By Any Other Name

So I am going through the process of changing my name legally, and find this right off the bat on Yahoo:

“In principle, name changing is easy. In practice, it’s a pain in the moniker. According to the legal self-help gurus at Nolo, in most U.S. states, you can simply change your name by using a new one.”

Uh, say what?  I just go by it, and poof, it’s legal.

Not so fast, there Eli, you have some steps to go through:

1 Contact a local attorney to get information about the procedure for name changing in your state.
2 Consider handling the process yourself. Often no court appearance is needed.
3 Contact your city hall to find out which court handles this in your state. You could also visit your local law library or check out your state’s laws online.
4 File the necessary papers and pay any filing fees.
5 Realize that there usually is a publication requirement when doing a name change. You may have to purchase a small ad in a local paper that states you’re legally changing your name. This alerts any creditors or claimants against you.
6 Choose a name that you like and that is relatively easy to spell.
7 Realize that the court is most likely to approve the name change if you can offer a good reason. A good reason may be to shorten a long name, distance yourself from an abusive family or legalize a performance name that you’ve been using.
8 Give copies of the judgment or order you receive from the court to all creditors, licensing bureaus, employers, banks and tax agencies to request that your name be changed in their records.

Wikihow also has a good step-by-step name change checklist here.

Then, I have steps to go through in both Ma (where I currently reside) and IL (where I was born).


Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

8 thoughts on “By Any Other Name

  1. Wow… I went through a legal name change in Canada a few years back, and it seems much simpler. Sure I had to jump through hoops and pay all the fees to update my ID afterwards, but the legal change itself only involved filling out a form, and getting a federal criminal record check (so my non-existent crimes follow me), and paying a fee.

  2. I would suggest to anyone in the US that they check with their local State District Court clerk first before going to a lawyer. I did that online.

    Where I live, Santa Fe, New Mexico, I went online to my State Government website and was able to get all the information I needed to file for a name change.

    I then went online to my local State District Court’s website, downloaded the instructions and the forms (you can go to the clerk’s office instead), filled out the forms online and printed three copies of everything which included a petition for name change, court date scheduling form, publication notice of legal name change for the newspaper, and the judge’s order.

    Once filled out I had the petition notarized at my bank, went to the court clerk, paid the fees ($130), got a court date set by judge’s secretary (4 weeks), went to the newspaper’s legal notice person, paid the fees ($50) to publish the notice, picked up proof of publication form from newspaper office two weeks later, waited for my court date, went to court.

    Needless to say, all the other petitioners with me were women as its not often that men ever have the need to change their name.

    We got to share our nervousness with each other which is something that most men I know don’t ever do.

    It made me feel like one of the girls.

    When the judge called me up and asked the reason I wanted the name change I told him that I was a transgender woman and wanted a feminine name and showed him the proof of publication. He signed the three copies of the order. I changed both my first and middle names and kept my last.

    I filed the order at the court clerks office and the county clerk’s office where I also re-registered to vote under my new name.

    I went to the Social Security office and filed a name change but had to wait the weekend and a Monday holiday to get my driver’s license. The NM State MVD is linked to the Social Security office and it took 24 hours for their computer to catch up.

    New Mexico also allowed the gender marker on the license changed to female with a request form (also downloaded from the MVD) signed by my doctor certifying my new gender identity.

    The hardest part of the whole process was the wait.

    • Wow, thanks Deanna, for such a thorough response. I am not changing genders, so I wonder how that will affect the judge’s decision…

      • You can give a thousand different reasons why you want to change your name and the judge would only question your motive if it sounded like you might use it to commit fraudulent activity or to avoid creditors or prosecution. I could have easily said that I just always liked the name Deanna and let it go at that.

  3. I am preparing a post about this (and changing my legal gender) because I have to do it in Mexico (the country, not New Mexico) as well as then change all my immigration paperwork here in the US. And there’s an added surprise too.

    For the US, it is relatively simple – Deanna gave a good run through. It’s just a lot of paperwork, but nothing to really be concerned about. Hooray for you on this bit step, if I was a citizen I would’ve done it a long time ago.

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