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To legally change your name in Virginia after adoption, divorce, marriage or simply to take up a name that defines who you are, there are specific procedures you need to follow in the state. The forms you need to use to complete the process will vary a little depending on whether you are a child or an adult as well as the reason.

Marriage name change

Marriage is one of the reasons why you are probably seeking a new name. Once you are through with the wedding and have received your marriage certificate, approach the Social Security Administration and other institutions to have your social security card have the new name adopted.

After marriage there is no need of filing a petition for a legal name change in a court of law. To adopt the best name after marriage, there are a number of options you can look into…

Hyphenate

You can decide not to drop your name for any reason and rather hyphenate both your spouse's and your name. This helps you make the most of the two without losing your established identity.

Maiden to middle

Sometimes dropping your maiden name is very hard and you would like to honor it as much as you can. You can do this by ensuring your maiden name is at the middle while the surname of the spouse is at the end.

Sometimes you might be an only child or childless in your marriage and you don't want to hurt your parents feelings by dropping the maiden name. This should be a wonderful compromise.

Husband adopting wife's name

You can also talk with your attorney to see whether you can take your wife's surname without going through the standard legal adult name change process but using the marriage change of name procedure.

Keep your name

The straightforward and easiest way is to simply keep your name as you received it at birth. You might save trips to the department of motor vehicle, fees and paperwork that follows a name change process.

Take husband's name

The most natural name change for a bride is taking the name of the husband after marriage. You only need to provide the marriage certificate and any required document such as a state or government provided ID and you can have the name changed fast.

New/unique last name

If you really want a new life with a new name after marriage you can definitely come up with a new and unique name that both the bride and groom can adopt after marriage. This is important for those seeking more equality and a fresh start in as many areas of their life as possible. However, this does require petitioning the court.

Divorce name change

Marriages do not always work out and a divorce might be a good idea to start a new life. Returning to a previous name or the maiden name might be what you are thinking about to try and put the past associated with the surname of your would be ex-husband behind.

The easiest way of changing your name after divorce is doing it as a part of the divorce petition. However, if you didn't have the chance to include change of name clause in the petition you can always independently change your name as an adult in Virginia.

The final divorce decree should state clearly that you can return to a previous name or maiden name. File the change of name paperwork together with the other documents including the final divorce decree. A small fee might be charged apart from the filing fee to cater for the divorce, which is usually about $21 but can change at any given time.

If you decide to request name change as a part of an ongoing divorce petition final divorce proceedings orally or at the initial pleadings, you do not need to separately apply for a name change and divorce. In case you want to change your name before you have entered into a divorce's final order, before initiating a divorce petition or after the divorce suit is over, you will need a separate application where the court will give you a different name change order.

After having the name change approved after the divorce, complete the name change process by contacting various governmental and nongovernmental bodies to effect the change on your documents such as credit cards, social security card, passport, banks and driver's license, including your employer perhaps through the Human Resource department so that your paycheck is made out to the right name.

General adult name change

In Virginia it's possible to have your name changed without a court hearing. Nonetheless, formal court proceedings might be needed in certain cases mostly if there is some kind of an objection to the name change request.

The papers that the Court Clerk receives will be a determinant factor to whether a court hearing is needed. If your petition or background is illegal, outrageous. or fraudulent and there are objections to the name change petition you've submitted, the Court Clerk will indicate to you a court hearing is required. However, the Clerk might just transfer the name change request for approval to the court/judge.

To change your name as an adult in Virginia you must meet certain requirements. Firstly, you must be a resident of the County or City in the Commonwealth of Virginia where you intend to file the petition for a name change and must have lived there for the last six months.

The petition has to be filed in your city or county's Circuit Court where you reside. It's also worth noting you must be an adult or above 18 years of age to file for a name change. The petitioner must have a reasonable and proper cause for requesting for a name change and not to defraud creditors or avoid debts, among other reprehensible reasons.

Fill out the name change application with the required information from birth/full name, the new name you intend to adopt, parental information, and certification showing the change is not for nefarious purposes, and address. The form shouldn't be signed yet.

The next thing is ensuring the application has been notarized by bringing the application you have completed to a notary public where you will sign it. The notary will then attest to the signature and a small fee might be required by the notary for the service rendered. Find notaries in such places as law offices, UPS store, post offices, and banks, among other places.

Take the duly completed documents to court, generally the application and two copies, fees, cover sheet, an envelop dully stamped and self addressed, and other supporting paperwork to the circuit court. The instruction forms need to be checked well, which will be submitted with the application materials to ensure everything has been completed as required. The Court Clerk will let you know if any extra information is needed to complete the application.

Sometimes the court might grant a change of name on the documents without a need for you to appear in court. But, you should always be ready to appear in court, which usually happens if there are objections to the petition. If there's an objection to the proceedings or the court has reasons to believe the name change might be for a nefarious reason, a hearing will be ordered by the court and you have no choice but attend. You might want to have an attorney with you if a hearing is ordered by the court.

Once you have received a name change order showing the process was a success, go ahead and let the Social Security Administration know so that your social security card can bear the new name, including other agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles and IRS, as well as nongovernmental organizations.

Child name change

Parents can change a minor's name in Virginia through the state's circuit court where the child is a resident. In case both parents have agreed to the change of name, the process will be very easy and fast.

A signed application will be required including appearing before the circuit court. While it's not mandatory for the parent to indicate the reason for the name change on the minor name change application, the change has to be in the best interest of the child under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

You need to go to the Virginia Circuit Court in the county where the child is a resident and come with a certified copy of the birth certificate of the minor. Request for the Order for Change of Child's Name and Change of Name of a Minor and fill them accordingly.

Certain information will be requested in the forms, which include date of birth, full name of the minor, the full new name to be adopted, and the address. Also required is the address of the parent or legal guardian requesting a name change, as well as the relationship of the individual to the child. Addresses and names of both parents of the minor will also be needed. In case the minor has a criminal past, you must indicate so on the forms.

If possible, both biological parents of the child need to join in the application. It's required that the other parent be served with the application to change the name of the child as a notice so that the court can order a hearing in case the other parent objects to the petition. The hearing can be waived if the applicant can convince the court that notifying the other parent might threaten the wellbeing of the minor if the proposed name change was found out.

The application should also be notarized by a notary public where you have to sign the documents before the notary. A small fee might be requested as the notary attests to the signature you have provided.

The cover sheet, copies of application, self addressed enveloped, and fees, including any supporting documents should be taken to court. Ensure that you have met all the requirements and everything has been completed in the best way possible. In case of any additional information, the Court Clerk will let you know.

Once the court has approved the change of name after the hearing, the self-addressed and stamped letter will be used to send the signed order to the address indicated. The process might take 60 days or so and only when the signed order is in your hands will the name change be official.

Change of name on birth certificate

Once you have completed the name change process, approach the Virginia Office of Vital Records for a change of name on the birth certificate. There are fees to be paid and a 12 week wait from the date the request is made before you're responded to.

The Virginia Office of Vital Records is usually very busy between February and September and you are requested to allow enough time to get your request.

Name change on Social Security, DMV, Passport, IRS

The first thing you need to do after receiving your name change order signed by the court is approaching the Social Security Administration to change your name even before you approach Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle. This also applies to marriage name changes using the marriage certificate.

The change can be done in person or through mail. What you need is a legal proof of name change such as court order, divorce decree or marriage certificate. You also need a proof of identity such as driver's license, ID card, or unexpired U.S. passport, including proof that you are a citizen of the United States, such as a valid U.S. passport or U.S. birth certificate.

Change the name of your ID card or driver's license in Virginia by visiting the Virginia DMV office in your locality in person, carrying Form DL 1P or Drivers License and ID Card Application including a proof of change of name such as a court order, divorce decree, or marriage certificate.

Approach the various governmental bodies such as IRS with the same request. Non-governmental institutions should also be approached for a change of name, institutions such as insurance companies, and financial institutions like your bank, HR department to change your name with your employer, and even in professional documents such as car title and registration certificates and land deeds.

Documents you need to change your name

  • Certified copy of your marriage certificate to change name through marriage
  • Certified copy of your divorce decree to change your name via divorce
  • Court order to change your name as an adult
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship and Identity

18 Comments

  1. Belinda

    I applied for a marriage license but it's only showing my maiden name. I want to hyphenate so how am I gonna do that if it's not showing the hyphenated name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I applied for a marriage license but it's only showing my maiden name.

      That's to be expected, because Virginia marriage license applications don't provide spots to specify a new name after marriage.

      I want to hyphenate so how am I gonna do that if it's not showing the hyphenated name?

      Your marriage license showing your maiden name isn't going to prevent you from hyphenating. You're fine.

      Reply
      1. Belinda

        So I'll just use my marriage license for the DMV name change? Do I need to show anything else?

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Hi Belinda. You'll have to use your marriage certificate to complete a name change, not your marriage license. Furthermore, make sure it's a certified copy.

          Reply
  2. Elsa

    I got married last year. My husband's ex wife never took his last name while they were married. Now she has started going by his last name. Can someone change their name to their ex spouses name after a divorce?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Now she has started going by his last name.

      Is it possible she's going by it informally?

      Can someone change their name to their ex spouses name after a divorce?

      Yes, if the divorce decree includes such an allowance. If not, she could have changed her name by petitioning the court. She even could have gone to the SSA to complete a belated married name change by pretending the divorce never happened.

      Reply
        1. Valera

          What do you mean such an allowance?

          By allowance, I'm referring to the judge including an order in the finalized divorce decree that would have allowed her to take her ex's last name.

          There is no mention of name in it.

          Well, then that answers that.

          She could have gone to court, but it would have been far easier just to waltz into the SSA with her defunct marriage certificate in hand and request a regular marriage name change. No one would be the wiser.

          Of course, this is just speculation.

          Reply
  3. G

    Does the name change of taking the husband name after marriage need to happen within a certain time period or can it happen a year after the ceremony?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Does the name change of taking the husband name after marriage need to happen within a certain time period

      It doesn't matter when the name change takes place. One month. One year. Ten years. It doesn't need to fall between any particular time frame.

      Reply
  4. Rose E Schaaf

    If I wait to change my name after marriage by say 2 months is there an additional charge to do so

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Rose. It doesn't matter how long you wait to start your name change. It doesn't affect anything, better or worse.

      Reply
  5. J

    I got married January of this year. The marriage certificate has my maiden name. Is it too late to take my husband’s last name? If not, how do I go about changing my last name to his? Does it require any court order since our marriage certificate only shows my maiden name? Can I just go to SSA and have my last name changed using the marriage certificate (which shows my maiden name)? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      The marriage certificate has my maiden name.

      That's to be expected.

      Is it too late to take my husband’s last name?

      No.

      If not, how do I go about changing my last name to his?

      Use a certified copy of your Virginia marriage certificate.

      Does it require any court order since our marriage certificate only shows my maiden name?

      You don't need a court order.

      Can I just go to SSA and have my last name changed using the marriage certificate (which shows my maiden name)?

      Yes, you can.

      Reply
  6. Maryanne Johnson

    I was married a year ago and took my husband’s last name. I’ve decided I want to hyphenate my name now to hold on to the last name my son had. I lost him tragically in 2018 and he was my only son. Will I have to petition the court to hyphenate my previous last name with my husband’s last name since I currently have his last name already? How do I go about hyphenating my name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Maryanne. I'm sorry for your loss. You would have to go to court to hyphenate your name. You must file an adult name change petition in the circuit court within your independent city or county of your residence.

      Reply
  7. Julia

    My fiancé and I are getting married in a few weeks. We want to both change our names to a completely new one. How/when do we petition the court to do this? Do we write in this new name on our marriage license?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      How/when do we petition the court to do this?

      File separate petitions at your circuit court. It can be done anytime. Before or after marriage.

      Do we write in this new name on our marriage license?

      Write your current legal name at the time you apply for a marriage license.

      Reply

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