Those seeking a name change in New Jersey because of marriage, divorce, or the courts should keep a number of things in mind. Essentially, each State of the United States has legal procedures in place when it comes to changing a name.
Whether you have just been married, newly divorced or intending to enter into a divorce complaint, changing the name of your child for various reasons, or simply changing your name for another reason beyond marriage or divorce, there are a number of conditions you need to be aware of.
Marriage name change
If you have been married recently, changing your name might seem to be the next most logical thing to do. The process is not as hard as it might appear; the only thing you need is a marriage certificate copy to start changing your name with the various government bodies that you want to request a change of name on their records.
Simply take the marriage certificate copy to the Social Security Administration to have the name changed on your social security card and have a new card mailed to you in less than 14 days.
You can also continue to change your name on New Jersey's Motor Vehicle Commission in person and a fee will be charged. Even before you change your name, make up your mind on exactly what kind of name you would be using. Your available name change options are as follows:
A married person in New Jersey can decide to use a hyphen to separate the names rather than drop a name—especially brides—through marriage.
Maiden to middle
In New Jersey, state agencies do not accept the maiden name becoming the middle name after marriage. This often catches applicants off guard considering most states do allow this.
So, switching your middle name with your maiden name isn't really a viable option. We list it for completion purposes since it's asked about often.
Traditional surname choice
You can decide to go with the traditional marriage name change option of taking the husband's last name in New Jersey. It's a change that governmental and nongovernmental organizations understand and the only thing required is a valid marriage certificate. Valid means an original or certified copy.
Remember, in New Jersey name changes after marriage are the easiest for women since they only need to consistently use their names; when a proof of name change is required, the marriage certificate will help to clear the air.
While men in New Jersey could change their name through marriage and use the certified marriage certificate as the required proof in government and non-governmental agencies and companies, federal agencies might not recognize changed names by men after marriage and the certified copy of the marriage certificate might also not be accepted as proof of name change.
Divorce name change
In case you took the surname of your husband after marriage, you might want to change this after divorce. Reverting to a prior name or maiden name is straightforward in New Jersey as far as it's done during the divorce process. If your divorce is finalized without a name restoration order, you can still change it. However you'll have to go through a separate and more drawn out legal proceeding via court petition.
The best and easiest way of changing your name after divorce is including the request for a change of name in the divorce complaint or petition. If you are using an attorney to deal with the divorce, request that the maiden name be included in the divorce petition. Those representing themselves will find petitions already pre-printed that can be filled and filed right away.
After filing the divorce petition, you should appear at the divorce hearing and indicate to the judge you want to revert to a prior name. Get the certified divorce decree from the Clerk's office, which you might have to pay a little fee for.
Be clear that the divorce decree allows you to go back to a maiden name or another previous name. You can then approach the Social Security Administration and Motor Vehicle Commission—among other agencies—you would like to change your current name with.
Court-petitioned name change
Lots of people adore the names they were given after birth, but if you are not one of them and you live in New Jersey, there's a way out. Name change in New Jersey that's not due to marriage or divorce is straightforward and can be completed without the need of a lawyer.
You can access the name change forms online from the state's judiciary portal with detailed instructions on how to complete them, including forms and all the needed filing fees to complete the process. Sometimes the process can be cumbersome and you might not have the time to do so. In such a case, an attorney might come in handy to do the heavy lifting.
To start the process, provide the legal name you're currently using and choose the new name you intend to use and indicate it on the Verified Complaint form. In case of a criminal history, you might want to disclose it fully considering the certification of the form will have to be signed to indicate to the judge the information provided is correct.
You can then complete the various areas on the forms indicating the case summary, judgment, and hearing date. For every form that you fill it's important to maintain a copy.
The original forms and a copy of every form can be taken in person or via mail to the right court in the state of New Jersey within the county of your residence. If you send via mail, don't forget to include a dully stamped and self-addressed envelope.
You will be informed about the hearing date as well as the name of the locally distributing newspaper that the public notice has to be published in to meet the guidelines of the name change hearing.
You must publish the change of name public notice in the local newspaper at least a fortnight prior to appearing before the court. Have the Affidavit of Publication filled out to hand to the court as a proof that the public notice order was published.
Appear before the court and the judge in the time and date indicated for the name change hearing. Remember to have the Final Judgment published in the right newspaper 20 days of receiving it and deliver to the court the Affidavit of Publication to show it was published.
With the approved name change order from the court you can approach the various bodies concerned to complete the process.
Child name changes
To change the name of a minor, first have the necessary forms dully completed. The forms you will use for this process to change the name of a minor are similar to those of legally changing the name of an adult in New Jersey. Those unrepresented will find prepared forms in the office of New Jersey Courts Administrative Office that can be filed to request the court to effect the name change of a child.
Remember that filing the forms needed for this process must be done with your respective county's Superior Court where you reside. All the adult change of name forms have to be filed in the process of changing the name of a minor since the process is practically the same. A fee of $250 has to be paid while filing the forms.
The notice of the proposed change of name also has to be published in a newspaper. The pending change of name complaint has to be published in a local newspaper about 20 days or so prior to attending the scheduled hearing. The newspaper you have published in will get you an Affidavit of Publication that has to be filed with the court.
Notify the other parent of the minor unless you are filing the petition jointly. If the parents do not live together, the law requires the other parent be notified of the petition to change the name.
A copy of the Order Fixing Hearing Date and Verified Complaint must be sent to the other legal parent of the minor after the court has returned them to you about 20 or so days prior to the hearing. You can send the documents to the other legal parent of the minor by certified or regular mail and request return receipt just in case the court requires a proof that the other parent was well furnished with the information.
In case it's necessary, law enforcement agencies need to be notified as well. This means that if the minor has previous criminal or pending charges or has been criminally convicted before, the change of name petition must be sent to the law enforcement bodies who handled the case or charges.
It's also important to remember that the other legal parent of the child can object to the requested change of name. In such a case, the court will give the objecting parent a chance to raise his or her concerns during the hearing day.
Never forget to attend the hearing in the right court and the judge will take into account your evidence in support of the minor name change, including the objecting evidence from the other legal parent. The decision made will be fair and to the best interest of the minor.
If the court has granted the change of name requested, the Final Judgment has to be published in an indicated newspaper or acceptable publication at least 20 days prior to the Day of Judgment by the court. It's a step that publicly notifies all interested parties the name of the minor has been permitted to legally change.
You can continue to change the name of the child with government bodies as required, such as changing his or her birth certificate.
Change of name on birth certificate
From the outset, it's important to remember you don't have to follow the minor or adult name change court process towards correcting a mistake on a marriage certificate or birth certificate, such as a misspelled or incorrectly written name. Rather, make sure you contact the Office of the Vital Statistics within the State Registrar, preferably in the Local Registrar to know how such mistakes can be corrected fast.
In the case of legal name change, changing the name on the birth certificate is clear; mail the documents to the New Jersey Office of Vital Statistics and Registration. The documents to send include a letter that identifies the vital record that needs some correction or name change.
You need to identify the current name with the vital record including the full name of the father and the full maiden name of the mother in case their details are with the vital record department.
A certified copy of the legal name change is also required, which is usually returned thereafter. As a result, photocopies will not be accepted. $2 is the fee to process the legal change of name while $25 is the fee for the certified copy of the birth certificate, at least for the first birth certificate copy with the name changed. For an extra copy you will have to part with $2 in the form of money order or check payable to the State of New Jersey's Treasurer.
Name change on Social Security, MVC, Passport, IRS
It's important to change your name with the Social Security Administration once you are through with legal name change process or once you have received your divorce or marriage decree. To have the name appearing on the card changed, the SS-5 Form has to be completed and submitted together with the proof of name change. The process is free and can be completed by mail or in person.
Remember, to effect name change with the Motor Vehicle Commission in New Jersey on your driver's license you must do it in person. The change also needs to be made 14 days after changing your name and you can do so at your Regional Service Center or Local Motor Vehicle Commission. There's a fee to be paid. Don't forget the legal name change order.
U.S. Department of State
To have name changed on your passport, the proper form (which varies by passport age) needs to be filled out and sent together with a certified copy of the legal name change order or marriage certificate, including the current valid passport. Notarized copies and photocopies won't be accepted when it comes to changing the name on your passport.
IRS and others
Remember to also update your name and address with other governmental institutions, such as the IRS and USPS, and nongovernmental institutions, such as insurance companies, financial institutions like banks, credit card companies, as well as with your employer and in all the various professional documents you own.
Needed name change documents
As a recap, you'll need to have the following documents to complete your name change:
- 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