With technology now allowing accomplishing many tasks remotely with just a few keystrokes, changing your identity digitally may seem appealing. However, while aspects of altering your name can be started online, with a few exceptions, the process still ultimately requires completing procedures in person.
Here is an overview of what you can and cannot do digitally when it comes to legally changing your name:
Research Name Change Laws
While you cannot fully execute a name change online, the internet does provide the ability to thoroughly research your court, state or county’s specific regulations around legal name changes.
You can find resources like:
- Official state court websites detailing the name change process
- Local county court pages with specifics around local filing procedures, locations, fees and forms
- PDFs of state statutes outlining name change laws
- Name change guides summarizing key steps and requirements
- Name change specialist website pages with specifics for your type of name change
Doing your homework online helps you understand the process before starting so you can comply with every requirement.
Browse Name Change Form Options
Many state and county court websites provide downloadable PDFs of the petition forms required to legally request a name change. These include:
- Petitions/applications for name change
- Supplemental affidavits and notices
- Criminal background statement forms
- Fee waiver applications if low income
- Consent forms if a minor is requesting a name change
- Court administrative cover sheets and outcome reports
- Publication notice and authorization
- Proof of service forms
Being able to access and view the forms in advance enables you to know what information will be required when the time comes to complete them.
Prepare Draft Documents
With downloadable blank forms available, you can begin drafting the core documents necessary to petition the courts. These typically include:
- Name change petition/application
- Affidavits in support of the name change request
- Publication notification to run in local newspapers
- Hearing date request
- Proposed court order
- Fee waiver request/affidavit
- Request to dispense with publishing/service due to danger
Completing drafts of paperwork online ensures you have all the details ready to go prior to formal submission. Just be sure to thoroughly cross-check accuracy.
Query Public Records
Public records databases accessible online can also aid name change petitions:
- Search court dockets for records of previous legal name changes to find correct courthouse information for your name change case.
- Vital records databases can be searched if copies of identity documents like birth certificates are needed. Allow time to get documents from those places.
- Marriage and divorce records access information are often available if changing due to marital status changes. You may have to buy copies and wait to get them.
- Property, tax, and voter registrations may need to be referenced as proof of residency term length.
- Your state name change laws can usually be viewed online
Name change filing fees, which range from $50 to $450 depending on the jurisdiction, can often be paid online if you can file your documents electronically through court e-filing portals.
This allows submitting payment seamlessly along with petitions rather than needing to mail separate checks or money orders. Just be sure proper payment types are available for court fees in your county. The e-filing and payment process may be too complicated to justify the time it will take, without a specialist helping you.
While hearings ultimately may or may not have to be attended in person, the ability to schedule appointments related to name changes online provides convenience:
- You can make all arrangements online if you have a name change specialist help you.
- Court hearing date/time can be selected and reserved online in some court systems.
- Similarly, appointments with court clerks to submit paperwork may be scheduled online.
- Some states handle criminal history assessments based on e-filed documents without booking fingerprinting appointments required for background checks.
- Public notices can be arranged with newspapers digitally rather than over the phone or in person. If any people need to be served, arrangements for that can be available online, including filing proof of service.
- Handling logistics online ahead of time creates efficiency.
That covers many of the preparatory steps that technology enables when undergoing a name change. However, key parts of the process may still have to be done in person:
File Paperwork with Court Clerk
While paperwork can be prepared remotely, it ultimately must be filed along with your photo ID and other original documents in-person at the appropriate court clerk’s office when complete and if required by your court. Digital submissions can be done by legal professionals where courts are advanced enough. In many jurisdictions, you will only be able to do everything online through a name change specialist unless you are digitally sophisticated and have the time to learn it all.
Attend Court Hearing
You must attend the court hearing for your name change petition in person before the judge unless the court allows remote appearance or non-appearance. Virtual appearances may be permissible and you can check the court’s website for that availability.
If Fingerprinting is required, you can make arrangements for an appointment online, but fingerprinting must be done in-person at approved locations designated by the state or court system. These often include police stations or DMV offices or possibly live scan offices. Virtual prints are likely not acceptable.
Obtain Certified Court Order
Once approved, you should obtain multiple original certified copies of the signed court order directly from the court clerk, which cannot be delivered remotely but can be ordered by mailOnly originals with official seals can validate your new name.
Changing Names on Identity Documents
Finally, while application paperwork can be started prior, legally assuming your new name may require in-person visits to update a driver’s license where fingerprinting may also be required. Most every other ID agency, including social security, passport and professional licensing can be done digitally or by mail. However, consider going into those offices, in-person, to expedite. Your main bank will likely want you to visit in person to establish the signature card for your new legal name.
It may be possible to legally change your name online if you have a name change specialist help you. In some jurisdictions, even with a name change specialist, your personal appearance at the court may be required for a brief assessment to be sure you’re really who you say you are. Even if you are doing everything yourself or using a forms service, the bulk of research, planning, document drafting, appointments, payments and notifications can be initiated online to make starting the name change process smooth and convenient. But fingerprinting, filing petitions, attending hearings, obtaining court orders and updating IDs usually require completing procedures in person for full legal recognition, particularly without a specialist to help.
While technology is making improvements, and specialists may be able to take full online advantage of new systems, expect to have to show up in person at certain times at the end of the name change process when people insist on knowing that you and the person with your name are really the same person. Getting your name change court order and updating the most sensitive of your ID may mean you have to go in person. But name change specialists are continuing to help make the online process more and more convenient, and secure.