How to Change Your Name in Texas
Many people have questions about changing their name. Often these will come up during marriage or after a divorce. Other times people simply want to make a change, whether to break with their past or, well, simply because they can and decide they want to. Whatever your reason, you should know that the law requires some steps to formally square away a name change. Learn how to change your name in Texas – during a marriage, divorce, or otherwise – here. We'll cover:
- learning what Texas law requires and how to follow the legal name change process;
- how to sort out the necessary paperwork; and
- when to start using your name.
Keep reading for resources on getting 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 name is well known to the law. Starting with your birth certificate, it's collected and documented throughout your life. Social Security card, school enrollments, driver license, financial aid applications, and any legal proceedings require it. Changing your name accordingly involves a legal process. Which one is right for you depends on your situation.
The Lone Star state allows people to change their name 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, simply by taking a new name and listing a previous name when filling out the application form at the county clerk's office. Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in April 2015, same-sex couples can marry in Texas and nationwide. For the time being, you might find some older references still on the books in Texas law and some legal papers.
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 (and you may have to specifically request it). You should know that 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.
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 a process, and involves supplying the court with the relevant information in order to receive an order granting a change of name request. For most people, your name change will be granted if the court finds it "in the interest or to the benefit of the petitioner" 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.
Minor children must go through a similar route (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 ten 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. Convicted felons and registered sex offenders (understandably) face higher hurdles. This includes a court having more discretion to grant or deny a name change request, supplying more documentation and information before applying, and registering a 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 attempts to change a name for illegal purposes also, such as:
- To avoid judgments
- To avoid legal action
- To avoid debts and obligations
- To defraud any person or entity
2. File the Appropriate Paperwork with Government Agencies
When the law is satisfied, make sure your name change is reflected where it matters. You should:
- Contact the Texas DMV to change the name on your driver license and vehicle registration;
- Update your voter registration information with the Texas Secretary of State's Office; and
- Contact the Social Security Administration to get your name change on your Social Security card.
3. Start Using Your New Name
Once you're set, 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, banks their financial records, and employers their business documents. And it's generally a good idea anyway. 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. Fortunately, you can use our Texas name change forms for whatever's required. These forms should permit you to change your name, on your own, without needing to pay for a lawyer.
Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney
Contact a qualified attorney.