Name Change on Professional Documents and Diplomas

Female Graduate Celebrating Her Diploma

One of the most difficult processes when it comes to changing names is effecting a name change on a high school or college diploma or an official professional document or certification. Schools and colleges follow different processes for issuing diplomas, and while the documentation required for the change might cut across, it's important to contact your previous institution of learning to ensure you have all that's required.

The fee associated with name change on a diploma also varies and you might want to check that as well. At the same time, you might have to wait between 6-12 weeks for a new degree to be delivered after processing.

What you need to change your name on a diploma

Most university registrars process changes of names for students who are currently enrolled only. However, for previous students who need to effect a name change they need a number of documents for this to happen. This includes a name change certification form that has been completed and every supporting documentation required as indicated on the name change form. In most cases, the acceptable documents include a divorce decree, marriage certificate, court issued documents, social security card, passport and state identification cards or driver's license. Most institutions of learning allow these forms to be submitted in person or through mail.

It's also worth noting that to get a replacement diploma bearing the new name the name must have been changed officially in court or within the jurisdiction. Once the name change request form and all accompanying documents have been received the process commences almost immediately.

Name change requests on diplomas and certificates associated with academic records is usually done so that the name the individual is identified with in the outside world can reflect on the document. Name change on a diploma might be done after changing one's name for another, after naturalization, divorce or marriage. What this means is if the name change is as a result of marriage, a copy of the marriage certificate is needed. Names changes that take place through a court petition process will require certified copies of the court order.

If the name change is as a result of a divorce, the request name change form must be supported by a certified divorce decree copy reinstating the maiden name. Name change requests signed are processed and, in most cases, the documentation is returned to the requester. As a result, the name change reflects on the permanent record of a graduate, including the diploma re-issued. Most institutions of higher learning notarize diplomas without any additional charge.

Collect all the needed documents

Once you have read and understood what is required, including all the documents, ensure that you have gathered each of the documents in an organized manner and label them. You can ensure you have at least three copies of all the needed original documents; originals should be safely kept at home. The office of the university registrar needs to be contacted and alerted that you have changed your name and would like the same reflected on your diploma. The registrar must request all the documents to be faxed to his or her office, postal mailed, or bring the documents in person. In case you are asked to bring them in person, ask about the right time when you should arrive and the contact individual you will be meeting.

Once the registrar has received the documents in person, mail, or by fax, ensure you have a contact number of the individual you will be checking with on the name change request status. If six weeks pass without having received the requested new diploma bearing your new name you might want to email or call the registrar's office to determine why or receive updates. After you have received the new diploma ensure every detail is correct and the name appears as you wanted. Errors or typos that are the fault of the registrar's office may often be corrected and documents reissued without additional charge to you.

Name change on your birth certificate

In most cases, name changes do not require the same to be done on a birth certificate. In fact, a huge number of states will not change a name on a birth certificate if the reason was due to a divorce or marriage. However, if the reason the name was changed was due to gender reassignment surgery or adoption, this can be done seamlessly. The laws on the procedure to follow vary from one state to the other.

Vital records state departments will request that you produce some court order prior to a name change on a birth certificate with state laws differing on the process as well as the grounds for getting a name change ordered by a court. Applying for a name change ordered by a court require a petition be filed, paying the required filing fee, including attending the hearing. Lots of states will also ask that a notice be published on the impending name change in a national or local newspaper. Further documentation might also be required, for instance adoption decrees establishing the name change request. A petition is filed on behalf of a minor while the parents of the minor also need to be notified.

In case of gender reassignment surgery, the procedure in place for updating the name on the birth certificate also requires a court order that shows the correct gender that will appear on the birth certificate. Also, apart from the certified copies of the court order, there has to be a submission of an application or petition that shows identifying birth facts such as the name that was used at birth, the birth date, parents' name and place of birth. In case of a legal change of name, it's important that the court-ordered certified copies, together with the application or petition, be submitted.

Once the birth certificate has been amended successfully, a document is appended reflecting the change or amendment to the original birth certificate. It means that the old birth certificate bearing the old name remains stored in a file in the vital records office.

A number of states also go a step further and create another birth certificate for the individual in contrast with amending or changing the initial one. Such a practice of total replacement of the old birth certificate is critical in cases of adoption; biological parents are able to amend the birth certificate of a child during adoption towards concealing their identity to avoid future complications once the child has been adopted. The old birth certificate is however stored in the vital records office inside a sealed file only accessed for a number of reasons like criminal investigations.

Professional disadvantages of changing your name

Sometimes a name change is a disadvantage and you might want to maintain your maiden or current name. This can be after a divorce where you have a chance of getting married again, or even your first marriage. In all these circumstances, weighing the pros against the cons of a name change will surely give you the direction you need to take. After building a reputation in your profession, where everyone knows you by your current name, changing that to another and applying the changes to your professional documents might not be a very wise idea.

After years of making professional presentations on international professional organizations and conferences and authoring books and many other things a name change could put this reputation, social standing and success in confusion or destroy it. Apart from keeping your entire current name and avoiding the confusion that might result, you can use both names without hyphenating them or just hyphenate the names.

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  1. Kelly

    Also bear in mind that educational institutions may have different policies for different kinds of name changes. Some may not change a former student's name just because of marriage (since that would be a frequent occurrence and explaining that your diploma or your transcript has your maiden instead of your married name on it is not a big issue), but they may for other kinds of name changes (such as like you said one that would amend the birth certificate) especially when it would be a hardship on the alumnus/ae not to have it changed (e.g. a transgender graduate who would otherwise have to effectively "out" themselves anytime someone wanted to verify their education).

    In fact, some are arguing among the other issues concerning transgender students (such as the bathroom issue going around) that federal law should be construed to require a school to update a former student's records who is transgender (but not necessarily in most other cases) to reflect the changes (since unlike most kinds of name changes it would also be a medical privacy issue and that discrimination against transgender people is rampant).

    1. SGCP

      I am such a person.
      Many years ago after changing "everything" on my Birth certificate by court order, I called my old high school and they gave me a basic statement saying they won't change the name on my diploma. No logical or enforceable reason. Just NO! I am thinking since the awareness has come a long way, and hopefully there are new people in charge nowadays, that they will reconsider.

      If you have any updated info, suggestions or knowledge of forms that need to be filled out with documents, I would love to hear anything you have.

      1. Valera

        Hi SGCP. Can they provide that policy in writing? You can put your request in writing and just mail them the notice of name change request along with your name change record.

        Include a note that if your name change isn't processed, for them to provide a copy of the policy that permits the denial.

        Keep in mind, some schools will require a fee to reissue a diploma. They'll usually provide this information on their website, such as a FAQs section.

  2. Jennie Graham

    Can a child who has a living father whom the child's mom divorced when he was a baby & the child has never known the biological father & has never received any monies from him & the child's biological father has been in jail 1/2 of the child's life . Can this child age 18 now who has been raised all his life by his step dad whom he considers is his real dad & in all reality who has been his Dad all his life. Can this young adult have his step dads last name put on his high school diploma?? His school is saying he can't.

    1. Valera

      Hi Jennie. First, try making your case to the principal. If that doesn't work, try the superintendent. If that doesn't work, you may need to get a court ordered name change then use that document to effect a name change on your diploma.

    2. Kat Christian

      He can petition the court to have his name officially changed and then can request a new diploma with his new name on it. I know this because my grandson just had his middle and last name changed.

  3. Silvia Elena Brenes Rodriguez

    I need to change my name in my GED, I never pay attention to this but the lady in the office I take my test put a wrong DOB and use my married last name, now Im applying for a job and my GED docent match the other documents…
    what can I do? please help

    1. Valera

      Hi Silvia. Contact the institution to request a correction. Inquire what their procedure is, what documentation is required, and if an affidavit must be submitted.

  4. ogunfunwa damilola

    Hi am newly wed and will be going to a nursing school next yr…I don't want to change my maiden name but I just want to add my hubby name. Ow do I go about it

    1. Valera

      Hi Ogunfunwa. Are you saying you want to add your husband's last name to yours? Hyphenated or space-separated?

  5. lhiza

    Hi i would to ask what is the process in changing my name in school records..i want to go back school first year college.
    My problem is on my birth certificate it was Liza and Not Riza..i used Riza since elementary till i graduated high school.
    what should i do? please help..thank you so much. my important documents sss/pag-ibig/philhealth i already used Liza.

    1. Valera

      Hi lhiza. If Riza's a nickname, it's unlikely they'll change it. You'd have to supply a formal document reflecting your preferred name, such as a court order.

  6. Mhatz Magcamit

    Hi I would just want to ask, I've been married for 6 years and I was thinking of going back to college A.Y 2018-2019. What last name should I use, my husband's surname or my maiden name?thank you.

    1. Valera

      What last name should I use, my husband's surname or my maiden name?

      You'd use whatever your current legal name is.

  7. Rahul Nair Pappully

    My name is Rahul and I am from India.
    In all my I.D proofs such as Passport and Driving License and Class X and XII documents, my name is Rahul Nair Pappully.
    But in my B.Tech degree and university-related documents, it is Rahul Nair P
    I am currently in the process of applying for Masters abroad. I wanted to ask would it be a problem considering it's just mentioned P in University degree and Pappully (P) in all other ID proofs and Class X and XII documents.

    1. Valera

      Hi Rahul. Your school documents aren't governed by the rules as government documents. Any discrepancy will have to be taken up with your school.

  8. Tishsha

    HI I've read you article and its full of valuable information. I may be going through a divorce and wanted to know should I get my doctorate degree changed to my maiden last name? Before I graduated I thought I should have gotten it hyphenated for this very reason but didn't. I really don't want his last name anymore but wonder does it really matter on this one degree. I do have a few peer publications but not published and people who count know me by both names. If I ever get remarried it will not matter because my maiden name will always be my maiden name. Your wise advice counts. Thank you in advance

    1. Valera

      Hi Tishsha. The longer you wait to change your name, the more professional history will be established in your married name. Even if you decide not to change it, you can request the judge restore your maiden name during divorce proceedings. When your divorce is finalized, you can use your divorce decree with restored name to go back to your maiden.

      If you do intend to change your name on your degree, you'll have to inquire if they require official documentation citing a new name change or if it can be done without such formalities.

  9. Riya

    Hi I am Riya… I need to ask that I have changed my surname from Riya Sultana to Riya Sheikh after my matric examination and my H.S marksheet bears my new name. As I am going to abroad for my further studies so will I have to face some unwanted situation regarding the same!
    P.s: My birth certificate and Matric exam marksheet bears my old name
    Kindly help me!


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