What’s In A Name?

Have you ever felt that you were more of a Lola then a Susan? Do you look more like a Prada Jones rather than a Julie Jones?

Everyone has thought of swapping their name at least once. Maybe twice if you are Prince. Here are the how-tos of a change de nom.

In most states you can change your name by simply telling your friends and work associates that you would rather be called Beulah than Joan. This is called changing your name by usage. However, if you need a more official sanction of your new name, you will probably need to show the name on a driver’s license or social security card. To get your name changed on these documents will require presentation of either a court order or a marriage certificate.

Name Change By Court Order

As long as you are not seeking a name change to avoid the IRS, a name change by court order is not as difficultto obtain as it sounds.

Paperwork for name changes by court order can be found on most county court Web sites. After completing and filing the proper forms with the court, a hearing date is assigned. Some courts require notice of the court hearing to be published in a local newspaper and a time for objections to the name change to be filed in court. If no one objects to the name change and it is approved by the judge, the court will issue an order authorizing use of the new name.

The signed court order can be presented to the Social Security Administration, the Department of Motor Vehicles, banks or title companies as proof that your name has officially changed.

Name Change After Marriage

If you are getting married and you are only going to change your last name, a certified copy of your marriage certificate will serve as official proof of your new name.

With marriage certificate in hand, head to the Social Security Administration office and the Department of Motor Vehicles for a social security card and driver’s license in your new name. With your new driver’s license and a new social security card you will be able to make most other changes to your name on important documents.

What If Your Husband Wants To Take Your Name Or You Both Want To Change Your Last Name?

It is generally accepted that a wife can take her husband’s last name but not vice versa. If a husband wants to take his wife’s name or the couple wants to come up with a completely new name, a court order would be required.

What If You Are Going Back To Your Old Name After A Divorce?

In many divorce proceedings, the final divorce decree will include a provision for a return to a maiden or former name. In some states a birth certificate with a maiden or former name may be all you need to show in order to change your name on with government agencies.

Is There Any Time Limit After Marriage Or Divorce For Changing Your Name?

There is no time limit for changing your name after marriage or divorce. Some people never change their name upon either event.

One caution though … the line at the DMV isn’t getting any shorter.

Keller Smith is an attorney with The Keller Law Firm in Manhattan Beach, California; she can be reached at www.kellerlawfirm.com. She contributes a column once per month.

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