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Things to Consider When Changing Your Name

By: Kevin McCandlish

[11.05.2020] Changing one’s name can bring about a fresh start, a new perspective, or an opportunity to reconnect with an important personal history. Common reasons to change one’s name range from entry into a new family via marriage or adoption to an ex-spouse wanting to go back to their maiden name. It is important to note that the Court retains the ability to reject a person’s proposed name change, should it bring about confusion or violate any other law or statute.

What do I need to do after my name is changed?

There are three main forms of major government documentation that you will need to change once your name change is final. 

First, the Social Security Administration requires an update so that one’s social security card may be altered to reflect an individual’s new name. This includes proof of a legal name change document, further proof of citizenship, and proof of original identity. The Social Security Administration requires original and certified copies of all documents. This process takes around 2-3 weeks (COVID notwithstanding) to file and receive a new card. If the name change is the result of a new marriage, a Virginia marriage license is sufficient to demonstrate the requisite legal name change document rather than a formal court order of a separate proceeding.

Second, Virginia residents will need to go through the arduous process of a Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles name change. They must visit a DMV customer service center and bring a completed “Driver’s License and Identification Card Application (DL-1P) to request a name change, which can at least be initiated online. To complete this process, an applicant will need the following:

  • A marriage certificate;
  • A divorce decree (if the decree reflects a desire to change one’s name from a married name to a maiden name); and
  • An original copy of the court order granting a name change outside the context of either marriage or divorce proceedings.

An applicant will also need to bring a valid Virginia driver’s license, learner’s permit, or photo identification card. If one cannot be presented, the applicant will need to bring a primary document as listed in Obtaining a Virginia Driver’s License or Identification (ID) Card (DMV 141). All documents must be originals and must be verifiable with the issuing entity.

Lastly, an applicant for a name change will usually need to secure a new passport reflecting the name’s change—even if not necessary. This is a commonly used form of identification with uses ranging from government applications, employee onboarding, and travel. An applicant would be able to fill out an abbreviated DS-5504 Form if their current passport was issued within a year of when the name change is requested. A new color photo and legal name change document will also need to be included. If the applicant has a valid passport, but it was not issued within the preceding year, they must fill out a DS-82 form, to be accompanied by a passport issued within the past fifteen years, a passport photo, and a legal name change document. The DS-11 is the default passport application, which must be processed at a Passport Acceptance Facility. A DS-11 form must be accompanied by proof of citizenship, proof of identity, and a passport photo.

The Bottom Line

While these considerations may seem daunting at first glance, they should not deter someone from embarking on a journey to ensure the name by which they are known to the world represents and reflects the familial and meaningful relations, identities, and connections that mean the most to them.

The firm of WhitbeckBennett is here to answer any questions parties involved in prenuptial agreement matters, matrimonial proceedings, marital dissolution dockets, or other family law matters may have regarding the proper process to change their names. Contact WhitbeckBennett by calling 800-516-3964 or emailing clientservices@wblaws.com.

 Related: Divorce