How to Change Your Name in Michigan

Your name belongs to you. It's something we're born into, grow up with, and carry through life – uniquely personal to us and the people around us. It's also written on our birth certificate, printed on our driver's license, and found on everything from Social Security cards to email accounts. So what happens when it's time for Michiganders to change our name, whether for marriage, after divorce, or other reasons? How do you change your name in Michigan?

This article provides answers. What to do depends on when and why you're changing your name. We'll cover how to

  1. Identify the right process for you;
  2. Figure out what paperwork should be filed; and
  3. Start using your new name once it's changed.

 

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

Most commonly, people change their name when getting married. It's also fairly frequent for a divorcing spouse to change their name too, either back to a former last name or otherwise. States regulate marriage and handle divorces, making name changes for these reasons relatively routine. For other name changes, a court petition asking for a change of name is your best option.

Marriage

You can change your name when getting married. People have been taking their spouse's name for hundreds of years, so making the process painless happened some time ago. Like most places, the Great Lakes State permits marrying folk to take a new name by filling out a marriage certificate application. When you've officially tied the knot (and finished the paperwork), a marriage certificate serves as proof of a name change. Get some copies and use them to update your official documents and records.

Divorce

When it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. Divorce is a long, drawn out process involving divvying up marital property and agreeing to child custody. So what happens to your marital name?

Michigan law allows a court to change a woman's last name as during the regular divorce process. There are some limitations, however. A last name can be either:

  • Restored to a birth name;
  • Restored to the last name held prior to the marriage being dissolved; or
  • Another last name, so long as the change is not sought with any 'fraudulent or evil intent.'

Petition for a Change of Name -- Adults

All other name changes generally require a court process. In Michigan, residents can petition the family division of their local county circuit court for a change of name order.

This can be a lengthy process. You will be required to:

  • Fill out and file a petition with the court;
  • Give sufficient reasons for why you want to change your name;
  • Submit fingerprints for a state and federal criminal records search;
  • Publish notice of a name change as directed by the court (some exceptions apply); and
  • Attend a court hearing.

You can't change your name for any fraudulent or illegal purpose. Avoiding credit card companies, loans, court judgments against you, child support obligations, and similar obligations won't work. Michigan requires all name change petitioner to prove that there's no fraudulent intent behind their petition. Wolverine State law further defines intentionally including a false statement within a petition as perjury. People with criminal convictions can legally change their name in Michigan, but should expect higher hurdles to convincing a court to grant their petition.

Petitioner for a Name Change -- Children

The petition process also works for changing a child's name. A parent can file a petition on behalf of his or her minor children, provided that they have legal custody. The consent of, or at least notice to, the other parents is normally required (there are exceptions for parents who are delinquent in child support payments or have specified criminal convictions). Michigan also gives a voice to the child. A minor who is fourteen years of age or older must give their written consent; a minor younger than fourteen can express a preference which the court is required to consider.

2. File the Appropriate Paperwork with Government Agencies

Marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court ordered name change in hand; your name is legally changed. But you're not out of the woods quite yet. A name change should be reflected on your identification and official documents. Go through the Michigan Secretary of State's Office to update your driver's license and state ID. You'll also want to contact your local Social Security office to update your Social Security card.

3. Start Using Your New Name

You'll want to start using your new name once it's changed. Michigan's main concern about name changes in general is about preventing fraud, so you should consistently use your new name. It's also wise to tell family, friends, your employer, neighbors, and other people you know that you've changed names. This will allow them to update their records and documents, and generally make life easier for you. Don't forget to update your email and social media accounts as well.

Get the Forms You Need in Michigan

Sound complicated and time consuming? Changing your name is an important decision and should be done right the first time. Check out our Michigan name change forms, specifically designed to make the process hassle free and convenient. Best of all, you don't even need an attorney to use them.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.