Changing your name is a common step to take after marriage or divorce. However, there are many other reasons you may wish to go by a different moniker.
Whether you want to take the surname of a stepparent who raised you or simply change your given name to better reflect your identity, you can file a petition to assume a new legal name in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Below is a comprehensive step-by-step guide to changing your name as an adult in Virginia.
This guide is intended for individuals who wish to change their name for reasons unrelated to marriage or divorce, as those situations are addressed through a different legal process.
A Virginia resident may change their name for any reason whatsoever, so long as they are not attempting to evade the law or debt collectors. Below are just a few common reasons people may change their name, aside from marriage and divorce:
- Lack of connection to your family name. While it’s traditional to give children the last name of one of their parents (typically the father’s), not every child grows up feeling close enough to that parent to want to keep the family surname. If this is the case, you may wish to take the surname of a stepparent or relative who had a more active role in your childhood, or with whom you now have a close relationship.
- Gender identity. If your birth name does not reflect the identity with which you associate, you might consider choosing a name that better matches your gender. This is especially common for transgender individuals who are transitioning to another gender identity.
- Pronunciation/spelling issues with current name. Some names are hard to spell and pronounce, which can be inconvenient and frustrating in a person’s everyday life. This may prompt an individual to want to change their name to something simpler or easier for others to understand.
- Correcting a Misspelling of Your Name on a Birth Certificate. Some people learn their name was misspelled on their birth certificate and wish to correct it so that they can obtain a driver’s license or passport.
A Virginia name change petition must be filed with the Circuit Court in your county of residence. According to Virginia Name Change Laws, anyone who wishes to change their legal name must have lived in the Virginia county and city where they’ll be filing their application for at least six months. You must also be 18 years of age or older and have a demonstrable reason for changing your name. You may not change your name to avoid debts or legal issues, or to defraud creditors. For minors, both of the child’s parents (or the sole living parent if one has died) must consent to any name change.
You will need to prepare three documents for the Court to apply for a name change in Virginia:
- Petition for Name Change. This document states the basic facts about your case and lists the reason you wish to change your legal name. You must sign this before a notary public and then you can file it.
- Final Order for Name Change. This is the document a Circuit Court judge will sign to make your name change official. It repeats all of the key facts from your Petition and contains a blank signature line for the Court to complete. You must also sign the Order, but this can be done with or without a notary public. In most cases, you will file the Order at the same time you file the Petition, pay the filing fee, and then await the Court to review and enter the Order.
- Virginia Civil Cover Sheet. Also known as Form CC-1416, this is a standard form that must be filed with all civil cases in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Once you completed your documents, you will file them and pay a filing fee with your local Circuit Court. You can call ahead to find out the filing fee or look that up online. Bring a credit card or cash, as many local Circuit Courts no longer accept personal checks. From there, a judge will review, sign, and return a Final Order to make your name change official. If, for whatever reason, the Court objects to your Petition, they may follow up and schedule a hearing. However, for most name changes, it is typically unnecessary for a hearing to be held.
After you receive your finalized name change Order from your local Virginia Circuit Court, you will need to verify your name change with a variety of agencies and organizations, including the Social Security Administration, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), your employer, your insurance provider(s), your financial institutions, and anywhere else your legal name is listed. Here is a handy guide to help you get started once you have your certified documentation in hand from the Court. It is strongly recommended you pay for up to six (6) certified copies when your Order has been entered, so that you have an Order readily available when needed.
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