How to Legally Change Your Name in Texas

The Texas State Capitol building in Austin, Texas.

People change their names for different reasons, whether it's for marriage, divorce, or simply “I hate my name!” For marriage or divorce, it can be simple. Otherwise, it can be a bit confusing. Either way, here are the specific steps to follow to help change your name in Texas.

If you are changing your name because of marriage, you can usually do it when you file your marriage license. After you file your marriage license with the county courthouse, you will receive a certified copy. You use it when you notify any agencies or businesses of your name change.

If you are getting divorced, you can include a provision for a name change in the divorce decree. If so, your divorce decree will serve as legal proof of your name change. You will still have to notify all of the appropriate agencies of your new name yourself. However, if you were not able to include a name change provision in your divorce papers, you may contact the court that handled your case and ask if they will allow you to amend the document to do so. Still, not all Texas courts will do this, and you might have to file a Texas Petition for Name Change.

The first step in this process is to prepare two documents, a Petition to Change the Name of an Adult, which is the document asking the court to consider your request, and an Order Changing the Name of an Adult, which is the document the judge will sign if your request is granted. When filling out these forms, you must confirm such information as:

• The reason for the name change

• If you have been convicted of a felony, and, if so, you must provide all information relevant to the conviction

• If you must register as a sex offender

• Any driver's licenses issued to you over the last 10 years

• Any FBI or state ID numbers

• Any charges for crimes above a Grade C misdemeanor

There are also specific documents you must provide, such as:

• A set of fingerprints that is acceptable to both the FBI and the Texas DPS

• Proof of pardon if you were pardoned for a crime

• Proof of discharge if it has been 2 years since you were discharged for a felony or completed your parole or probation

• Your criminal history record if you are asking to change your name to a name used in that criminal record

• Proof of notification to local law enforcement of the proposed name change if you are not required to register as a sex offender

• A copy of your Attorney General Address of Confidentiality Program card if you are not required to provide your home address because of participation in that program

Make copies of all forms and fingerprint cards and attach the originals to the Petition document. Sign the petition, then file it in the county where you live. The clerk will usually schedule your hearing date at that time.

When you attend the hearing, you will need proof of identity, such as your driver's license or passport. You will have to testify concerning the facts you attested to in your original petition, as well as testify that your name change is not being made to avoid liability or financial obligations. If the judge grants your name change, he or she will sign the Order Changing the Name of an Adult, and it will be recorded by the clerk of court. You will need certified copies in order to change your name with the Social Security Administration, as well as other government offices, so be sure you get as many copies as you need.

Legally changing your name outside of marriage or divorce can be confusing at times and definitely time consuming. Online name changing services offer to do the hard part for you. You send them all the information, and they send you all the documents necessary completely filled in, all for a fee. However, you can download many of those documents yourself from the internet free without giving out your personal information, and, either way, you still have to go to the necessary agencies

and stand in line. In the end, it's best to be prepared, be patient, and consult a family attorney if you have any questions to make sure everything goes smoothly.