Yes, you can!
Your middle name is one of the core parts of your personal identity that sticks with you for life. But like first and last names, middle names remain open to change under the right circumstances.
While tweaking your middle name is not as common as changing your last name when getting married, the option exists. There are also various other motivations that prompt people to legally change their middle names.
If you find yourself pondering the idea, here is a complete guide to everything you need to know about legally changing your middle name.
Why Would You Want to Change Your Middle Name?
There are a variety of reasons someone may consider changing their legal middle name, including:
- Marriage – Some opt to replace their middle name with a maiden name or their original last name after taking a spouse’s name. This might be done to preserve identity.
- Divorce – After divorce, people sometimes change back to their maiden middle name.
- Gender transition – Those undergoing a gender change often replace their middle name to better affirm gender identity.
- Dislike current name – Some simply grow tired of their given middle name and desire a replacement, or none at all.
- Escape teasing – Individuals who were saddled with an embarrassing middle name may change or eliminate it to end ridicule.
- Family ties – You can change or add a middle name to honor relatives like grandparents or late family members.
- Professional image – Some adopt a new middle name or initial they feel projects a better professional personae.
- Fresh start – Starting over after a major life event may prompt a middle name change.
- Genealogy – After researching lineage, people sometimes take on a new ancestral middle name.
The Legal Process for Changing Your Middle Name
Just like changing your first or last name, legally swapping your middle name requires an official legal procedure involving:
- Petitioning – You must petition the court and provide documents supporting the change.
- Application – Most states provide name change applications and paperwork to submit.
- Fees – Expect to pay court filing fees and possibly document assistance fees, public notices, etc.
- Hearing – A court hearing is a defined date when the judge can evaluate your petition and make a decision..
- Background check – Courts generally run a background check for any red flags.
- Public notice – Most states require publishing intent to change your name as public notice.
- Court order – Upon approval, the court issues a legal order declaring the name change official. That order is the proof you need to update ID and official records.
The standard process takes 3-12 weeks. Once your name is changed legally, you must update your driver’s license, passport, Social Security card, financial accounts, and everywhere else your name is listed in order to have your new legal name useful in your daily life. None of your identification or other records are automatically updated, and will never be updated unless you request it after you get your court order.
Key Factors to Consider Before Legally Changing Your Middle Name
Changing your middle name is a big decision that warrants careful thought. Keep these key considerations in mind:
- Reasons for change – Think about what prompts you to want a different middle name for a while before doing it. Don’t make a rash decision.
- Family impact – Discuss the change with close family first to gauge their reaction and look for concerns.
- Professional effects – Ensure the change won’t cause confusion in your career or cause issues with certifications, licenses, etc.
- Costs – Court and professional fees will need to be paid, as well as fees for some new IDs, licenses, records, etc.
- Effort required – Expect a moderate slog of paperwork, procedures, replacements, and notifications when changing your name. If a specialist helps you, there will be less but there will still be some time needed on your part.
- Drawbacks – Be aware it may temporarily complicate travel, accounts, school records, taxes, property titles, and credit. Clear those issues in advance, if possible.
- Better alternatives – Would options like using a middle name informally serve your purpose, rather than a full legal name change?
- Future uncertainty – Consider how you’ll feel about the choice 5, 10, or 20 years down the road.
A lack of certainty when thinking about changing your name means you should proceed cautiously and weigh the choice from all angles. Don’t rush into it without thorough consideration.
Alternatives Beyond Completely Changing Your Middle Name
Rather than a full change, consider middle name options like:
- Make your middle name your nickname. Use it more regularly in place of your first name.
- Add a second middle name while keeping your original.
- Simply update the spelling for a name change without the full legal process.
- Use initials in professional contexts rather than your full middle name.
- Make your middle name a second first name with or without a hyphen separator.
- Cut an unwanted middle name down to just its first initial.
These alternatives allow you to freshen up your name without completely dropping the middle name you’ve always known.
In summary, changing your middle name legally is indeed an option if you have compelling reasons and are ready for the process. But also know it is not strictly required if you simply want to use alternatives informally, like a nickname. Carefully weigh your motivations and research all aspects to make the best choice around this personal and important decision.