You may decide to revert to your maiden name after your divorce, adjust your adopted child's name, or revise the spelling of your name. Whatever your reason, a name change requires filing legal documents. Before you get started, here are answers to questions you might have about the documents and process.
A Guide to Legal Name Changes
Who is eligible?
If you are a United States citizen or legal resident, you can alter your name for reasons such as divorce, adoption, a sex change, or to modify the spelling. You cannot change it to avoid debts, create confusion intentionally, or express something obscene or offensive.
What legal documents do I need?
In New York City, documentation includes a petition that is available on the New York County Civil Court website, a proposed order, and your original birth certificate. Changing a child’s name requires a special form for minors. The child must be 17 years old or younger, a New York State resident, and accompanied by a parent.
What is the process?
Once you prepare the paperwork, you can file it in any civil court. The clerk gives you a name change hearing date and when your case is called, answer the judge’s questions truthfully. If you fear the risk of harm, tell the judge. You may not have to publish your name modification and can have your record sealed. Ask the judge for free copies of the documents. If you have to publish your name change, contact the newspaper and follow their publication instructions. You receive a certificate of publication that you take back to the clerk, which completes the process.
Is there a fee?
Yes. As of 2019, the court filing fee is $210 in Supreme and County Courts, or $65 if you live in New York City and file in New York City Civil Court. Copies of the court’s order are $6. If you cannot afford the filing fee, tell the clerk. You may be eligible for free filing. Required newspaper publication fees vary based on the newspaper. When a legal document service prepares your petition they charge additional fees.
Before filing legal documents for a name change, wise petitioners turn to We The People of NY in Chelsea, Manhattan, offering 25 years of experience in document preparation services. This locally-owned business is dedicated to helping clients complete the paperwork necessary for legal proceedings, including name changes, estate planning, and divorces. Visit their website for a list of their services or call (212) 633-2200 to request an appointment.