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In New York, you can change your name when you file your marriage license application with the county courthouse. However, you are limited in what you can change it to. Either or both spouses can change their middle or last names, but you cannot change your first name. If you change your last name (surname), the name change must either adopt the current or former surname of another spouse, hyphenate the surnames, or combine the surnames. If you change your middle name to add or replace your middle name with the current or former surname of you or your spouse. You cannot make any other types of name changes -- such as changing your middle or surnames to something totally different, or changing your first name -- via marriage in the state of New York. Once married, your name change is legal immediately and you can start using your new name. 

But you’re not done yet. Although you have legally changed your name, you will still need to to notify the appropriate government agencies of your new name. Your marriage certificate will serve as your primary legal document for changing your name, so make sure to request 2 or more certified copies of your marriage certificate to take with you to update your name at other government agencies. Most commonly you will need to change your name with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Social Security Office, but you may also need to change your name in many other institutions and accounts. 

Visit your local Social Security Office and bring with you a completed SS-5 form. Make sure to bring a certified marriage certificate copy, as well as your Social Security card, proof of identification (state ID, driver’s license, or passport), and proof of age (adoption decree, hospital record, or birth certificate). The staff there will verify your personal documents and give you a certificate showing that the Social Security Office has approved your name change. Your documents will be returned to you with your new social security card by mail. 

Once you have the certificate approving your name change from the Social Security Office, you can take it to the Department of Motor Vehicles to change your name on your driver’s license while you wait for your new social security card. You can do this in person at your nearest New York Driver License office. Your new license and Social Security Card should be mailed to you within six weeks. These new forms of identification and the certificate from the Social Security Office may be used to change other legal identification, like your passport.

In New York you can change your surname back to a former name as part of divorce proceedings. If you want to change your name as part of your divorce, you should include this as a provision in your divoce petition. If the judge approves the name change, your name change will be legal and your Divorce Decree will serve as documentation of your name change. 

If this was left out of your final divorce decree, contact the court that handled your case and ask if they will allow you to amend the document. Not all New York courts allow amendments, so if they deny your request, you need to proceed with a New York Petition for name change.

Although your divorce decree grants you the legal documentation to change your name, you will need to notify the appropriate government agencies of your new name. Some of the most common offices requiring notification are the Social Security Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

To change your name at the Social Security Office, first fill out form SS-5 and take it to your local Social Security Office. You should also bring proof of identification, divorce decree, and proof of age. The staff there will verify your personal documents and give you a certificate showing that the Social Security Office has approved your name change. Your documents will be returned to you with your new social security card by mail.

Once you have the certificate approving your name change from the Social Security Office, you can take it to the Department of Motor Vehicles to change your name on your driver’s license while you wait for your new social security card. You have to do this step in person at your nearest New York Driver License Office. Your new license and Social Security card should be mailed to you within six weeks. These new forms of identification and the certificate from the Social Security Office may be used to change any other legal identification, like your passport. 

If you don’t have a copy of your divorce decree, you can use the Divorce Records Request Letter

Changing your name in New York outside of a marriage or divorce

In order to get a legal name change in New York without a recent marriage or divorce, you will need to obtain a court order approving your name change. There are five steps to complete the process:

1. File a Request for Judicial Intervention and a New York Petition for Change of Name

If you live in New York City, you may start a name change proceeding in any county in the city. Try the Civil Court's free interactive computer program to make an Adult Name Change Petition. 

If you do not live in New York City, you need to file a New York Name Change Petition, Request for Judicial Intervention (RJI), Index Number Request, and New York Name Change Order with the clerk of the Supreme Court for the county where you live

To complete the RJI: 

  • Fill in the top two blanks with “Supreme Court” and your residence county. 
  • You are the Plaintiff.  Write in your name under “Plaintiff.”  
  • There is no defendant; you may write none or leave it blank. 
  • The “Nature of Judicial Intervention” will be other: (specify: Legal Name Change Hearing). 
  • For “Nature of Action or Proceeding,” check other: and write in Legal Name Change.  
  • Check all boxes “no” for the next section. 
  • Your “Time Frame” should be checked 0-8 months. Leave the next section blank.  
  • Under “Attorneys for Plaintiff,” put an X next to “self rep” and fill in your name, address and phone number. 
  • Leave the “Defendants” and “Insurance Carriers” section blank. 
  • Write none for “Related Cases.” 
  • Sign and date the bottom. 
  • If you have questions regarding the RJI, the Clerk of Court should be able to answer them at the time of filing.

Alternatively, you can use Rocket Lawyer to create your New York Name Change Petition and Order documents. Just answer a few simple questions and we’ll create your petition for you. 

Once you have all documents filled out, go to your local county courthouse with your documents, and at least one copy of each, and file them with the Clerk of Court in the county where you reside. The clerk of court will tell you your court number and assign you a case number when you file the Petition and Order at the courthouse. You should fill in your case number on the Petition, RJI, and Order and have the Clerk review the documents to ensure they are complete. Request a stamped copy from the Clerk. There will be a fee to file the paperwork. If you cannot afford the fee, the Clerk can provide you with an application to file for free.

2. File the signed New York Order for Change of Name

For New York City and the rest of the state, the judge will review your request and mail you the signed Order or a Notice rejecting your request. If your request is granted and you receive a signed Order, you will need to file the signed Order with the clerk’s office as you did with the Petition. You can request certified copies of the signed Order for a small fee. You cannot use the Order until you have filed it with the Clerk and received a certified copy showing that it has been filed.

3. Publish notification in a local newspaper

After you receive a certified copy of the New York Name Change Order, you will need to publish your new name in the notices section of a local newspaper, in the county of the Order, within 20 days. A letter to the newspaper will be generated when you complete the easy interview process for the New York Legal Name Change. Deliver the letter to the newspaper in person or call to find out the fee you need to include with your letter.

4. File an Affidavit of Publication

After the Notice has been published, you will need to return to the clerk’s office and fill out an Affidavit of Publication. Once the Affidavit has been filed, your name change will be final. 

5. Change your name with government agencies like the Social Security Office and the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Although your name change will be legal, you will still need to change your name with the government agencies like the Social Security Office and the Department of Motor vehicles. For the Social Security Office, you will need:

  • Form SS-5 (which you can fill out in advance or in the Social Security Office)
  • A Certified Copy of your New York Order Granting Name Change
  • Proof of identity, like your current state ID, driver’s license or passport
  • Proof of age, like your birth certificate (if you don’t have a copy of your birth certificate, you can use the Birth Certificate Request Letter)

The staff will verify your personal documents and give you a certificate showing that the Social Security Office has approved your name change. You will receive your new social security card by mail, along with your original documents.

Your Certified Order can also be used at the Department of Motor Vehicles to change your name on your driver’s license while you wait for your new social security card. You have to do this step in person at your nearest New York Driver’s License office. Your new license and Social Security card should be mailed to you within six weeks. These new forms of identification and your Certified Order or Certificate of Name Change may be used to change any other forms of legal identification, like your passport.

In order to get a legal name change for a minor in New York, you will need to get a court order approving the name change. A minor is anyone under the age of 18. Changing the name of a minor in New York requires the consent of all of the minor’s legal parents or guardians. 

There are five steps to change the name of a minor in New York:

1. File a Request for Judicial Intervention (RJI) and a Petition for Change of Name

A parent or legal guardian must file the Petition. 

If you live in New York City, you may start a name change proceeding in any county in the city. Try the Civil Court's free and easy interactive computer program to make a Minor Name Change Petition, or you may go to the name change location in the courthouse and get the forms from the court clerk. Fill out the forms and bring them to the courthouse with a certified copy of your birth certificate. The court clerk will review the papers and submit them to a judge.

If you do not live in New York City, print and file a Name Change Petition, Request for Judicial Intervention (RJI), Index Number Request, and Order with the clerk of the Supreme Court for the county where the minor lives. You will also need the minor’s Certified Birth Certificate (if you don't have a certified birth certificate, you can use Rocket Lawyer's Birth Certificate Request Letter).

Fill out the Petition and the top section of the Order by hand, in black ink. The parent or guardian is the petitioner. If you are outside the city of New York, change the heading to reflect the number of the Superior Court for your county. When you fill out the form, you are the petitioner and the clerk of court will tell you your court number and assign you a case number when you file the Petition and Order at the court house. You will also need to change the Order to reflect the name change of a minor. Fill in the heading and the first line with your name, but the remainder of the document will apply to the minor.

To complete the RJI: 

  • Fill in the top two blanks with “Supreme Court” and your residence county. 
  • You are the Plaintiff.  Write your name under “Plaintiff.”  
  • There is no defendant; you may write none or leave it blank. 
  • The “Nature of Judicial Intervention” will be other: (specify: Legal Name Change Hearing). 
  • For “Nature of Action or Proceeding,” check other: and write in Legal Name Change.  
  • Check all boxes “no” for the next section. 
  • Your “Time Frame” should be checked 0-8 months. Leave the next section blank.  
  • Under “Attorneys for Plaintiff,” put an X next to “self rep” and fill in your name, address and phone number. 
  • Leave the “Defendants” and “Insurance Carriers” section blank. 
  • Write none for “Related Cases.” 
  • Sign and date the bottom. 
  • If you have questions regarding the RJI, the Clerk of Court should be able to answer them at the time of filing.

In addition to the Petition, Order, and RJI, parents or legal guardians not filing the Petition and minors over the age of 14 need to fill out a Consent Form. Each parent or legal guardian that does not sign the Petition will need to fill out their own Consent and attach it to the Petition. If the minor eligible for the name change is over the age of 14, they must also fill out their own consent form. 

2. File the signed Order for Change of Name

Once you have all documents filled out, go to your local county courthouse with your documents, including a certified copy of the minor’s birth certificate, and at least one copy of each, and file them with the Clerk of Court in the county where you reside. You should fill in your case number on the Petition, RJI, and Order and have the Clerk review the RJI to ensure that it is complete.  Request a stamped copy from the Clerk. There will be a fee to file the paperwork. If you cannot afford the fee, the Clerk can provide you with an application to file for free.

For New York City and the rest of the state, the judge will review your request and mail you the signed Order or a Notice rejecting your request.  If your request is granted and you receive a signed Order, you will need to file the signed Order with the clerk’s office as you did with the Petition. You can request certified copies of the signed Order for a small fee.  You cannot use the Order until you have filed it with the Clerk and received a certified copy showing that it has been filed.

3. Publish notification in a local newspaper

After you receive a certified copy of the Order, you will need to publish a Notice with a local newspaper, in the county of the Order, within 20 days. Call the newspaper to find out the steps necessary for publication and the applicable fee. Fill out the Notice with the minor’s information. 

4. File an Affidavit of Publication

After the Notice has been published, you will need to return to the clerk’s office and fill out an Affidavit of Publication. Once the Affidavit has been filed, the name change will be final. The certified copy of the Order can then be used to change all of your child’s legal documents.

5. Change the minor’s name with government agencies like the Social Security Office and the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

After you have officially changed the minor’s name, you will need to update their name with the Social Security Office and if the minor already had a state ID or driver’s license, you should also change their name at the Department of Motor Vehicles. 

For the Social Security Office, you will need:

  • Form SS-5 (which you can fill out in advance or in the Social Security Office)

Where to update your name after a name change

At a minimum, you need to update:

  • Your state ID or driver's license
  • Your social security card

It is also best practice to update the following (and in some cases may be required):

  • Citizenship and immigration documentation, such as a passport or visa.
  • Voter registration.
  • Payroll and administration records, such as your workplace or school.
  • If applicable, military or veteran records.
  • If applicable, licensing boards and associations.
  • Financial institutions, including banks, lenders, credit unions, credit cards, investment companies/brokerages, and retirement or pension accounts.
  • Legal documentation and accounts for real estate or personal property (vehicles), including deeds, mortgages or lease agreements.
  • Any legal documents including those where you are listed as an agent or trustee, such as a Deed, Last Will and Testament, Living Trust or Power of Attorney.
  • Insurance documents, including auto insurance, home or renters insurance, and life insurance.
  • Bills, including utilities and subscriptions.

You may also want to update the following:

  • Birth certificate (if you need to use it as legal proof of identification).
  • Social media and email accounts.

Although simple and straightforward for many people, changing your name can be confusing or challenging -- especially for people trying to change their names outside of a marriage or divorce. 

If you have questions, are unsure of how to move forward, or just want someone to review your paperwork, a Rocket Lawyer network attorney can answer your questions about changing your name and help you through the process.

 

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.


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