Changing your name for whatever reason in Florida is not as straightforward as many might think. Here are a number of things you might want to know.
Marriage Name Change Options
In Florida, around 80% of all married women change their names, although it is not the simplest process. However, after marriage you have a number of options to consider when it comes to name change, particularly if you are not interested in maintaining your maiden name after going down the aisle.
Take husband's last name
About 85 percent of married women in Florida simply drop their maiden names and take up the last name of their husband's. It's still the most clear-cut, common and traditional choice, even in Florida.
Hyphen or space
Rather than drop your maiden name, in Florida, you can also add the name of your partner onto yours. You have the choice to use a space or simply hyphenate between both surnames. Name change in this case can be done in any order, but traditionally the wife's name appears first.
Both spouse names
For professional women who have been busy publishing academic papers, creating and running business, building strong reputations and names in diverse industries, dropping a name might not be that easy. If your name is associated with an important part of your professional life, in Florida, you are allowed to use both the name of your husband and your maiden name in various places. Name change is not obligatory after marriage and remaining with a maiden name hardly means your feelings for your spouse have waned.
Another popular way of approaching name change in Florida is combining both the surname of the man and woman after marriage. Nonetheless, this requires undergoing a legal process to have the changes accepted. The most common practice is merging two surnames into a single name shared among the two of you. For example, if the husband's last name is 'Bond' and the wife's 'Iron', the merged surnames would create something like 'Ironbond.' The legal process might be clear but takes a bit of time and it's always important to start earlier; perhaps before you get married.
Maiden to middle
A married woman in Florida also has the option of taking the surname of the husband and moving her name to the middle. This does not require a legal process, but only a marriage certificate to be effected. In fact, in this State, the only time you need a legal name change is when you are not taking the last name of your husband.
Husband taking wife's
In Florida, a man can also take the last name of the wife, but this has not always been the case. Back in 2013, Lazaro Sopena married Hanh Dinh and took her surname "Dinh", using the original marriage certificate. Over a year later he was accused of fraud for changing his name to his wife's. Nonetheless, this was overturned after a legal process and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in Florida has been training its employees to realize name change after marriage works either way.
Name Change after Divorce in Florida
In Florida, a legal name change after divorce requires that you collect a number of documents that includes proof of identity, such as a passport, state ID and driver's license, a birth certificate, hospital record or adoption decree as a proof of age, and a Florida divorce decree's certified copy. In case the divorce decree copy is not there, the Divorce Records Request Letter comes in handy. The Birth Certificate Request Letter can also help if you don't have a birth certificate copy.
Does your divorce decree actually restore your previous name?
Look at the divorce decree and identify whether a name change provision is included. In case there is not a provision for that, you only need to call the court that dealt with the case and request for an amendment of the document. However, amendments are not allowed in all Florida courts. If the request for amendment is denied, simply go ahead with a name change petition.
With divorce decree in hand, commence changing your name
Once the legal documentation has been granted by the divorce decree for a name change, you should go ahead and let government agencies know the new name you are using. Government offices that must be notified include the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Social Security Office. Start by seeking approval of the new name on your Social Security card before taking the certificate to the DMV office for name change on your driver's license.
Return to a previous name
In Florida, you can also return to a previous name you were using before marriage, during divorce proceedings. On the divorce forms you can also indicate you would like a restoration of a former name. In case you would like a former name restored, the Judgement of Dissolution of Marriage order has to be written by a judge using the full legal name that has been restored. With the order, approach the social security office for a quick name change.
The social security administration might request a birth certificate, official document or passport that indicates you are citizen of the United States, and an identification that still bears the name before divorce. The process of name change is usually free while the divorce process is ongoing.
However, after the divorce has been finalized, name change requires a petition for a name to be changed after the fact. Generally, Florida law hardly distinguishes between name restoration after divorce and changing to a wholly new name; you might need to part with $400 to file the petition for a name change.
General Adult Name Change
Florida courts only accept change of names for very legitimate reasons. The process of adult name change in the State begins with petition filing within the circuit court in your jurisdiction. You must also file your fingerprints officially with the petition unless you are restoring a previous name. Once the petition has been filed it's possible for a hearing to commence immediately.
Requirements the name change petitioner must fulfill
For the adult name change petition to go through, you need to meet a number of requirements. This includes being a resident of Florida and living in the County where the filing of the name change petition is being done. The petitioner need to be 18 years of age minimum and should have no illegal ulterior motive for seeking a name change; the action should not be infringing on the privacy, patent, partnership, property rights or good will of others. Your civil right should not have been suspended. If so, they should at least have been restored fully before going ahead with the petition.
Fees for the adult name change petition could be $400 or more.
What to do once your court order is granted
The court issues an order or Final Judgement once it finds every legal requirement has been satisfied. This means you can take up the new name. File the Florida Name Change Judgment that has been signed by the judge and, for a little fee, ask for certified copies. With the certified copies approach the Social Security Office for a name change of your social security card before doing the same for the Department of Motor Vehicles so that the name on the driver's license can be changed.
Child Name Changes
In Florida, obtaining a child's name change starts by filing a petition with the Superior Court within the locality where the child resides.
Conditions to meet for changing your child's name
To change the name of a minor you need a number of requirements to be satisfied, such as the minor being a resident of Florida and living within the County where the petition is filed. The minor must also be younger than 17 years of old and both the petitioner and minor should not have an illegal or ulterior purpose, and that the granting of the name change will not infringe on the rights of anyone. A written consent is required for the name change from the adults who are legally the minor's guardians.
Who decides for the child? One parent, both parents, or guardian?
Guardian ad litem, legal guardian or parent can file the petition. If it's just a single parent who has filed for the name change and the other parent has not signed the Change of Name of Consent form, the other parent needs to be served with the details.
In case the other parent is a non-resident, the court can authorize through publication a constructive notice. It's possible for the hearing to be immediate after filing, and if the court is certified about the name change for the minor the court issues an order and the child can assume the new name.
Change of Name on Birth Certificate
In case you have gone through legal name change through a court in Florida, a legal name change report is forwarded to the court clerk office within a month where the birth record is amended. The original record of birth or birth certificate must be attached to the name change report from the court. However a $20 non-refundable fee is necessary for the record's amendment. This applies both for death, birth and paternity amendments.
It means that once you have petitioned a court for a name change legally and it has gone through, you can request a birth certificate's certified copy just like you would order a normal birth certificate.
Social Security, DMV, Passport, IRS Name Changes
Update your social security card first
Once you have a new name, legally changed, request your documents to reflect this. The first process involves getting a new social security card. What you need together with the court order that legally changed your name is a State identification, passport, driver's license-photo IDs-together with a birth certificate. You can then apply for a fresh Social Security card.
You don't have to appear there physically since mailing a certified court order copy is acceptable, including other required copies. The new Social Security card should arrive in about 10 days once the request has been processed. Usually the Social Security Administration will update records in about 72 hours after your request has been received.
Next, change your name on your driver's license
It's also important to update your driver's license in Florida within 10 days, but you must wait for the Social Security Administration to process your request for a change of name first.
Follow through with remaining governmental/non-governmental institutions
After changing the name on the main governmental requirements such as Social Security and DMV, other documentation should also follow. These includes changing the name you have used in bank accounts, IRS, voter registration, mortgages and leases, credit cards, passport, PO boxes, medical offices, car title, among many others.
After these have been done and your name has been changed on all important documents, continue the use of the new name everywhere, including signing checks.
Additional fees to change your name
Remember that name change in Florida comes at a fee, where a driver's license costs $25, $2.50 for a vehicle registration card, $75.25 for an electronic vehicle title and $2.50 for a printed vehicle title. Tax collector offices in Counties will also ask for another $6.25 fee.
Using a Chancery Court to facilitate your name change
According to the 2015 Florida statutes on name changes, Chancery courts can now complete a name change for an individual in Florida for a petition filed in the petitioner's county of residency. Before a Florida court hears a name change petition it's now required for petitioners to have submitted their fingerprints for a nation and state check on criminal history unless the process is a restoration of a previous name. The court will use the results of the check from the FBI through the Department of Law Enforcement in determining whether the petition should be granted. Criminal history checks and processing fingerprints fees are the responsibility of the petitioner.
Recognized Name Change Documents
There are different types of documents required for a name change in Florida. These includes a certified copy of marriage certificate for marriage name change, certified copy of divorce decree for divorce name change, court order for general adult name change, United States resident identification such as driver's license, state IDs and passport, criminal history and finger print checks (done by the court through the Law Enforcement Department but paid by the petitioner), signed consent from the parents of a minor or legal guardian among others that a Florida court might request.