Missouri allows you to change your name when getting married, or divorced, and through petitioning a court for a change of name order. Each process differs a bit, so figuring out how to change your name in Missouri depends on your situation. We'll show you how to:
- Identify the right process for you
- Figure out what paperwork should be filed
- Start using your new name
A name change is a serious endeavor. You can't change your name to escape obligations and debts, such as spousal and child support, judgments against you, or creditors. Any illegal or fraudulent purpose behind changing names is also not permitted. And the court does have some discretion, so it's not automatic.
Learn more about the name change process in Missouri below.
1. Identify and Follow the Correct Missouri Legal Name Change Process
Marriage and divorce are the two most common situations where someone changes their name. But many people, including those who are trans or nonbinary, may wish to change their name for other reasons. This can be done by a petition to your local courts.
Statistically speaking, most name changes occur when you get married. A large majority of women still take their husbands' last names. Other arrangements are made too, such as hyphenating last names, or same-sex spouses taking the other's name.
Because changing last names after marriage is so common, it's also pretty easy. You can change your name when applying for a Missouri marriage license. When filling out the application form, list your new last name along with your birth name. Once it's official, the certified marriage certificate is proof of a name change.
Sometimes "together" doesn't turn out to be "forever." It's common for people who changed their last name to get married to go back to their former name after divorce.
While Missouri's divorce process can be lengthy, going back to your former name is not. When filing the petition for divorce or responding to it, you can ask the court to change your name back to a former name. Assuming there are no larger issues, this happens routinely, and the court will include the name change in the final decree of divorce.
Petition for Change of Name
Whether you are changing your name as part of a gender transition, looking for a fresh start by changing your current name or seeking a name change for any reason, Missouri law permits anyone to change their name via petition.
While this is a fairly routine legal task, it's more complex than the marriage license and divorce route we just covered. You will have to:
- Fill out an application form and include details of why you want to change your name and whether you are making the name change in good faith and not to defraud creditors
- Verify the petition by writing an affidavit and sign the petition under oath before a notary
- File the petition in the circuit court of the county you live in along with a filing fee (varies by court)
Missouri generally doesn't require a court hearing for a name change petition, but make sure you check with the court clerk just in case you receive a hearing date. A judge will then consider your petition and, if satisfied that the desired name change is proper, will issue a judgment changing your name.
After receiving your judgment, you'll have to publish notice of the name change in a local newspaper in your county for three consecutive weeks (at least once a week). Make sure you file proof of notice in the Office of the Clerk or Court Administrator's Office within 10 days after the date of the last publication. Once proof of publication is filed with the court, it will issue a certified copy of the order or judgment. That's the legal proof of name change you need.
Name Change for Minor in Missouri
The process of changing a child's name is similar to an adult's name change by petition. But there are a few additional steps:
- Both known parents must provide written, notarized consent
- A separate petition is filed to appoint one parent as the child's “next friend," meaning they can speak for them in court
If the minor child is at least 14 years old, they must consent to the name change and to the appointment of their next friend. If one parent objects to the minor's name change or is not around to give their consent, this “non-consenting parent" must be served with a copy of the petition and provided with the hearing date.
2. File the Appropriate Paperwork with Government Agencies
Your certified marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order is proof of your name change. Next, you'll want to notify a few important agencies:
3. Start Using Your New Name
Most states' primary concern in name changes is to prevent fraud. You should start using your new name once it's changed and keep using it consistently. Let family, friends, and neighbors know. Inform your employer, bank, and insurance providers too. Update your email and social media profiles as necessary.
Changing Your Name in Missouri
Changing your name might seem like a complicated process. The good news is, many people can file a name change request on their own. If you encounter any challenges, a local family law attorney can help you navigate them.