People in Texas change their legal names for numerous reasons. Maybe you recently got married or divorced, you want your name to match your child's name, or perhaps your legal name doesn't align with your personal identity. Having a legal name that matches how you identify and how others know you not only helps avoid confusing situations but can also be a deeply personal and affirming experience. Common questions people ask about name changes often include things like:
- “Do I need a court order to change my name?"
- “Can I change my first name and last name at the same time?"
- “What if I am getting married and only want to change my last name?"
- “Do I need to hire a lawyer to change my name?"
- “What do I do after I've changed my name?"
Whatever your reason for wanting to change part or all of your name, you should know that Texas law requires some steps to formally complete a name change. Below, we'll cover:
- What Texas law requires and how to follow the legal name change process.
- How to update government agencies.
- When and how to start using your new name.
Keep reading for resources on how to get the ball rolling on changing your name in Texas, from El Paso to Houston, Amarillo to Laredo, and every place in between.
1. Identify and Follow the Correct Texas Legal Name Change Process
Your legal name is well known to the law. Starting with your birth certificate, your name is collected and documented throughout your life. Social Security cards, school enrollments, driver's licenses, credit cards, and financial aid applications all require your legal name. Changing your name accordingly involves a legal process. Which process is right for you depends on your situation.
Name Change During Marriage
The Lone Star state allows people to change their names when getting married. This is certainly the easiest way to go.
Filling out and applying for a valid marriage certificate allows a person to change their name at the same time. This is done by taking a new name and listing a previous name on the application form at the county clerk's office.
Note, however, that this process usually only covers a change of last name. Changing more than just your last name, such as changing your first or middle name at the same time, usually requires more than simply applying for a marriage license and getting married.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in April 2015, same-sex couples can marry in Texas and nationwide. They follow the same marriage name change process as heterosexual couples.
Name Change After Divorce
Texas law permits a person to change their name during the divorce process. Generally speaking, this will be granted if a party to the divorce suit requests it. You may have to specifically request the name change and may also need to provide a certified copy of your divorce decree.
A court can deny a change of name during divorce, but it must supply a reason for doing so. The law also prohibits a judge from denying your change of name request simply to keep the names of family members the same.
Once changed, a divorcee can apply for a change of name certificate at the county clerk's office. Just like when someone gets married, this procedure is not the standard for changing a legal first name and usually only applies to last names.
Name Changes Outside of Marriage and Divorce
More is required to change a name outside of marriage or divorce. You'll have to go to court and petition for a change of name. This can be quite an intimidating process. It involves supplying the court with the relevant information in order to receive an order granting a change of name request.
For most adults, your name change will be granted if the court finds it "in the interest or to the benefit of the petitioner" (that's you!) and "in the interest of the public," which is legal jargon for if it seems like a good idea. There's no newspaper publication requirement in Texas for name changes, but you will most likely need to pay a small filing fee, get your fingerprints taken, and undergo a background check.
Name Changes for Children
Minor children under 18 years of age must go through a similar route to change their legal name (except in cases of adoption). A parent or guardian must file the petition containing essentially the same information as for an adult's name change.
Children 10 years of age or older must consent in writing, and another parent or guardian must be notified of the action.
A court will change a minor's name if it determines doing so is in the best interest of the child.
Special Cases and Tips
Some name-change petitions aren't as straightforward. People convicted of felonies registered as sex offenders face higher hurdles. These include:
- Courts have more discretion to grant or deny a name change request.
- More documentation may be required as part of your application.
- You will need to register your name change with law enforcement agencies.
Changing a name also won't affect legal obligations or rights – you won't be able to disappear in the eyes of the law. Courts will punish any attempts to change a name for illegal purposes, such as:
- To avoid judgments
- To avoid legal action
- To avoid debts and obligations
- To defraud any person or entity
2. Update Government Agencies and Other Important Parties
When the law is satisfied, make sure your name change is reflected where it matters. You should:
Although not government agencies, you'll also want to make sure to provide notice and documentation of your new legal name with to any banks, credit card or loan companies, landlord, cell phone provider, and anyone else who you routinely conduct business with. As a general rule of thumb, if you get a monthly bill from someone, they probably need to know about your new legal name.
3. Start Using Your New Name
Once you're all set with a new name, make sure you start using it! It's important to let family, friends, professional and social contacts know about a name change. Family might want to update their wills, employers their business documents, etc.
It's generally a good idea to have your name consistent across different documents and areas - you might be surprised how often identity can become a legal issue in court proceedings.
Get the Forms You Need in Texas
A name change is a major event. Assembling the necessary paperwork, going to court, and filing the necessary documents with government agencies can be time-consuming and stressful. You can use Texas name change forms to get started. These forms should permit you to change your name, on your own, without needing to pay for a lawyer.
If you need assistance or are unsure about any part of the process, a family lawyer in your area can help.