Many people change their name when getting married, going through a divorce, or for personal reasons. But it's a significant change. We're usually given our names soon after birth, and it's recorded on our birth certificate, found on our Social Security card, and used to apply for a driver’s license. Our name is, in more ways than one, our identity. So changing our name requires some paperwork to accomplish.
This article addresses how to change your name in Washington. The Evergreen State's process is fairly laid back, though it depends on where you're at in life. We'll cover how to:
- Identify the right process for changing your name;
- Determine what paperwork to fill out and file; and
- Start using your new name.
1. Identify and Follow the Correct Washington Legal Name Change Process
It's easiest to change your name when getting married. Washington permits a spouse to change their last name when applying for a state marriage license. Simply enter your intended name when filling out the application form. Though be sure to sign it in your current, legal name. Since the application is made before the marriage, you're still legally your old self at the time. Once issued, a valid marriage certificate can be used as proof of your change of name.
Washington State gives courts the power to change your name after a divorce. Many divorcing spouses wish to resume their former last name that they had before getting married. And because the divorce process involves the courts anyway, it's straightforward to change your name back at the same time. It's pretty straightforward and the courts will add the change of name to the final divorce decree. Like the marriage certificate, the divorce decree is proof of your name change.
Petition for a Change of Name
Changing your name outside of marriage or divorce will require petitioning a court for an order granting you a change of name. Washington makes it easier than many other states, but it still takes time. You should be prepared for what lies ahead. This will likely involve:
- Filling out an application petitioning for a name change;
- Providing your reasons for seeking a change of name;
- Filing the petition in your local district court;
- Going through the legal process involved in requesting a court order changing your name.
A court will also refuse to grant a name change if it's sought for an illegal, fraudulent, or otherwise illicit purpose. There are also some special provisions for special cases. State prisoners and registered sex offenders can change their name in Washington State (this differs from many other states), but courts will consider their applicants under a different standard. The Evergreen State specifically prohibits state prisoners and sex offenders from being denied a name change when it's requested for religious or (legitimate) cultural reasons, or to reflect marriage or divorce.
Assuming all requirements are met, a court may grant a petition and issue and order changing your name. It will take a few weeks for the order to be recorded, but once that happens your new name is yours. That court order will be proof of your name change.
2. File the Appropriate Paperwork with Government Agencies
A marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order will serve as proof of your name change. But it's your identification that's generally important to your daily life. Filing the right paperwork with government agencies will get that sorted.
Your first step is to contact your local Social Security office to update your Social Security Card. Washington's Department of Licensing recommends doing this before updating your driver's license, as they'll verify the name change with the Social Security Administration first. Getting your driver license updated is the next step.
3. Start Using Your New Name
Once you've changed your name and completed all the paperwork, start using your new name. Tell your family, friends, employer, colleagues, and neighbors. And also look into changing your name with your bank, insurance providers, and others. Updating your social media profiles and email is a good idea too.
Get the Forms You Need in Washington
Whether it's due to marriage, divorce, or personal preference, a name change involves paperwork and research. Fortunately it doesn't have to be a hassle or require hiring an attorney to help you out. FindLaw's Washington name change forms can help see you through all the necessary steps.