Hello, Alabama! A name change isn't necessarily a difficult legal task, but it does require some research, preparation, and paperwork. You'll need to obtain some form of legal proof of a name change, most often a certified copy of your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or a court order changing your name. Then you'll need to use that proof to obtain a new Social Security card and driver license, before updating other official documents and records.
Figuring out how to change your name in Alabama depends on which path is best for you. We'll cover:
- Identifying the right process for you;
- Filing forms with government agencies; and
- Starting to use your new name once it's changed.
1. Marriage, Divorce, and Petitioning a Court
We've been changing our last names after marriage for hundreds of years. It's a time honored tradition and easily the most frequent reason people have for changing their names. States already regulate marriage by issuing marriage licenses too, so changing your name at the same time is straightforward.
Before getting married, apply for a marriage license at your county's probate court. Fill in the application form and, if prompted, list your new name on the form. Once married, a marriage certificate will be issued to you. That marriage certificate serves as proof of a name change, so it's best to obtain a few certified copies of it.
Going Through a Divorce
Many divorcing spouses wish to return to their former, premarital name after a divorce. Since a court has to order a divorce (divvying up assets, determining child custody, and support obligations involve legal proceedings too), a party can normally ask to resume their former name and the judge will include it in the final divorce decree.
Obtaining a name change during the divorce process is easier than doing it after. You'll have to petition for a change of name later on. Alabama law also provides, perhaps uniquely, for a divorced wife to be enjoined from using her divorced husband's name.
Petitioning a Court
You can change your name for other reasons as well. Alabama permits its residents to petition their local probate court to request a name change. This is a separate legal proceeding and will be more involved. The exact requirements differ from county to county and court to court, but you should be prepared to:
- Fill out a form requesting a name change;
- Give a detailed statement of why you want your name changed;
- Submit or undergo a criminal records check;
- Prove your identity with ID and a certified copy of your birth certificate; and
- Attend a court hearing and make your case to the probate judge.
You can't change your name to escape criminal charges, lawsuits, or debts. That dog won't hunt. And it's illegal to obtain a name change for a fraudulent purpose. While Alabama doesn't expressly prohibit convicted criminals and registered sex offenders from changing their name, an individual judge might take issue with such a request. But if you have a legit reason for changing your name, it's ordinarily a routine matter.
The court will either grant or deny your request. If it's granted, you'll receive a decree confirming your change of name. Obtain certified copies for your records.
2. File the Appropriate Paperwork with Government Agencies
Marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court decree changing your name in hand, first visit your local Social Security office to update your Social Security card and information. Their database will be use by other agencies to verify your name change afterward.
Once that's done, go to an Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Driver License Office to receive a driver license reissued in your new name. A new Social Security card and driver license will allow you to update other documents and records.
3. Start Using Your New Name
While it's not a 'use it or lose it' deal, it is important to consistently use your new name. Tell family, friends, your employers, the neighbors, and others about your name change. Inform your bank, insurance company, credit card companies to be squared away. Social media and email accounts should be updated too.
Get the Forms You Need in Alabama
If you are thinking of changing your name, you've come to the right place. While changing your name can be a hassle and an attorney can prove expensive, FindLaw has simplified the process for you. Consider using our Alabama name change forms.