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How to Change Your Name in Virginia

Changing your name involves going through some sort of legal process. The steps and complexity vary depending on the state and the situation – for example, it's easier to change your name when getting married than it is to change your name simply because you want to and you can. How to change your name in Virginia is the subject of this article, so read on to find out:

  1. The best legal process for changing your name;
  2. What paperwork needs to be filed with government agencies; and
  3. How to start using your new name.


1. Identify and Follow the Correct Virginia Legal Name Change Process

Getting Married

Virginia is for lovers. So what happens when you decide to tie the knot and change your name in the Old Dominion? People change their name after marriage all the time, and it happens to be the easiest time to do so.

Like most states, Virginia allows people to change their last name (surname) when applying for a state marriage license. You'll need to list your maiden, birth, or former last name on the application and indicate what name you want to take after the marriage is performed. Most commonly, a spouse takes another spouse's last name. But 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. Use it to update your identifications and important documents.

Filing for Divorce

What if 'together forever' turns out to be not quite so forever after all? Many divorces are drawn-out and, well, not so pleasant experiences. It's not uncommon to want to ditch your ex's last name. Fortunately, 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 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 here to restoring a former name (such as a maiden name) that was changed because of the marriage at issue. The divorce decree is the proof of a legal name change.

Petitioning a Court

For other situations, there's a special court process. Any person can apply for a change of name in the Cavalier State 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 under oath;
  • Sign an notarize the petition;
  • Fill out the application form;
  • List their parents' names, current name, any former name, and similar information; and
  • List any felony convictions.

Virginia courts do not necessarily require a hearing before granting a change of name (the main exception is for when one parent object's to another parent's petition to change a minor child's name). And 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.

You cannot change your name for any fraudulent purpose. Or if doing so would 'infringe upon the rights of others.' If a child's name change is sought, the court will also determine whether the change is in the best interest of the child. And while felons and registered sex offenders can change their name through the petitioning process, there are added safeguards in the law and notice must be sent off to law enforcement.

Once a court is satisfied that the legal requirements are met, it can issue a court order changing your name.

2. 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. It's important to contact the Virginia DMV to update your driver license, in order to have a valid identification in your new name. And be sure to contact a local Social Security office in order to update your Social Security card. These are the two most important documents to update after a name change. Voter registration, utility bills, and bank accounts should be updated too.

3. Start Using Your New Name

A change of name shouldn't be kept a 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, your employer, and other people you know. Updating email, social media accounts, and public profiles are smart moves as well.

Get the Forms You Need in Virginia

Changing your name involves the law. But you don't need to let legal-speak, paperwork, and the high cost of an attorney stop you from getting the name you want. Use our Virginia name change forms to speed you on your way.

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