Do I have to file forms in court to change my birth name?
Maybe not. In all but a handful of states, you can legally change your name by usage only. A name change by usage is accomplished by simply using a new name in all aspects of your personal, social and business life. No court action is necessary, it costs nothing and is legally valid. (Minors and prison inmates are generally exceptions to this rule.)

Practically speaking, however, an official court document may make it much easier to get everyone to accept your new name. Because many people and agencies do not know that a usage name change is legal, they may want to see something in writing signed by a judge. Also, certain types of identification -- such as a new passport or a birth certificate attachment -- are not readily available if you change your name by the usage method.

If it's available in your state, you may want to try the usage method and see how it goes. If you run into too many problems, you can always file a court petition later.

You can find out whether your state requires a court order by contacting your local clerk of court. Or, if the court clerk doesn't give you enough information, you can look at your state's statutes in a local law library -- start in the index under "Name" or "Change of Name" or ask the reference librarian for help.

Show All Answers

1. Who else do I need to inform if I change my name?
2. What state law governs Name Changes in Illinois?
3. I just don't like my birth name and I want to change it. Can I choose any name I want?
4. Do I have to file forms in court to change my birth name?
5. How do I implement my name change?
6. I'm a woman who is planning to be married soon. Do I have to take my husband's name?
7. Can my husband and I both change our names to a hyphenated version of our two names or to a brand new name?
8. What if I do want to take my husband's name? How do I make the change?
9. I took my husband's name when I married, but now we're getting divorced and I'd like to return to my former name. How do I do that?
10. After my husband and I are divorced and I return to my former name, can I change the last name of my children as well?