Note: the information below is for individuals and couples changing their names for reasons outside of marriage (via a marriage certificate) or divorce (via a divorce decree). If you are changing your name due to marriage, your marriage certificate marriage certificate to change your last name. If you are changing your name due to divorce, your divorce decree or dissolution of marriage will serve as your legal name change document.

Changing your name legally in Texas requires understanding both state legislation and the necessary court procedures. This guide details the essential steps, legal requirements, and resources to help you navigate the name change process effectively.

 Reasons for Changing Your Name

Individuals in Texas change their names for a variety of reasons, including:

  1. Marriage: After getting married, many individuals choose to take their spouse’s last name, hyphenate their current last name with their spouse’s last name, or create a non-hyphenated double last name consisting of  their current last name with their spouse’s last name. 
  2. Divorce: Following a divorce, some individuals may wish to revert to their maiden name, a pre-marriage name, or create a new name altogether.
  3. Personal choice: Some people simply desire a name that better reflects their identity or personal preferences.
  4. Cultural reasons: Individuals may change their name to honor their cultural heritage or to adopt a name that aligns with their cultural traditions.

Each reason has specific legal implications and procedural requirements under Texas law, which are important for a legally recognized name change.

The Legal Process for Name Change in Texas

Changing your name legally in Texas involves several key steps regulated under state law:

Initiating the Process

To change your name, you must file a petition with the district court in the county where you reside. This petition includes your current name, the requested new name, and the reasons for the change. It’s crucial to be thorough and accurate when completing this petition, as any errors or omissions could delay the process or result in a denial of your request.

Legal Requirements

Texas law requires that you provide:

  1. Identification: You must submit a copy of your current legal identification, such as a driver’s license or birth certificate, to prove your identity.
  2. Proof of residency: You’ll need to demonstrate that you are a resident of the county where you are filing the petition. This can typically be done by providing a utility bill, lease agreement, or other official document displaying your name and address.
  3. Criminal history check: To ensure that the name change is not being sought for fraudulent purposes, such as evading law enforcement or creditors, you must undergo a criminal background check. This process involves submitting your fingerprints to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) for a thorough review of your criminal history, if any.

Court Procedures

After filing your petition, a hearing will be scheduled. During this hearing, you may need to provide testimony on why you want to change your name. The judge will review your petition and supporting documents to ensure that your request is not being made for any illegal or fraudulent purpose.

If the judge approves your petition, they will issue a formal order for the name change. This court order serves as the legal basis for changing your name on all official documents and records.

Special Circumstances and Considerations

Certain situations, such as changing a child’s name or dealing with discrepancies in documentation, require special consideration:

Changing a Child’s Name

The process involves additional legal steps and typically requires consent from both parents or a legal guardian, as well as approval from the court. The court will carefully evaluate the reasons for the name change to ensure that it serves the child’s best interest.

Overcoming Challenges in the Name Change Process

Navigating the name change process can sometimes be complicated, especially if there are discrepancies in your documentation or if you encounter delays in updating your records. To minimize these challenges, it’s essential to keep copies of all legal documents related to your name change and to follow up regularly with institutions to ensure that your records are being updated in a timely manner.

Documentation and Identification Updates

Following a legal name change, it’s crucial to update all identification and records to reflect your new name:

Primary Documents

These include your social security card, driver’s license, and passport. Each has a specific procedure for updates:

  1. Social Security Card: Visit a Social Security Administration office with your name change order to request a new card reflecting your updated name.
  2. Driver’s License: Update your driver’s license at the nearest Texas Department of Public Safety office by presenting your court order and paying the required fee.
  3. Passport: Apply for a name change with the U.S. Department of State, following their specific procedures for updating your passport with your new legal name.

Secondary Updates

You must also update your bank accounts, professional licenses, voter registration, and other personal records with your new name. This process can be time-consuming, so it’s essential to make a comprehensive list of all the institutions and organizations that need to be notified of your name change.

Associated Costs

Changing your name in Texas involves several fees, which can vary depending on your specific circumstances and the county where the petition is filed. Here is a breakdown of potential costs involved:

Court Filing Fees

  • Petition Filing Fee: The cost to file a petition for a name change typically ranges from $200 to $300, though it can vary by county. This fee is paid to the district court in the county where you reside. For example, in some counties, the fee may be as high as $350.

Document Processing Fees

  • Driver’s License Update: Updating your driver’s license to reflect your new name involves a fee. The specific amount can vary, so it’s recommended to check directly with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) for the exact fee in your area.
  • Passport Update: If you need to update your passport, the fees will depend on whether you are renewing your passport or applying for a new one due to a name change. Regular passport renewal fees are $130 for a passport book.

Certified Copies

  • You will need certified copies of the court order for your name change to update various records. Each certified copy typically costs between $5 and $10. It’s a good idea to obtain several copies to facilitate updates across different agencies and institutions.

Additional Costs

  • Fingerprinting Fees: Texas requires fingerprinting as part of the name change process. The cost of obtaining a fingerprint card can include a service fee, generally around $10 to $50. This service is managed by third-party providers like Identogo.
  • Background Checks: A fee is charged for the mandatory criminal background check required for the name change. This fee is paid directly to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).

For the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the fees associated with changing your name in Texas, consult:

Planning for these expenses and knowing where to find the most current fee schedules will help you budget effectively for the name change process.

Resources and Assistance

For guidance and forms related to changing your name in Texas, the Texas Law Help website offers a wealth of valuable resources. This site provides detailed instructions on completing the necessary paperwork and navigating the court process.

Additionally, your local district court can provide specific information related to filing a petition for a name change in your county. The court clerk’s office can assist you with obtaining the required forms and understanding any county-specific procedures or requirements.

If you find the process overwhelming or encounter complex legal issues along the way, consider seeking the assistance of a qualified attorney who specializes in family law or name changes. They can provide personalized guidance and ensure that your petition is complete and properly filed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. How long does the name change process take in Texas?

The time required to complete a name change in Texas varies but generally takes a few weeks to several months, depending on the court schedule and your promptness in submitting documents. Factors such as the complexity of your case, the accuracy of your petition, and the workload of the court can all impact the timeline.

2. Are there any implications for changing my name on professional relationships?

While you will need to update your professional records and inform colleagues, clients, and employers of your new name, a name change does not typically negatively affect professional relationships. Many people change their names for various reasons, and it is generally accepted as a personal decision. However, it’s essential to communicate the change clearly and update your professional documents (e.g., business cards, email signature, website) to avoid confusion.

Embracing Your New Identity

Successfully changing your name in Texas involves understanding the legal requirements and meticulously following the process. This guide provides the necessary steps and resources to assist you in navigating this significant legal change.

Remember to be thorough and accurate when completing your petition, gathering required documents, and updating your records following the court order. If complexities arise or if you have specific legal concerns, consider consulting a legal professional for personalized assistance.

By familiarizing yourself with the process and requirements, you can confidently undertake a legal name change in Texas and begin using your new name across all aspects of your life.