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U.S. Name Change Laws

Unlike many other countries, there are few state-established laws on what parents can or cannot name their children in the United States. Legal scholars have noted that this is because of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which endow broad rights when it comes to free speech and due process.

Most U.S. states will allow adults to change their own names—first, middle, and/or last—as long as it isn’t for the purpose of defrauding others by evading financial obligations or criminal histories. Individual states vary, however, on the requirements for the name-change process so we at BabyNames.com have compiled this guide to each state’s rules.

This list is only a guide to the basics of adult name-change laws, and states may require additional conditions to be met before one can legally change her or his name. Transgender people in particular should seek additional advice before starting the legal name-change process, given that some states require medical certification before a new birth certificate and other identity documents will be issued. The National Center for Transgender Equality has a great state-by-state guide to name-change laws for transgender people.

Alabama
You cannot change your/one's name for a fraudulent purpose, such as to avoid debts, you cannot change to a name that could affect the rights of another person, such as a celebrity, you cannot use a curse word, racial slur, obscene and/or an offensive word as part of your/one's name and you cannot change to a name that would cause deliberate confusion (for example, a name with punctuation and/or a number in it).
Alaska
You cannot change your name "in order to avoid debts or defraud anyone." There must be "sufficient reasons for the name change and that the change is consistent with the public interest" (marriage, dissolution of marriage and divorce all count).
Arizona
You cannot change name to that of another individual for the purpose of committing or furthering any offense of theft, forgery, fraud, perjury, organized crime or terrorism or any other offense involving false statements. Must submit affidavit attesting to any felonies prior to name change.
Arkansas
You cannot change your/one's name for a fraudulent purpose, such as to avoid debts, you cannot change to a name that could affect the rights of another person, such as a celebrity, you cannot use a curse word, racial slur, obscene and/or an offensive word as part of your/one's name and you cannot change to a name that would cause deliberate confusion (for example, a name with punctuation and/or a number in it).
California
No derogatory or obscene name changes are allowed.
Colorado
Applicants must complete a fingerprints-based criminal background check within 90 days prior to filing petition to change name.
Connecticut
You will need to file the application in person at the Probate court. As long as you are an adult and resident of Connecticut, you may change your name, provided it is not for fraud or another illicit activity (such as escaping debt liability).
D.C.
In the District of Columbia, an adult at least twenty-one (21) years of age who wishes to change his or her name must be a current resident of the District of Columbia for at least sixty (60) days prior to filing. Proof of such must be provided to the Court. The Application informs the Court of the Applicant's name, the name the Applicant wishes to assume, the reasons for the change and other personal information as required by statute. For an Order of name change to be granted, the Court must find sufficient reasons for the change and also find the name change in the interest or to the benefit of the Petitioner and in the interest of the public. A person is not allowed to change his/her name in order to avoid judgments or legal actions against him or her, or to avoid debts and obligations. A person cannot change his/her name to defraud another person.
Delaware
Individuals subject to the supervision of the Department of Correction shall be prohibited from adopting any names other than their legal names or otherwise effecting name changes, except as provided in this subsection. In order to use the standard process to petition for a name change as an adult in Delaware, you must be at least 18 years old and reside in the county where the petition is filed. Your petition can be denied if you have been convicted or currently charged with a felony, are a registered sex offender, or are deemed to be attempting to avoid creditors or debts.
Florida
In Florida, the name change process starts with checking your criminal history. In order to do this, you must have your fingerprints submitted for a state and national criminal records check. The fingerprints will be taken by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and will be submitted electronically for testing. The petition to change your name in Florida requires extensive information. You need to provide your current name, your county of residence, your place of birth, your parent's names, all of your previous addresses, your marital status, names and addresses of any children, and all former names that you have gone by.
Georgia
The granting of a Petition for change of name is discretionary with the court, and the court may deny a Petition on grounds, which would not constitute lawful objection. For an Order of name change to be granted, the court must find compliance with the requirements of notice and the requirements for the allegations in the Petition. One cannot change his/her/the minor's name for a fraudulent reason, change to a name that could affect the rights of another person (such as a celebrity) nor change to a name which involves vulgarity.
Hawaii
You cannot change your/one's name for a fraudulent purpose, such as to avoid debts, you cannot change to a name that could affect the rights of another person, such as a celebrity, you cannot use a curse word, racial slur, obscene and/or an offensive word as part of your/one's name and you cannot change to a name that would cause deliberate confusion (for example, a name with punctuation and/or a number in it). You can begin the name-change process online here: https://namechange.ehawaii.gov/public/welcome.html
Idaho
In order to use the standard process to petition for a name change as an adult in Idaho, you must be 18 years old, reside in the state, not be a registered sex offender, and not be attempting to avoid creditors or debts.
Illinois
In Illinois, you must be 18 years old and have lived in the state for at least six months in order to petition for a name change for yourself. There are also restrictions if you have a felony record or are a registered sex offender.
Indiana
You must be 18 years of age or older; not in jail or prison; not required to register as a violent offender or sex offender; and not trying to avoid creditors.
Iowa
A person who has attained the age of majority and who does not have any civil liabilities may apply to the court to change the person's name by filing a verified petition. The verified petition may request a name change for minor children of the petitioner as well as the petitioner or a parent may file a verified petition requesting a name change on behalf of a minor child of the parent.If you live in Iowa and are age 18 or older, you must first obtain a certified copy of your birth certificate before you can begin the name change process.
Kansas
Only individuals who have been a resident of the State of Kansas for at least 60 days can petition to have their name changed in Kansas. To be considered a resident of Kansas a person has to have a fixed place to live in Kansas that they intend as their residence and they have a present intent to remain in the state of Kansas. You must also be 18 years or older to petition the court for a name change. You may not obtain a name change in the state of Kansas for the purposes of avoiding debts, avoiding legal process, or to mislead or defraud any person. The district county court judge also reserves the right to deny your petition for name change after reviewing the testimony, examining the evidence and reviewing the record.
Kentucky
In Kentucky, a person over the age of 18 can generally get his or her name changed by a court. It is actually not necessary to get a court order for a name change; an adult can simply begin using a new name as long as the person is not trying to get away from creditors or criminal problems. However, you can get a court order for a name change if you want to. You cannot change your name if you are avoiding a bankruptcy, your name violates a trademark, the name includes numbers or symbols, or the name includes obscene words.
Louisiana
You cannot change your name to avoid legal judgments, debts, or obligations; to defraud someone else; or to hide from the law or police.
Maine
Only residents of the state of Maine can petition to have their name changed in Maine. To be considered a resident of Maine a person must have place that they have established as a fixed and principal home where when they are temporarily absent they intend to return. You must also be at least 18 years of age or older to petition the court for a name change. You cannot change your name to avoid legal judgments, debts, or obligations; to defraud someone else; or to hide from the law or police.
Maryland
Maryland residents may change their names simply by using a different name in daily interactions with other people. For example, if your first name is Mary, but you want to be called Marie instead, all you have to do is tell people to call you Marie. However, if you want to legally change your name on your driver's license, Social Security card and other government documents, you must file a petition in court. You cannot change your name for an illegal or fraudulent purpose, or change your name to one that would interfere with someone else’s rights.
Massachusetts
After the petition is filed, the court must request a criminal record check from the Office of the Commissioner of Probation for any petitioner 10 years or older. Public notice of the petition is given by publication, and the citation for publication will be sent to you by the court. You must arrange to have the citation published in a local newspaper and mailed according to the instructions given in the order of notice on the citation. Mailing must be by certified mail, return receipt requested. After publication and mailing, you return the original citation with a clipping of the notice from the newspaper, the green return receipt post card, and your signature certifying that you mailed and published the notice to the court.
Michigan
If you want to change your name and you are an adult or a minor who is 14 years of age or older, or you want to change your family's last name, you can petition for a change of name in the family division of the circuit court in the county where you live. You must have lived in the county for at least one year prior to filing the petition. Your petition must give the reason for the name change and assure the court that you are not seeking a name change with any dishonest intent. A notice of the hearing to change the name must be published to allow creditors, individuals with the same name, and others the opportunity to object. If you are over 21 years of age, before your name can be changed, you will have to be fingerprinted so your criminal history can be checked by the Michigan State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There is a charge for this. Results of the criminal history check will be sent to the court. A person with a criminal record is presumed to have a fraudulent intent in seeking to change his or her name and any request for name change will be denied. Persons under age 22 do not have to be fingerprinted or have a criminal history check.
Minnesota
You must have lived in Minnesota for at least six months, and be a resident of the county in which you apply. You must have two adult witnesses at your name change hearing, and they can be relatives. If you are married, one of your relatives should be your spouse. You will also be assessed a filing fee and possibly a small court services fee. If you have very limited income, you can apply to have the name change fee waived. You cannot change your name for a fraudulent purpose, such as to avoid debts, you cannot change to a name that could affect the rights of another person, such as a celebrity, you cannot use a curse word, racial slur, obscene and/or an offensive word as part of your name and you cannot change to a name that would cause deliberate confusion (for example, a name with punctuation and/or a number in it).
Mississippi
Note that for an official name change to be granted by the Chancery Court in your county, the Court must find the reason for the change satisfactory and also consider it consistent with public interest. Commonly accepted reasons include name changes upon marriages or divorces.In general, however, any lawful reason that does not violate any state laws or infringe upon the rights of anyone else typically satisfies most courts, whether that reason be for religious, personal or social reasons. There are cases in which name changes are not allowed. For example, individuals who seek to change their name to avoid legal actions or judgments against them or to avoid fulfilling debts and other obligations are not permitted to change their names. In addition, name changes are not allowed for the purposes of defrauding others.
Missouri
Missouri law allows you to change your name as long as you're not doing so to harm another person's interest. For example, if you're changing your name to avoid paying a bill, the court will not grant the order, as it's detrimental to the creditor. A name change in Missouri is handled through the circuit court of the Missouri county the person lives in. You must file a petition, attend a hearing and run a legal ad notifying persons of your desire to change your name to receive a name change order in the state.
Montana
You are allowed to change your name if you are at least 18 years old and you are not changing your name to avoid debt, hide a criminal record, or for any other improper reason.
Nebraska
Any person wishing to change his or her name may file a petition in the district court in the county in which the person resides so long as that person has been a bona fide resident of that county for at least one (1) year before filing the petition for a name change. In Nebraska, an “adult” is an individual who has attained the age of 19, is a minor who has been emancipated by court order, or is married pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat.§§ 43-2101 and 42-105. If you wish to change your name, and you are not 19, emancipated or married you will need your parent or guardian to file for you.
Nevada
You must list your current name, the new name you wish to take, and the reasons for the change. You must disclose any felony convictions to the court. If the name change is granted, the court will submit a copy of the name change order to the Central Repository for Nevada Records of Criminal History for inclusion in your criminal record. You must publish a notice of the proposed name change in a newspaper in Clark County. The publication must run for 3 consecutive weeks. If you believe that publication of the proposed name change would put your safety at risk, you can ask the court to waive the publication requirement.
New Hampshire
You cannot change your name if your new name would imply fraudulent intent, if your new name violates a trademark, if the name uses numbers or symbols, or your new name includes obscene words.
New Jersey
Courts have held that adults have the right to legally change their names to one word instead of a first name and last name. You cannot change your name in order to commit fraud or avoid the consequences of a pending legal action. Although most requests for name changes are granted without question, you should explain in your application why you want to change your name.
New Mexico
In New Mexico, a person fourteen (14) years of age or older, who wishes, for good cause shown, to change their name must file their application in the District Court nearest to their residence. As indicated above, the Petitioner (the person who initiates the suit/application) must have lived within the State of New Mexico and the County in which they will be filing their application in for at least six (6) months. You cannot change your/one's name for a fraudulent purpose, such as to avoid debts, you cannot change to a name that could affect the rights of another person, such as a celebrity, you cannot use a curse word, racial slur, obscene and/or an offensive word as part of your/one's name and you cannot change to a name that would cause deliberate confusion (for example, a name with punctuation and/or a number in it).
New York
The petition shall be in writing, signed by the petitioner and verified in like manner as a pleading in a court of record, and shall specify the grounds of the application, the name, date of birth, place of birth, age and residence of the individual whose name is proposed to be changed and the name which he or she proposes to assume. The petition shall also specify (a) whether or not the petitioner has been convicted of a crime or adjudicated a bankrupt; (b) whether or not there are any judgments or liens of record against the petitioner or actions or proceedings pending to which the petitioner is a party, and, if so, the petitioner shall give descriptive details in connection therewith sufficient to readily identify the matter referred to; (c) whether or not the petitioner is responsible for child support obligations; (d) whether or not the petitioner's child support obligations have been satisfied and are up to date; (e) the amount of a child support arrearage that currently is outstanding along with the identity of the court which issued the support order and the county child support collections unit; (f) whether or not the petitioner is responsible for spousal support obligations; (g) whether or not the petitioner's spousal support obligations have been satisfied and are up to date; and (h) the amount of spousal support arrearage that currently is outstanding along with the identity of the court which issued the support order.
North Carolina
You cannot change your name for a fraudulent purpose, such as to avoid debts, you cannot change to a name that could affect the rights of another person, such as a celebrity, you cannot use a curse word, racial slur, obscene and/or an offensive word as part of your name and you cannot change to a name that would cause deliberate confusion (for example, a name with punctuation and/or a number in it). Before you can legally change your name through the Civil Clerk’s Office, you must submit to criminal background checks. This requirement is to ensure that you are not trying to evade creditors or your past criminal history by legally changing your name. An adult may change their name by filing an action in the Superior Court with appropriate forms. You are only allowed to change your name once, with the exception of resuming your former name.
North Dakota
Petitioners must pay for and complete a criminal background check. If the individual petitioning for a name change has a felony conviction under a law of this state or a law of another state or the federal government, the request is presumed to be made in bad faith, to defraud or mislead, to cause injury to an individual, or to compromise public safety. The name change may not be granted unless the individual requesting the name change proves by clear and convincing evidence that the request is not based upon an intent to defraud or mislead, is made in good faith, will not cause injury to an individual, and will not compromise public safety.
Ohio
To change your name in Ohio, you must have been a resident of the county in which you will file your Application for Change of Name for at least 1 year. You will not be able to change your name if your new name would imply "fraudulent intent," if you are avoiding bankruptcy, if your new name violates a trademark, your new name uses numbers or symbols (except Roman numerals), or your new name contains obscene words.
Oklahoma
You must have resided in Oklahoma for at least 30 days to petition for a name change. Some Oklahoma courts require you to submit a list of your creditors to the court clerk to obtain a name change.
Oregon
You cannot change your name to commit fraud, or to hide from financial obligations or court actions. If you are under age 18, written notice must be given to your parents or legal guardian. You may also need to have your parents' consent, or have a guardian appointed for the purpose of changing your name.
Pennsylvania
Criminal background check must be completed before a court approves a name change; petitioners must also be fingerprinted. You cannot change your name for criminal or fraudulent purposes, and you will have to declare any civil judgments against you over the past five years. Anyone can file an objection to your name change petition.
Rhode Island
The court must find that the requested name change is consistent with the public interest. A person is not allowed to change their name in order to avoid judgments or legal actions against him or her, or to avoid debts and obligations. A person cannot change their name to defraud any person.
South Carolina
Petitioners must submit the results of a criminal background check and fingerprints, a screening statement from the Department of Social Services that indicates whether the person is listed on the department's Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect, a screening statement from the State Law Enforcement Division that indicates whether the person is listed on the division's sex offender registry, and an affidavit signed by the petitioner which provides whether the petitioner is under a court order to pay child support or alimony.
South Dakota
You can change any part of your name by filing a petition in the county where you live. You must have lived in that county for at least six months before you can file your petition. Additionally, the state allows residents to change their last names as a result of marriage or divorce without filing a separate petition. The court must find that the requested name change is consistent with the public interest. A person is not allowed to change their name in order to avoid judgments or legal actions against him or her, or to avoid debts and obligations.
Tennessee
You can change your name without parental consent if you are over 18. You must provide the reason why you want to change your name and agree that the change is not for illegal purposes or to evade debts. You are ineligible to change your name if you are a prison inmate, have been found guilty of first or second degree murder or are a sexual offender.
Texas
You must declare any felony convictions (as well as any charges for offenses above Class C misdemeanor) or whether you're required to register as a sex offender before a name change will be approved. Petitioner must submit a legible and complete set of the petitioner’s fingerprints on a fingerprint card format acceptable to the Department of Public Safety and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Utah
Petitioner must live in the county where the name change petition will be filed for at least one year before filing and be 18 years of age or older. You cannot file for a name change if you are involved in a lawsuit, if you're on probation or parole, if you are barred from doing so because you're a sex offender, to avoid creditors or to commit fraud, or "to change your name to something bizarre, unduly lengthy, ridiculous, or offensive to common decency and good taste."
Vermont
You must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. When you petition the court for a name change, you must provide copies of your birth certificate and your marriage certificate if applicable so that they can be properly changed. You do not need your spouse’s permission to change your name.
Virginia
You must have lived within the Commonwealth of Virginia and the County/City in which you will be filing your application in for at least six (6) months. You must file in the Circuit Court in your County or City of residence. You must be 18 years of age or older. You cannot change your name to avoid debts or to defraud creditors or anyone else.
Washington
If you are over 18 years of age, you can choose and use any name you wish, as long as you are not trying to defraud someone, such as avoiding creditors or child support.
West Virginia
Petitioner must affirm: that he or she has been a bona fide resident of the county for at least one year prior to the filing of the petition or that he or she is a nonresident of the county who was born in the county, was married in the county and was previously a resident of the county for a period of at least fifteen years; that the name change is not for purposes of avoiding debt or creditors; that they are not a sex offender; that the name change sought is not for purposes of avoiding any state or federal law regarding identity; the name change sought is not for any improper or illegal purpose; the petitioner is not a convicted felon in any jurisdiction; the name change sought is not for any purpose of evading detection, identification or arrest by any local, state or federal law-enforcement agency; and whether or not the petitioner desires to protect his or her identity for personal safety reasons.
Wisconsin
Courts have ruled that adults have the right to legally change their names to one word instead of a first name and last name. People required to register as sex offenders are prohibited from changing their names. You must be a resident of Wisconsin. The petition must be filed in the county of your residence. The court may grant the petition "if no sufficient cause is shown to the contrary."
Wyoming
You must be 18 years of age or older. The court must find that the requested name change is proper and not detrimental to the interests of any other person. A person is not allowed to change their name in order to avoid judgments or legal actions against him or her, or to avoid debts and obligations. A person cannot change their name to defraud any person. A person petitioning for a change of name shall have been a bona fide resident of the county in which the petition is filed for at least two years immediately preceding filing the petition.
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