There are various reasons why someone might decide to change their name, from marriage and divorce to personal choice or other legal reasons. In Florida, the process of changing your name is straightforward, but it requires attention to detail and an understanding of the necessary steps. This guide will walk you through the process of changing your name in Florida, ensuring that you feel informed and confident as you embark on this significant change.
Florida law allows for name changes for various reasons, including marriage, divorce, or personal preference. However, the process may differ slightly based on your specific situation. Ensure that you meet the residency requirements. You must be a resident of Florida for at least six months before filing your petition for a name change.
Why would someone want to change their name?
The majority of legal name changes come from marriages or divorces. If that is the case, it is nearly an automatic change because the courts realize that it stems from the marriage license or divorce decree. People who desire the name change for other various reasons must petition a court, and the court decides whether to grant it.
What additional reasons would someone want to change his or her name?
Perhaps for naturalization purposes. Maybe their name is a strange one or one that has produced ridicule for them throughout their lives, and they want to be rid of that name. Perhaps they have been the object of identity theft and don’t want to take a chance that it could be a continuing problem. Another reason could be to avoid a stalker and “disappear” with a new name to a different address and not have one’s place of employment available. Or it could be for a variety of personal reasons other than the ones above.
Florida Statute 68.07 lays out the requirements for obtaining a legal name change in that state beginning with the Petition for Change of Name, form 12.982(a), which can be obtained (often in a complete Forms Kit) at any state circuit court or through the website for the state. The four-page petition form includes many questions that must be disclosed, such as name, address, place and date of birth, names of parents, all addresses since date of birth, marital status, spouse and children’s names and addresses, any criminal arrests or convictions, past bankruptcies, whether you have had any money judgments entered against you, whether your civil rights were ever suspended, any businesses you own and what your position is in that business, any name changes or aliases in the past, etc.
You must have the form notarized (be sure not to sign it until you are in front of the Notary Public) and must affirm that your change of name is not for any legal purpose nor to avoid creditors or evade law enforcement nor to violate somebody else’s privacy, patents, trademarks, or property rights.
You then file this petition and any other necessary papers in the circuit court of the county where you legally reside and where you are a bona fide resident, at which time law enforcement will take a set of your fingerprints. There is also a filing fee. There will be a hearing before a circuit court judge, who will sign a Final Judgment if the change is granted. The clerk will notify the state’s Office of Vital Statistics of the Department of Health and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will also be informed so that you will be able to obtain an ID under the new name.
Once one has gotten the legal name change, he or she is obligated to inform many agencies. Those include the Social Security Agency (so that you can get a new card), Passport, Internal Revenue Service, bank, employers, insurance providers, and various professional and personal affiliations.
Here is the step-by-step on how to change the name in Florida:
1. Preparing Your Documentation
Gathering the right documents is crucial for a smooth name change process. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Identification: Prepare copies of your current identification, such as your driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport.
- Petition for Name Change: You’ll need to complete the ‘Petition for Change of Name (Adult)’ form. Make sure to fill out this form accurately and provide all the required information.
- Fingerprinting: Florida law requires fingerprinting for a name change to conduct a state and national criminal history records check.
2. Filing Your Petition
Once your documents are prepared, you’re ready to file your petition with the court.
- Locate Your Circuit Court: File your petition in the circuit court of the county where you reside.
- Submit Your Documents: Submit your completed petition along with your identification documents and the processing fee. The fee can vary by county, so verify the amount with your local circuit court.
- Attend the Hearing: In some cases, you may be required to attend a court hearing. The judge will review your petition and ask any necessary questions. If everything is in order, the judge will approve your name change.
3. Finalizing Your Name Change
Once your name change is approved, you’ll need to update your name with various government agencies and institutions.
- Receive Your Final Judgment: The court will provide a final judgment on the name change. Make several copies of this document, as you’ll need it to update your records.
- Update Your Social Security Card: Visit the Social Security Administration office to update your name on your Social Security card.
- Driver’s License and Vehicle Registration: Head to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to change the name on your driver’s license and vehicle registration.
- Other Institutions: Remember to update your name with other important institutions, such as banks, employers, and insurance companies.
Changing your name in Florida is a process that requires careful attention to detail and adherence to legal procedures. By understanding the steps involved and preparing your documentation thoroughly, you can ensure a smooth transition to your new name. Remember, this process is not just about the paperwork; it’s a significant milestone in your life, and approaching it with patience and care will make it a positive and empowering experience.