When you get married or divorced, you need to make a decision on whether you will change your name or not. You can also choose to change your name for any reason, for as long as the reason is not to commit fraud, to hide from the law or the police, to avoid paying child support or other debts, or for any other unlawful reason. The court may deny your petition if the requested name is offensive or misleading or the name of a famous person.
When you wish to change your name, you also want to know, ‘how much does it cost to change your name?’ Court fees range from $65 for filing with the New York City Civil Court (if you live in New York City) to $210 for filing with the Supreme or County Courts. Attorney’s fees to assist you in filing this petition begin at $1500. There is also a cost for publication once the name change has been approved by the court.
If you’re changing your name because of a marriage or divorce, the procedure is generally easy, and you won’t need a lawyer for this.
For marriage, you can only change your surname. The proposed surname should be written in the appropriate space in the marriage license. The new surname can be any of the following:
- the surname of the spouse;
- any former surname of either spouse;
- a name combining into a single surname all or a segment of the premarriage surname or any former surname of each spouse; or
- a combination name separated by a hyphen, provided that each part of such combination surname is the premarriage surname or any former surname of each of the spouses.
Once the marriage is celebrated, the proposed surname in the marriage license will be used in the marriage certificate. Certified copies of your marriage certificate are required to change your name with the Social Security Administration (SSS), the Department of Motor Vehicles (driver’s license), or US Department of State Office (passport).
For divorce, the divorce decree would generally include an order allowing the spouses to return to a previous family name or surname used prior to the marriage. You need to file this divorce decree with the county clerk’s office. While in the county clerk, ask for certified copies of the divorce decree because this is the primary document to be submitted to relevant government agencies in order to effect the change in name in the corresponding identification cards.
Changing Your Name Not by Marriage or Divorce
When you want to change your name not due to marriage or divorce, you might need the services of a lawyer to help you in filing your petition. There are several reasons why you might like to change your name. You probably don’t like the sound of your name. For example, you might want to change your name if your last name is Focker or your first name is Gaylord (remember that movie, Meet the Fockers, with Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller?). Or it could be as simple as having a Swedish-sounding name like Lundqvist and you want to change it to Lundquist to make it easier to pronounce. Or you might associate more with another gender and would like your name to sound more masculine or feminine. Or you’d like to change your name for your personal safety due to domestic violence and abuse issues. Whatever your reason is, the court will likely grant it, for as long as the proposed name change is not used to commit fraud, evade debt, or mislead people.
The procedure to change one’s name begins with a name change petition. Different petitions are required, depending on whether the petitioner is an adult or a child. To file a name change petition in New York, you must be at least 18 years old, a New York resident for at least 6 months, not on parole or probation, and not incarcerated. The petition has to be notarized before filing with the County or Supreme Court or the New York City Civil Court. After reviewing your petition, the clerk will submit it to the judge. Sometimes, the judge will call a hearing, and you need to attend the hearing, bringing with you your supporting documents. The judge might require that notice of your petition be given to some government agencies and your previous spouses. If granted, you will receive a copy of the court order which you need to publish within 60 days. Once published, you can now get a certified copy of your name change court order, which you need to submit to the relevant government agencies such as the Social Security Administration and Department of Motor Vehicles to effect the name change in your IDs.
Remember that the court will likely not grant your petition if you’re changing your name to evade debt or if you want to change your first name to Doctor or Attorney which could mislead people into thinking you’re a doctor or a lawyer. The court won’t also change your name if you want your name to be a famous person like Lady Gaga, Puff Daddy, J Lo, P Diddy, or Jay Z.
If you came across this article because you’re wondering ‘how much does it cost to change your name,’ now you know that the attorney’s fee costs $1500 plus court fees of $65 or $210 plus publication fees. The next question you should ask yourself then is, ‘should I change my name?’ We all have our own reasons for changing the name we were born with, the name our parents gave us. If a name change is going to make you happy and you’ve been thinking about it for a long time, you should go for it. Give it to yourself, or should I say, gift it to yourself. It could give you a lifetime of happiness and satisfaction.
If you are wondering how much does it cost to change your name, give us a call. We at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We have offices in New York, NY, Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY. You can call us at 718-509-9774 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.