How to Legally Change Your Name
Have you ever wanted to change your name? Maybe something bad happened in the past, and you’d like to be free of it. Maybe you want certain people to have a harder time finding you. Maybe you just really hate your middle name.
The reason why ultimately doesn’t matter. If you want to legally change your name, there’s a process for it. That process depends on the state, but if you’re in Texas, here’s what you need to know in order to legally change your name.
1. Choose Your New Name
You will have to put your intended new name on your paperwork to file the legal name change. We’ll go through all of that in short order, but what this means is that you need to pick your new name before you can get through the paperwork.
For the most part, you can pick whatever you want for your new name, but there are a few limitations.
First, the court won’t accept any vulgar names. Ultimately, the court gets to decide what counts as vulgar, but you can use your better judgment to avoid problems here.
Second, your name has to make sense. You can use alternative spellings and the like, but people have to be able to literally read the name. That whole story about Prince changing his name to a symbol is a bit misleading. Legally, his name was never an unpronounceable symbol. The courts don’t allow that.
Third, you can’t steal a prominent name. If your new name could create confusion between you and a prominent person, then it won’t work. You’ll need a distinguishing middle name, alternative spelling, or something else that would prevent legal confusion.
Lastly, you can’t change your name to get out of legal obligations. This will come up later when you present your name change to the court. The primary reason you have to go through this complicated process is to ensure that no one is being cheated as a result of your name change.
2. Fill Out Forms
Once you pick your name, you’ll have to go through the paperwork. First, you’ll need aname change application. That form is pretty easy, but before you can file it, you’ll also need a copy of your birth certificate, a state-approved ID (driver’s licenses are great here), proof of residency, and completed background checks (more on those in the next section).
You’ll want multiple copies of each of these things, as you’ll keep a copy of everything, and your county clerk’s office will keep a record of everything.
3. Complete Background Checks
The background checks are pivotal to the process, and you have to get them from state-approved providers. You can find everything you need for background checks with theTexas Department of Public Safety.
Keep in mind that you need both a state and federal criminal background check. Those are the keys. You will also need a formal fingerprint submission (which can be done according tothese instructions).
4. File a Public Notice
When you have your completed background checks and all of your paperwork is in order, then you’re ready to file a public notice. For this, you need to go to your local county clerk’s office. Remember that you have to prove your residency, so make sure you’re going to the clerk’s office for the county that is your primary residence.
At the office, you can formally file all of the paperwork. They will go through it with you, and assuming it’s in order, they’ll give everything preliminary approval. This does not mean that your name change has been approved. Instead, it means that the paperwork appears to be in order.
Once the clerk files your paperwork, they should also schedule a court hearing. Ultimately, you have to go before a judge, and that appointment should be set when you file your public notice.
5. Attend Court
When you attend your court hearing, bring a copy of all of your paperwork. The judge may want to review specific items, so it’s best to have them on hand.
As part of the process, the judge will very likely ask you why you want to change your name and why you are changing to the new name in the paperwork. You should be prepared to answer both questions.
Remember, you don’t need a “good” reason to change your name. As long as you don’t have legal obligations tied to the old name, you can change your name simply because you want to. That is allowed, but the judge has a responsibility to ensure that you aren’t defrauding the state with this process, so they will ask you questions.
Assuming the paperwork is in order and nothing is disqualifying you from changing your name, the judge will grant the name change at the hearing.
6. Update Documents
Once the judge approves the name change, the courts legalize your new name. You don’t have to do any more work on that front. From there, you’re free to use the new name, and you should update important documents right away. Those include tax forms, your Social Security card, your driver’s license, bank forms, and anything else that is important to you.
Changing your name can be a little complicated. If you want to be sure that everything is in order and that you won’t have problems, legal representation goes a long way. Contact Setzer Law Firm in Colleyville today. We’ll review the process with you and ensure that you don’t run into trouble changing your name.