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 use that proof to obtain a new Social Security card and driver's 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 (marriage, divorce, or court petition)
- Filing forms with government agencies
- 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, 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, a party can normally ask to resume using their former name and the judge will include that name change in the final divorce decree.
Obtaining a name change during your divorce proceeding is easier than changing your name post-divorce. You'll have to petition for a change of name if you didn't request the name change during your divorce process.
Petitioning a Court
You can change your name for other reasons as well, including as part of a gender transition process. Alabama permits 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 name change form (Form PS-12) and get it notarized by a notary
- Give a detailed statement of why you want your name changed
- Submit or undergo a criminal records check (a background check)
- Provide identification and a certified copy of your birth certificate
- Pay a filing fee when you submit your name change petition
- Attend a court hearing to present your case to a judge of probate
You can't change your name to escape criminal charges, lawsuits, or debts. It's also 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 names, an individual judge might take issue with such a request.
You should also be aware that you'll need to have lived in the state and county in which you're filing your name change petition for at least one year. Your will need to provide proof of residency. If you're a minor child (below 19 years of age), you'll need the help of your parents, too.
The court will either grant or deny your request. If it's granted, you'll receive a decree confirming your change of name. You'll want to obtain at least a few certified copies to submit to other agencies that will need to change your name as well.
2. File the Appropriate Paperwork With Government Agencies
With your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court decree in hand, visit your local Social Security office to update your Social Security card and information. The Social Security Administration's (SSA's) database will be used by other agencies to verify your name change.
Once that's done, go to an Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Driver License Office to receive a driver's license reissued in your new name. A new Social Security card and driver's license will allow you to update other documents and records, such as voter registration.
3. Start Using Your New Name
Tell family, friends, employers, neighbors, and others about your name change. Inform your bank, credit card companies, and insurance companies, too. Update your social media and email accounts.
Want To Change Your Name on Your Birth Certificate?
If you're changing your name as part of a gender transition process, you might also want to change your name on your birth certificate. In that case, you'll need to complete an application to change a birth or death certificate.
The Center for Health Statistics operates the vital records system in Alabama and will issue an "amended" birth certificate noting your legal name change, but won't issue a new certificate replacing the original.
Still Have Questions? Get Legal Support in Alabama
If you still have questions or would like help from a local attorney experienced in the name change process, you can find an attorney through FindLaw's directory.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.