How to Change Your First Name

Tuesday 24 January 2012 - Filed under Info

The name given to us during our birth is our identity. But as we grow, there are times when we feel like changing our first name, middle name, last name and or any combination. Well, it is truly legal to change your name but there are certain norms for doing so. In the USA, the laws allow for changes in the first name, middle name, last name and/or any combination. 


Why you need to change your first name?


There are many reasons why you might wish to change your first name. For example, you simply don’t like the first name that appears on your official legal documents. Also it can be due to a change in marital status like you are getting married or even divorced. In addition, if you dissolve a civil union, you might want to change your first name. In the USA, the laws vary from state to state, though the process is generally similar as far as legally changing your first name is concerned.


To change your name legally, you need a court hearing and hence it is important that you have an idea about the procedure before you plan to change your first name. The overall process for legally changing your first name is the same as for legally changing your last name. There are some minor differences from state to state, but in most of the US states you need to ask permission from the court and obtain an order from a judge. Here is the whole process to legally change your first name:


Choose a new first name: Select a first name for yourself. You can request some close fronds and relatives to call you by that name, and see how you like it. While selecting the first name, just make sure your new name doesn’t imply “fraudulent intent” or is not in the public interest. You cannot change your first name to avoid bankruptcy by pretending to be someone else, violate a trademark, use numbers or symbols (except Roman numerals) and use some obscene words.


Know the Process: You must have an idea of the whole process to legally change your first name as the rules vary slightly from state to state. You can contact the appropriate local government office to determine the rules and the list of paperwork you will need to change your first name officially.


Get the Necessary Forms: Obtain a petition form required for first name change. You can get copies of the petition form from the county court in the county where you live. You can also get the form from the official government websites of the state where you reside. You also need to fill other forms which include an order granting change of name,  a legal backer form, a notice of petition to the public and an affidavit of consent (if required). Now you need to fill in the petition form. Here you need to provide information about the reason for wanting a first name change. Although most requests for name changes are granted without question, you should explain in your application why you want to change your name. Fill the details accurately to avoid delay in the overall process of first name change.


Get Necessary Documents: There are different documents that you need to attach along with your petition. In some states you need to provide information about criminal convictions and you need to given in written that you are not changing your first name to evade legal obligations, such as debts. For instance in New York, you will also have to submit a certificate of disposition in case of criminal convictions. The certificate can be obtained from the court where you were convicted.


Submit the Petition: Now sign the petition file it with the civil clerk of your courthouse in the state where you live. You will also need to pay a fee. The amount of the fees varies from state to state. Once you file the petition, you will get a case number and a date for your court hearing. Remember the number and date and try to present in the country on that day.


Go for Court Hearing: On the given date, attend your name change hearing in the court. Answer the questions correctly asked by the judge. Once finished, the judge will sign your name change order, and you will be given a copy of the order. The order will allow you to assume the new name after 30 days from the date of the hearing. If your first name change is not immediately approved by the court, you may need to go to court and defend your reasons.


Newspaper Advertisement: You need to make the announcement of your first name change in a local newspaper. You can make the announcement by posting a simple notice in the local newspaper. Some states allow you to simply post in a public place such as a designated bulletin board at the courthouse. You must publish notice of the hearing date so that anyone who might object to the name change has an opportunity to challenge it. This is mostly done to give the general public a chance to object your name change if you have debts under your existing name. You can get the details of the requirements from your local courthouse. In some cases there is no need to do so. For instance, if are a victim of a hate crime and do not want to publish personal information you get the permission from the court and don’t have to make the announcement.


Final Order: Following the publication of the advertisement, you will get a Decree Changing Name and a certified copy from the court. For this you need to submit proof of publication to the courthouse where you filed for your first name change. A certified copy has a raised seal. There is no charge for the first certified copy. For additional copies, the court will charge some amount for per copy. Buy certified copies of your name change order from the clerk. This will be the final approval for your new first name. 


Make Other Changes: You can then take a certified copy of the order to the state vital records office and request a new birth certificate. Also take the copy of your order to the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Social Security Administration, so that you can get a new driver’s license and social security card respectively. Remember, it is important to go to the Social Security office before you go to the DMV. Notify other agencies or offices and change other official documents that have your former name on them. 


Finally it is time to start using your new first name. Introduce yourself using your new first name, fill out forms and applications under your new first name. Inform all of your family and friends about your new name and ask them to only refer to you using your new first name.


Well, changing your first name legally is usually not that complicated. It is generally a hassle-free process as long as you known the process properly. In case you don’t have the time, you can always take help of an attorney who can guide you through the whole process. In the USA, there are also reputed companies who can assist you to legally change your name. Here you need to pay some fees for their services. Well, the choice is yours – do it yourself or take help from someone.

2012-01-24  »  writer

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