Name change is a legal process where a person adopts a new name distinct from their name of adoption, marriage or birth. Depending on the jurisdiction, the ease and procedures of name change really vary. Across the United States, changing names is regulated by State laws.
If you're not changing your name as a result of marriage, or your name change preference (marriage or not) isn't allowed, you'll have to undergo a court petitioned name change which will involve publishing your name change in the newspaper.
Normally, anyone can adopt the name they desire. In fact, by 2009, about 46 states had allowed people to change their names just by usage without any paperwork done. This is referred to as a common law name change. While this sounds like a great option, in reality, it isn't a truly practical way to go about "officially" changing one's name. A court order might be needed for any institution such as the government's or banks. There are also states allowing transgender people to effect name changes either after or prior to a sex reassignment kind of surgery.
While all the states except Louisiana follow the common law, the requirements acceptable are a little different. However, the most efficient way of getting your name changed is through a court order applied in a state court beyond marriage where name change is accepted universally.
Right reason for name change
At the same time, anyone seeking a name change must plead the reason is not fraudulent in nature or for any illegal reason, like defaming another, evading debt or lien among others. After giving a good explanation on why you want a name change, you will have to pay a fee before posting a legal notice in distinct newspapers announcing what you have done or about to. Unless the name change is for an immoral, frivolous or fraudulent purpose, the judge cannot deny it.
Publishing a legal notice on newspapers
The main reason why the law requires anyone who wants to change his or her name to publish it in a newspaper is simply to make it a public record. People whom you might have legitimate and legal responsibilities have to know, their right under the law, when you have changed your name. Otherwise, anyone can decide to change his or her name to avoid debts, commit fraud or defame others. Publishing in newspapers is an acceptable way, the only legally accepted one, of providing or giving notice and has to be done.
Essentially, the law requires that the court hearing date and your request for a name change to be published in a newspaper to give all kinds of people the chance to know what you are doing and perhaps object if there is cause to do so. In most cases, no one really objects but the law has to be followed and getting a court order to effect your name change will not be done unless it has been completed.
Exceptions to publishing name change publicly
It is also worth indicating there are exceptions where you might not have to publish a notice in newspapers for a number of reasons. You do not need to publish if you are doing so for the sole purpose of conforming to your own sex or gender identity. Also, you will not be allowed to publish if you are already in the address confidentiality program, state witness program, seeking name change to avoid stalkers or domestic violence or if you are a sexual assault victim or requesting changing of names on behalf of a sexual assault victim. Nonetheless, in case of any of these reasons you have to explain it in the court provided forms, mostly an attachment to petition of name changes.
Publishing the name change notice
Once the name change request has been granted, you must put up a notice indicating so in a newspaper that the court has chosen. In the signed order, it is clearly indicated that you have been given 60 days from the time the order is given to take out an advert in a newspaper referred to as a "publication", which is an advert giving notice you have changed your name legally. In most cases, the order indicates the newspapers or newspaper name where the notice must appear, the content of the notice and the number of times it has to be published.
Contacting the newspaper
You can contact the local newspaper via the phone book or Internet, which has to be a newspaper that distributes where you live. Call the newspaper and indicate you want to take out an advertisement of a personal nature in the newspaper's announcements section and indicate both the new name and old name in the announcement while making it as clear as day your name has been changed. Certain states require an address be listed with the announcement. Your ad will typically be positioned in the "legal notices" section of the classifieds ads.
The payment can be made using a credit card online or over the phone or any other means the newspaper might allow you. While low income individuals can get fee waivers and might not be required to pay any filing fee in name change petitions, publishing the name change in a newspaper distributed locally does not attract any fee waiver. Newspapers also charge personal advertisements differently and you might have to shop around for the most affordable in a newspaper the court accepts.
You must take the order copy to the indicated newspaper as soon as you can for the notice to be published forthwith. You have the responsibility of paying the fee for the publishing and a publication affidavit is given once you are done. This is then brought back to the office of the Clerk so that it can be filed within three months or 90 days of the date appearing on the order that has been signed. After publication affidavit has been filed, you can consider the name change process a success and complete, meaning you can start using it.
It is the signed order that you have to use to change all the legal documents you own, from the social security card, birth certificate and other identifications issued by the government such as driver's license or passport. The order in certified copies can be taken from the office of the clerk after the filing of the publication affidavit and you need to have a certified copy with you, just in case.
It is also worth noting there are courts in certain jurisdictions that only require a different kind of announcement rather than a newspaper advert, such as posting some kind of a flyer on a specific bulletin board in your city or town.