The Process of Changing a Name in the Commonwealth of Virginia

By: Whitbeck Bennett

[10.28.2020] The process of a name change in Virginia is fairly complex. Generally, a person may apply on behalf of themselves or their child to their local circuit court for a name change with a formal application that states under oath: 

  • The applicant’s residence; 
  • The names of both parents (to include the maiden name of the applicant’s mother); 
  • The date and place of birth of the applicant; 
  • The applicant’s criminal record as it relates to any history of felony convictions; 
  • Whether the applicant is a person for whom registration with the Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry is required pursuant to Chapter 9 (§ 9.1-900 et sez.) of Title 9.1; 
  • Whether the applicant is either presently incarcerated (yes, you can even apply for a name change while incarcerated) or a probationer with any court; and 
  • Any former names from which they have already changed their identity. 

The Court’s Review of a Name Change Application 

The Court will review the application to ensure that the name change is not being sought to perpetrate a fraud or escape from creditors or bankruptcy, as well as if the proposed name change would infringe upon the rights of others, or if the name change would bring about confusion in such a manner so as to render the change ill-advised and problematic to administrative or judicial effectiveness. If the person whose name is to be changed is a minor, then the question of whether that name change will be in the child’s best interests will also be analyzed.  

The court may seek to hold a full-blown hearing on the application for a name change, in which it will further analyze the question of possible fraud, the rights of others, or any other legitimate law-enforcement purpose that could be frustrated or made difficult through the proposed name change. Should the court decline to grant the name change, it will issue written findings to articulate why the proposed name change could not pass legal muster. 

Unlawful Name Changes

Should the court grant a name change, but then determine that a person sought out a change of name for any of the unlawful purposes referenced above, the circuit court will enter an order of conviction of either perjury or unlawful name change. The clerk of the circuit court in which the name change application was reviewed will transmit that order of conviction to the State Registrar of Vital Records, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the State Board of Elections, the Central Criminal Records Exchange, and any other Commonwealth agency or department that has issued a license that is eligible to be used for name change proceedings and applications. 

The Application and Order for a Name Change

There are a few other considerations that may prove important to prospective name change applicants. 

First, each application must be notarized. Every applicant must swear to the truth of the allegations and representations made in their name change petition.  

Second, a proposed order for a name change must be submitted, along with the original petition and a stamped, self-addressed envelope so that the court may transmit a certified copy of the signed name change order. If you need additional copies of the name change order, you may request them for additional processing fees. The Clerk of the Circuit Court will take care of forwarding the name change order to the State Registrar of Vital Records. However, as our other articles on this topic point out, a name change applicant is still obligated to initiate and complete all administrative processes relating to a change of name regarding the Social Security Administration and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.  

Additionally, applicants will want to make sure that their voter registration has not been impacted by the name change, as they will likely have to modify their identified name in the voter rolls to be eligible to vote. The U.S. Postal office will also need to be notified. 

Name Change in Divorce Proceedings

If a party wishes to change their name after a divorce back to their maiden name or former name, they may do by filing a formal motion under oath and the court entering an order changing the person’s name. You should talk to your divorce attorney about how this should occur because the motion and order is very particular in terms of what needs to be included. 

WhitbeckBennett is here to help you through this process. Contact WhitbeckBennett by calling 800-516-3964 or emailing clientservices@wblaws.com 

Related: Divorce