While name changes involve going through the legal system, when it comes down to it, they are fairly routine legal tasks. Hawkeye State residents can change their name when getting married, divorced, or when petitioning a court for name change decree (court order). Most people don't need an attorney to change their names (although it can be a good idea) and most name changes are granted (although there are special circumstances).
Here, we'll talk about how to change your name in Iowa, including:
- Figuring out what option is best for you;
- Determining what paperwork should be filed and where; and
- What to do after legally changing your name.
1. Legally Change Your Name in Iowa
Marriage, divorce, and court petitions are the three ways to change your name in Iowa. While the processes differ (see below), each results in an official document proving that your name has been changed. This is important, as official documentation will be required to update your Social Security card, driver's license, and other records.
Most name changes occur because of marriage. While there is no law requiring it, and differing views on the merits of it, many women change their names when getting married. Iowa makes doing so relatively hassle free.
Hawkeye State law permits spouses to change their names when getting a marriage certificate. This is true for either spouse, and is automatic once a marriage certificate is issued. Simply fill in the desired name when applying for a marriage certificate. Once issued, your valid marriage certificate can serve as proof of your name change.
It's also common to change your name when getting divorced. Let's face it – when splitting with your former spouse, splitting with their surname is a natural choice as well. While the divorce process can be hard, painful, emotional, and long, changing your name can be accomplished at this time with little extra hassle.
Iowa allows a divorcing party to request a name change as part of securing a divorce decree or an annulment. There are limits, however. You can only change your name back to what it was immediately before the marriage or back to your birth (maiden) name. Changing your name in any other way requires going through the petition process.
Petition for a Change of Name
All states, Iowa included, allow residents to change their name by petitioning a court. Reasons for doing so vary widely. Some people have never liked their name and change it as soon as they become adults. Parents may change their name to match that of children, spouse, or significant other. Others may change their names for privacy or safety reasons.
Iowa allows any adult to apply for a name change with their local district court. Verified petitions must contain the following:
- Personal information, including current name and physical characteristics;
- Current and previous residences;
- Reason for seeking a name change;
- Description of all real property you own in Iowa; and
- Proposed name.
You'll need to submit a certified copy of a birth certificate with the petition. Iowa's notice requirement for a name change is limited to a petitioner's spouse or parent of a child under 14. A court must wait for 30 days after filing a petition to change your name as well. Fees and costs are to be expected.
If the court grants your name change application, you'll receive a certified copy of the court's decree. This is the official proof of your name change and should be kept for your records.
2. File the Appropriate Paperwork with Government Agencies
Your marriage license, divorce decree, or court decree will legally change your name. But that's not the end of the road. The next step is to visit your local Social Security office to update your information and receive a new Social Security card. You can then visit the Iowa MVD to change your driver's license or identification card. Use your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or name change decree to do so.
3. Start Using Your New Name
Once your name has been changed, start using it! Tell family, friends, employers, acquaintances, and others that your name has changed. Update your voter registration, inform banks and creditors, write to other government agencies, and inform schools, churches, and other organizations as well. It's important to be open and obvious about a name change.
Get the Forms You Need in Iowa
Changing your name doesn't have to be difficult and often doesn't require hiring an attorney. But the paperwork can make your head spin. Consider using our Iowa name change forms to get yourself squared away.