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How to Change Your Name in Colorado

We're given our names at birth, and they're scattered throughout every part of our lives. People know and refer to us by our names. We sign legal documents in our name. Government offices issue birth certificates, driver's licenses, and Social Security cards in our name. Banks and businesses provide bank accounts, credit cards, and loans in our name. People even sue us in our name. So, as you might imagine, when it's time to change your name, there's some work to do.

How to make an adult name change in Colorado mostly depends on your situation. We'll cover the most frequent adult name changes here, including how to:

  1. Identify the right process for you
  2. Figure out the paperwork that needs to be filed
  3. Use your new name after it's changed

So whether you're getting married in Denver, divorced in Aspen, or making a statement in Boulder, read on to find out how to change your name in Colorado.

1. Identify and Follow the Correct Colorado Legal Name Change Process

Colorado law allows you to change your name in many different circumstances. As you might imagine, the most common name change process happens after marriage or divorce. However, there is also a general name change petition anyone can use to change their legal name. 

Marriage

Marriage is the most common time and reason for name changes. Couples take one spouse's name, hyphenate or combine their names, or otherwise modify their names. A marriage name change is an old tradition, and the law recognizes this reality.

A Colorado marriage license serves as proof of a marital name change. Fill out the marriage license and certificate in your existing pre-marriage name. Colorado gives you the option to sign the certificate in your new name once the marriage is finalized. Once the ceremony is performed, your marriage license can be used to update other documents.

Divorce

Many separating or divorcing spouses want to shed their marital name. But there are other considerations that can cloud the question. Parents may wish to keep the same last name as their children. Or you might decide to stick with your name, only to regret that decision down the road.

The Centennial State allows a divorcing party to change their name back after divorce or separation. You can request this as part of a normal divorce filing, and a court will generally grant this request. You can also restore your previous name after the divorce is final too, so there's no rush if you're still uncertain.

Petition for Change of Name

You can also file a petition for a change of name in court if you're changing your name as part of a gender transition, you want a fresh start, or for any alternate reason other than marriage and divorce. This is a more extensive process.

Petitioning for a name change generally involves:

  • A fingerprint-based background check from both the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) within 90 days prior to filing your petition
  • Filling out a JDF 433 Petition and filing it with either a county court or district court accompanied by a filing fee ($88 for county court; $238 for district court)
  • Verifying the petition by affidavit
  • Laying out the reasons for seeking a name change
  • Submitting a criminal history check, at your expense, to the court and disclosing any additional criminal dispositions
  • Publishing a public notice of your petition in a local newspaper at least three times within 21 days and filing proof of publication with the court (This requirement can be waived if you are changing your name to conform with your gender identity or you are a victim of child or domestic abuse)
  • Possibly attending a court hearing where the court will consider your petition

Colorado is keen to prevent fraud, identity theft, and other issues that may arise from a name change. Petitions can be denied if the name change would be detrimental to anyone else, is made for a fraudulent or illegal purpose, or would be improper in the eyes of the judge. Convicted felons face a higher mountain to climb and are ordinarily prohibited from changing their names, though there are some narrow exceptions.

If satisfied, the court can grant your petition and issue a final decree changing your name. Get certified copies of that legal name change order ($20 each), as they'll be necessary to update your government papers.

2. File the Appropriate Paperwork with Government Agencies

Marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order in hand, your next stop is the local Social Security Administration office. File an application for a name change with copies of your legal name change order and unexpired ID card to get your new Social Security card reissued in your new name. Your Social Security Number (SSN) will remain the same.

Then, visit the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get a new driver's license. If applicable, you can also change the gender marker on your Colorado driver's license. On the change of sex designation form, you can choose "M" (male), "F" (female), or "X" for those who do not identify as male or female. Colorado does not require a letter from a doctor to change your gender marker. 

If you were born in Colorado, you can also get your birth certificate updated at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment by providing them with a copy of your legal name change order, the birth certificate correction form, and a $20 fee.

You'll also want to update your voter registration. This just means filling out a voter registration form with the Colorado State Department of Elections using your new name. There will be a place to indicate your previous name.

Your last stop will be the State Department to change your name on your U.S. Passport by filing an application with your most recent U.S. Passport, a copy of your legal name change documents, a passport photo, and a fee (which varies depending on your age). These updated documents will allow you to prove you are who you now say you are.

3. Start Using Your New Name

Using your new name is important. Tell your family, friends, employer, colleagues, neighbors, and other contacts that your name has changed. Contact your bank, insurance company, creditors, and similar parties as well, and update your email accounts and social media with your new name.

Get the Forms You Need in Colorado

While a name change is ordinarily a routine legal process, figuring out the paperwork can be confusing. If you have questions or need legal advice regarding changing your name, consult with an attorney in your area.

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