteout mix until it smudged and looked like a Xerox defect), covering up the part of my name I didn’t want, copied the copy, and filled it in on the DMV form as I wanted. Crude, but someone who processes ~ 100 forms a day didn’t notice. With this one official id, I got my passport, later on got the new name on the college diploma, etc. I even managed to convince Social Security to give me a replacement card in my new, non-birth-certificate name, in 2008 - 7 years post 9/11 - since my other ids had the new (unofficially changed) name! I didn’t think I could get away with the splotch trick, so I showed her the original, and told her I had it legally changed - and didn’t have that paperwork. All it takes is finding 1 cooperative bureaucrat.