Ready to change your name in the Sunshine State? It's not uncommon and many people do. Maybe you're getting married. Perhaps you're going through a divorce and feel it's time to take back your former name. Or maybe you just want to change it – because you need to, because you've always wanted to, or just because you've taken a shine to something new. Whatever the reason, there's a legal process to go through. We've got you covered, though. Here you can learn how to change your name in Florida, including:
- When and how to change your name;
- What paperwork needs to be completed; and
- How to start using your new name.
1. Identify and Follow the Correct Florida Legal Name Change Process
Your name is your name by law. We start out with it on our birth certificate, registered with the state. Then use it on our Social Security cards, school enrollment and application forms, driver's license, voting registration, and countless other documents during our lifetime. Some of these touch the law more closely than others. Our name appears on traffic tickets, on bills, in lawsuits, and on credit cards as well. So when we change our name, there's some legal paperwork to do.
Marriage is the most common time to change your name. Accordingly it's the easiest to accomplish. Florida allows people to change their name on their marriage license application form. While the forms differ by locality, you can generally just fill in your new name and list your former name on the form. A county clerk will issue a license after the normal Florida marriage license process is completed. And that license is all the legal hoops you'll need to jump through. It can be used to change your name on your driver's license, Social Security card, and other documents (more on that below).
You can also change your name during the course of divorce proceedings. Florida courts will permit a divorcing spouse to change their name back to a former name. This can be done at little or no additional cost by informing the court of a desire to do so. You can generally indicate your request on divorce paperwork, and a change of name will become effective once the decree of divorce becomes finalized. It's best to try and change a name back before the divorce goes through, or else you may have to file a separate petition for a change of name.
Petition for a Name Change
All name changes outside of marriage or divorce require petitioning a court. This is a separate legal proceeding and can require significant preparation. Florida's name change law requires all petitioners undergo a criminal history check. Once completed, a petition to change your name will need to contain the following:
- Proof of residency in the county where you file your petition;
- Date and place of birth;
- Father's name;
- Mother's maiden name;
- Previous residences;
- Any previous name changes;
- Occupation, place of employment, and previous places of employment;
- Any previous bankruptcies;
- Any previous arrests, criminal charges, and convictions;
- Any court judgments against you; and
- That there are no ulterior or illegal purposes behind the petition.
Child name changes involve some extra steps. Florida permits a family to change its name in one proceeding – parents and minor children altogether. A petition must contain the same information mentioned above for the parents and the court can change minor children's names at its discretion. When a single parent files a petition to change a child's name, then the other parent must be notified.
2. File the Appropriate Paperwork with Government Agencies
Once the law changes your name there's still more to be done. You'll find it difficult to prove you are who you say you are if your driver's license lists your old name. So be sure to contact the Florida DMV. Don't forget your Social Security card will need to be changed as well, so contact your local Social Security office. Voter registration may need to be updated and other government agencies will want to adjust their records as well. Contacting them is an important step to take.
3. Start Using Your New Name
When everything is done, start using your new name! A name change is a major event, so be sure to tell:
- Business contacts
- Social acquaintances
You'll also want to update online profiles, social media accounts (unless you use a handle or nickname), any email accounts.
Get the Forms You Need in Florida
Assembling the necessary paperwork, going to court, and filing the required documents with government agencies can be time-consuming and stressful. You'll want to do it right the first time. Fortunately, you can use our Florida name change forms to get you through it all. These forms should permit you to change your name without needing to hire an attorney.