There are a number of reasons people change their name: marriage, divorce, adoption, escaping domestic violence, privacy/anonymity, difficulty in spelling, ethnicity, or for no other reason than they choose another. Wanting to change your name, and legally doing so, involves—no surprise—paperwork and fees.
Getting Married or Divorced
Virginia allows people to change their last name (surname) when applying for a state marriage license. Hyphenated names are also allowed. After the marriage, the valid marriage license serves as proof of name change.
In a divorce, name change can be accomplished as part of the regular divorce process. Under Virginia law, a divorce court can restore a former last name with the final divorce decree, when asked to do so. If the name being sought is not a restoration of a spouse’s former name, they can file a separate Petition for Name Change in Virginia, as provided by a statutory law separation from Virginia’s divorce statutes, and obtain a new name. The latter option may be favored in situations of domestic violence where the spouse does not want the soon-to-be ex-spouse to know the new name sought nor obtain their endorsement (or that of their attorney) on the Order of Name Change.
Petitioning a Name Change
According to Virginia Code, you may not seek a name change for fraudulent purposes, like to avoid debt or defraud creditors, or if the new name will infringe on the rights of others.
You must submit your name change to the Circuit Court in the county where you live, and must have lived in Virginia and the city or county of application for at least the past six months. Name change documents include a notarized Petition and Order that are presented to the Court. If the Judge grants your Order requesting a name change, you receive a certified copy of the Order.
Changing the Name of a Child or Ward
The Court looks at the best interest of the child when a name change is requested, and both parents (if living and not otherwise having had their legal rights terminated) must consent to the name change of a child or ward. If a parent’s location is unknown, notice through a newspaper publication, called an Order of Publication, may be used as a valid substitute for obtaining consent. If the parents fail to appear at the hearing date and time noticed in the newspaper, the Court will grant the name change so long as it finds the change to be in the child’s or ward’s best interests.
Avoid Mistakes in Name Change Documents
The Circuit Courts of Virginia and the Virginia Supreme Court website provide basic Forms that a person may use to accomplish a Name Change. However, filling out your name change forms correctly is of paramount importance. There is a format to follow, and all previous name changes (including any from marriage) must be included. Both the Petition and the Order must be signed by the petitioner and the Petition must be notarized. Any mistakes in information or formatting will delay your name change and require submission of new documents.
Places to Notify of Your New Name
When you’ve made a name change, you will want to notify the following: driver’s license, social security administration, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Passport Office, and Voter Registration. In addition, you will need to update your information on bank accounts, insurance records, medical records, utilities, legal documents, wills, etc.
Do You Need an Attorney in Order to Change Your Name?
You don’t need a lawyer to legally change your name, however, you certainly are advised to consult one to ensure that your name change documents are prepared correctly and otherwise done legally. Many law offices, including the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, PLLC, offer such services at a flat fee (rather than an hourly fee rate).
Contact Your Family Law Attorney
To discuss the legalities of changing your name, contact the family law attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, PLLC. Contact us today.