Your name is your own. It's given to you, follows you around, and appears on everything from your driver’s license to your credit card. So if you ever decide to change your name, there's some paperwork to be done. How to change your name in Tennessee depends on why you're changing it and when. This article discusses how to:
- Identify the right process for you;
- Figure out what paperwork should be filed; and
- Start using your new name.
So whether you're getting married in Memphis, or just want to change your name in Chattanooga, we've got you covered.
1. Identify and Follow the Correct Tennessee Legal Name Change Process
Most name changes are made upon marriage. The vast majority of women take their husband's last name, in the neighborhood of 90%. This isn't required though, at least not anymore. But because it happens so frequently, states allow marrying couples to change their last names easily and with some flexibility.
Tennessee allows marrying couples to change their last names when applying for a marriage license. Fill out the marriage license application form using your new name, and following the ceremony your marriage certificate will be issued. Hold onto it, as the certificate can be used as proof of the name change.
When a marriage doesn't work out, the divorce is often long and drawn-out. For changing your name back though, the good news is that the same court handling the divorce can handle the name change too. Make sure to request a name change when filing for divorce and ensure that the court includes the change of name in the final decree of divorce. A copy of the divorce decree will be necessary to change your name on your Social Security card and driver's license.
Petition for a Change of Name
For all other situations, you'll have to go to court. Tennessee law gives residents the option to change their name by petitioning a court. You can expect to:
- Fill out and file an application form;
- Verify the application with an affidavit;
- Provide a copy of your birth certificate;
- Show you Social Security Card;
- Show photo ID;
- Prove that you’re a resident in the county where the court sits; and
- Pay a fee.
You'll have to provide reasons for changing your name on the application. Once filed, expect to receive a hearing date and have to show up to court and appear before a judge when your case is called.
Remember, a name change in Tennessee is not automatic. State law prevents the court from granting a petition if it has reason to believe the petition is intended to defraud, mislead, made in bad faith, will cause injury to an individual, or will compromise public safety. Convicted felons face a higher standard and murderers and registered sex offenders are outright banned from changing their name under state law.
Receiving the Court Order
If the court grants your name change petition, then it will order the name change by entry of record, and a court order to that effect will (eventually) be given to you. Keep it, because you'll need the original to change your driver's license in Tennessee.
2. File the Appropriate Paperwork with Government Agencies
A marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order legally changed your name. But you're not going to go carrying it around to prove you are who you say you are, are you?
Contact your local Social Security office first. Updating the name on your Social Security card will give you an identifying document in your new name, and remember to have that proof of name change handy. Next, get in touch with the Driver Services Division to change your name on your driver license. You will also want to update your name on your voter registration.
3. Start Using Your New Name
Once your new name is all yours, make sure you use it. Family, friends, neighbors, and your employer should be informed right away. You'll probably want to update your bank and anyone you owe money to as well. Don't forget to update your email and social media accounts either.
Get the Forms You Need in Tennessee
Changing your name is a fairly routine legal task, but the preparation and paperwork involved can be time-consuming and confusing. Skip the hassle and the mint of money needed to hire an attorney by using our Tennessee name change forms.