Changing your name involves going through a legal process that could be as simple as updating your name on your marriage license application or as involved as filing a name change petition with your district court.
The steps and complexity vary depending on the state and the situation – for example, it's easier to change your full name when getting married than it is to change your name simply because you want to and can.
Interested in learning how to complete a name change in Virginia? This article covers the following:
- The legal process for changing your name
- What paperwork needs to be filed with government agencies and your county circuit court clerk's office
- How to start using your new name
Identify and Follow the Correct Virginia Legal Name Change Process: Marriage and Divorce
The name change process will be different for various stages in your life.
Name Changes When Getting Married
Virginia is for lovers, after all. So what happens when you decide to tie the knot and change your name at the same time?
People change their names after marriage all the time, which is the easiest time to do so.
Like most states, the Commonwealth of Virginia allows people to change their last name (surname) when applying for a state marriage license.
You'll need to:
- List one of the following new last names on your application: maiden, birth, or former last name
- Indicate what name you want to take after the marriage is performed
- File the application along with a filing fee
Note: Most commonly, a spouse takes another spouse's last name. A hyphenated last name or some combination of last names is possible too.
After the marriage is performed, the valid marriage license serves as proof of a name change. Marriage licenses are issued by the Circuit Court Clerk.
You will want a Certified Copy of your marriage license and marriage certificate to use as proof of the name change.
These documents are needed to update your identifications (driver's license, social security card, and even birth certificate if you choose to do so) and important documents like vehicle registration and car title.
Name Changes When Filing for Divorce
Changing your name due to divorce can be accomplished as part of the Commonwealth's regular divorce process.
Under Virginia law, a court handling a divorce can restore a former last name when it issues the final divorce decree (in other words, the final order).
You'll have to ask the court to do this, and the law limits a last name change at this stage. The only option is restoring a former name (such as a maiden name) changed because of this marriage. The divorce decree is proof of a legal name change.
Other Name Change Situations: Petitioning a Court
There's a special court process for other situations outside of divorce or marriage.
Adult Name Changes
Any person can apply for a change of name in Virginia by filing a petition with the local circuit court of their county or city. This petition can be a process.
Applicants have to:
- Make an application for a change of name under oath
- Sign and notarize the petition in front of a notary public
- Complete the application form
- List their parents' names, current names, any former names, and similar information
- List any felony convictions
You cannot change your name for any fraudulent purpose. Or if doing so would 'infringe upon the rights of others.'
Additionally, while felons and registered sex offenders can change their names through the petitioning process, the law has added safeguards. A notice must be sent to law enforcement.
Minor Name Changes
An adult can seek a child's name change. The court will also determine whether the change is in the best interest of the child.
Virginia courts do not necessarily require a hearing before granting a change of name. The main exception is when one parent objects to another parent's petition to change a minor child's name.
The publication of a name change is only required when service on an out-of-state parent can't be accomplished due to an unknown address.
Once a court is satisfied that the legal requirements are met, it can issue a court order changing your name.
File the Appropriate Paperwork With Government Agencies
A marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order changing your name suffices under Virginia law.
But you're not done yet. You need to let other organizations know about the name change.
Social Security Administration
Be sure to contact a local Social Security Administration (SSA) office to update your Social Security card.
Depending on your situation, you will likely need to visit your local SSA office in person to complete the name change process.
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
It's important to contact the Virginia DMV to update your driver's license to have valid identification in your new name.
The process can be started online. First, you must complete a Driver's License and Identification Card Application requesting the name change.
The rest of the process must be completed in person at a DMV location. Make sure to bring a copy of your documentation. This is the proof of the name change (such as your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or name change order).
Your Social Security card and driver's license are the two most important documents to update after a name change. Voter registration, utility bills, and bank accounts should be updated too.
Final Step: Start Using Your New Name
A change of name shouldn't be kept secret. The law cares about preventing fraud, and it'll be easier if you let people know about your name change once it's finalized.
Be sure to tell family, friends, employers, and others you know. Updating email, social media accounts, and public profiles are also smart moves.
Get the Forms You Need in Virginia
Changing your name involves the law. But you don't need to let legal terms, paperwork, and the high cost of an attorney stop you from getting the name you want.
FindLaw's Virginia name change forms can assist you in changing your name. If you do need legal advice, consult FindLaw's Attorney Directory for an attorney near you.