The Common Law

Can I Change My Name Without a Lawyer?

Can I Change My Name Without a Lawyer?

I got married six months ago and am finally getting around to changing my last name. How do I do it? Do I need to get a lawyer?

There are lots of reasons why someone might consider changing his or her name. Whether someone has a family situation that necessitates the change (marriage, adoption, etc.), wants to make a statement (remember the basketball player "World B. Free"), or just wants to sound cool (i.e., the long list of celebrities who have changed their names), he or she will need to get permission from a court to do so. Texas law does not, however, require someone to hire a lawyer in order to legally change his or her name. And because the process is fairly straightforward, many choose to change their names without the help of a lawyer.

In Texas, an adult who wants to change his or her name must file a petition requesting a change of name in the county where the adult resides. The petition filed with the court must include basic information about the person requesting the name change (name, sex, race, date of birth, driver's license number, Social Security number, and criminal history), the new name being requested, the reason the change in name is requested, and whether the person has ever been convicted of a felony. A legible copy of the adult's fingerprints must also be provided.

The court will grant the request if it finds the change of name is in the best interests of the person and the state. The person seeking the name change can then apply to the clerk of the court for a Change of Name Certificate for a $10 fee. The certificate serves as proof of the name change. There are additional requirements to comply with when trying to change the name of a child. In cases of divorce, the final divorce decree can be used to get court approval for a name change.

Keep in mind that a person does not have an absolute right to have his or her name changed. A court may deny a request for a name change if it believes the request is designed to allow the person making the request to avoid creditors, hide from a checkered criminal past, or commit a fraudulent act. On the other hand, it is fairly easy for an adult to have his or her name legally changed if the request is made in good faith. Check out Chapter 45 of the Texas Family Code (tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/statutes/fa.toc.htm) for more information regarding name changes in Texas.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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