Family Name Change

Sometimes, a whole family may decide to change their last name. This is often for personal or religious reasons. A family name change is typically handled like a personal name change. The exact procedure to change a family's name will vary between jurisdictions, but there are some common practices.

Prerequisites for a Family Name Change

To change a family's last name, the court will typically request that your family meet these requirements:

  • You must have residency in the county where you file your petition. The length of time to establish residency will vary, but is usually 2-6 weeks.
  • You must be changing your name for a purpose other than avoiding legal consequences or debts.

Changing the Family's Name

  • Begin by acquiring and filling out a name change petition form for your state. Some jurisdictions will have a specialized form for family name changes; others will require you to fill out a different petition for each family member (though you may be able to submit these together and have them considered as a group).
  • You will usually need to have all family members sign the form in the presence of a notary public, and you may need to supply multiple copies to the court.
  • You may also need to fill out an order to show cause for name change. This form asks the reasons why your family is changing their name.
  • Submit the forms in person to your local county court, along with each person's photo ID and certified copies of everyone's birth certificates.
  • You will need to pay a filing fee (usually by cash, check or credit card). This fee varies widely between jurisdictions, but is typically between $20 and a few hundred dollars. It may be higher for a family name change than a personal one.
  • You will be given a court date where a judge will consider your petition. This will typically be a few weeks or months after you file your petition. Depending on your jurisdiction, the court may consider all family members' petitions at once, or they may schedule different court dates.
  • During the intervening time, the court may request that you publish a notice of your family's court date for their name change in the classified ad section of your local paper, often for a few days or a few consecutive weeks. This is to inform anyone who would object to your name change, so they can register an objection against you. You may be requested to bring a copy of this notice to your hearing.
  • The judge will hear your petition for name change. If they can find no reason to bar your family from changing their name, they will sign an order for name change (or one for each family member).

Once the Names Are Changed

This order for a name change will be kept on file with the clerk's office. (You may need to deliver it there yourself.) You may request certified copies, typically for a fee of $10-20 per copy. It is a good idea to acquire several certified copies for your records.

Begin by sending a copy to the Social Security Administration along with proof of citizenship (such as birth certificates) and an Application for Social Security Card (use a different form for each family member). Bring this paperwork to your local SSA office or mail it to them.

Each family member will receive a copy of their new social security card in the mail. Keep the cover letter that comes with each card because you may provide it to the DMV, your bank, your landlord and other entities as proof of your family's legal name change.