In love in New York? Marriage is the most common time during which people change their name. But there are other times, of course. Maybe you've lost that lovin' feeling, and wish to return to a former name once the divorce goes through. You might also love New York, but just not love your name. That happens too, and people change their name simply because they wish to. All of these situations arise for residents of the Empire State. What's a New Yorker to do?
All states have a legal process for people looking to change their names. What needs to be done? How do you do it? When can you change your name? How to change your name in New York depends on your particular situation. Read on find out:
- The right process for changing your name;
- What paperwork needs to be completed; and
- How to start using your new name.
1. Identify and Follow the Correct New York Legal Name Change Process
While we have the freedom to change our name, the law needs to keep track of the changes. Going through the legal process ensures that people's new names are recorded and recognized. Here's a look at what's required in common situations.
Marriage is the easiest time to change your name. New York permits any person to change their surname (last name), while filling out a marriage certificate application. This applies to either party to a marriage. Simply write down a new name when filling out the form. You can only change your surname, however, and are limited to four options:
- You can take the other spouse's surname;
- You can take the former surname of either spouse;
- You can combine all or a segment of premarriage surnames or former surnames into a name; or
- You can combine premarriage surnames or former surnames into a hyphenated name.
Name changes become final once the marriage ceremony is performed, and the marriage certificate itself provides the record of the change of name. That's all you need.
You can change your name during divorce as part of the normal process. New York's divorce laws permit a court to change a party's surname back to a former surname. You can generally indicate as much during the divorce process, and the court handling your divorce will include the name change as part of its decree dissolving the marriage.
Petition for a Change of Name
For other situations, you'll want to go through New York's legal name change process. The process is set down in state law. You'll need to go to a local court and file a petition to assume another name. Extensive personal information must be included, such as your name, birth information, age, and residence. A birth certificate is required too. You'll also need to list:
- Any child support obligations;
- Any spousal support obligations;
- Any criminal convictions (especially violent felonies);
- Any bankruptcies;
- Any judgments or liens, or actions or proceedings pending against you.
Then, once the law is satisfied, the court can issue an order changing your name. New York requires publication of a name change before the order is finalized, however, except in limited circumstances. You will have to publish the order in a local newspaper, at least once, within sixty days. The newspaper will give you an affidavit of public to take to the clerk's office – this is your proof of publication. And when the affidavit is filed, your name change is complete.
Minors – Petition for a Name Change
Minor children can have their name changed similar to the process for adults. There are some added safeguard under the law. A parent or guardian must file the petition, and notice of the petition must be served on other parents or guardians. The court will also consider whether a name change is in the child's best interest, taking into account what the child wants, how a name change would affect the relationships with the parents, and the motives or interests of the parents. Depending on the court, the child's consent may be required.
2. File the Appropriate Paperwork with Government Agencies
You're not done once your name change is legal and final. Many essential parts of modern life require accurate identification and records, and several government agencies are involved in maintaining these documents and records. You should change your name on DMV documents, including your driver license and vehicle registration. You should also contact your local Social Security office to get your name changed on your Social Security card. There will be other records to update as well.
3. Start Using Your New Name
Once your name change is complete, start using it! Informing family, friends, employers, and other acquaintances of your name change will allow them to update emergency forms, estate planning documents, business documents, permissions, and other records. If you have an online presence such a Facebook profile or email address, you’ll want to update that as well.
Get the Forms You Need in New York
Figuring out what to do to change your name, assembling the right paperwork, and contacting government agencies can be tiring and confusing. The good news is that you don't have to do this by yourself. Fortunately, you can use our New York name change forms to do it, without paying legal fees to an attorney.