Changing your legal name

If you want to change your legal name for family or personal reasons, you may need a court order. Learn more about requesting a court order to change your legal name.

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Understanding the Basics

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​Your legal name is on your birth certificate, driver’s license and other official government documents. You may want to change your legal name to match your:

  • Marital status. If you get married or divorced, you may want to change your name to match your spouse’s last name or remove your ex-spouse’s last name.
  • Family’s name. You may want to share a last name with your siblings, adoptive parent or chosen family.
  • Gender identity. You may want to use a name that matches your gender identity. This article only covers changing your name, not the gender markers on your official documents. Visit the name and gender change resources from Equitas Health to learn how to change your gender markers on official documents.
  • Personal preference. You may have other personal reasons to change your legal name.

Eligibility to change your legal name

If you want to change your legal name, you must meet the eligibility requirements:

  • Residency. You must be a resident of the county where you are requesting your name change for at least 60 days.
  • Reason. You must have a valid reason to change your name (this can include personal preference). If your reason is to avoid debt or other obligations, you cannot change your name.
  • Financial status. You cannot change your name if you are a named debtor in a pending bankruptcy. You will need to wait until the bankruptcy case is over.
  • Criminal record. You may be unable to change your name if you are on a sex offender registry or if your criminal record includes a conviction, guilty plea or adjudication for identity fraud, sexual offenses or crimes victimizing a child.

How to change your name

 If you live in Ohio and want to change your legal name, you may need to get a court order from the Probate Court where you live. But there are exceptions to this rule. You do not need a court order if:

  • You recently got married. You do not need court order if you are changing your last name to your new spouse’s last name, or you are hyphenating your last name plus your spouse’s last name. You can use a copy of your signed marriage certificate to update your name on documents like your ID and social security card. 
  • You got divorced and the divorce decree says your name will return to your pre-marriage name. You don't need a Probate Court order if the divorce decree includes your name change. You can use a copy of your divorce decree to update your name on documents like your ID and social security card. If your divorce decree does not include a name change statement, then you do need a Probate Court order to change your name.  

Filing the paperwork

Follow these steps to get a Probate Court name change order: 

  • Get the forms. Use the Adult Name Change Form Assistant to find the forms for your county's Probate Court. The process and forms are different if the name change is for a minor under 18 years old. Visit the name and gender change resources from Equitas Health to learn more about minor name changes.
  • Ask about the fees. Ask how much the filing fee is. Typical fees are about $100 to $150. Each court decides its own fee. Some counties require you to request and pay for a BCI background check, too.
  • Gather your identification and supporting documents. You must submit copies of a valid (unexpired) identification like a driver’s license, state-issued ID card, or passport. The court will also ask for any available proof  of your reason for the name change. Proof of your reason could include documents like a marriage certificate, divorce decree or signed statement from your gender-specialist doctor.
  • Complete the forms. Carefully complete the required forms. If the form asks for your “present name,” write your full current legal name (including your full middle name, if you have one). List the reason for your name change. You can use language like: 
    • “This is my preferred name, and I want to obtain proper identification,” or 
    • “I have used [name] for [number] years and it conforms to my gender identity,” or 
    • You may share another reason. 
  • Get the paperwork notarized. The completed paperwork must be signed in front of a notary and notarized.
  • File your paperwork at the Probate Court. When you file copies of your supporting documents and identification, ask the clerk if you may “redact” or black out sensitive information like your social security number, driver’s license number, or account numbers. The court may require an unredacted original to verify your documents’ expiration dates.

Preparing for a hearing

The law says the court may choose to hold a name-change hearing. Your county may always hold a hearing, or your county may choose not to hold the hearing. A judge or magistrate may schedule a hearing if they need more information about your case. 

If the judge or magistrate schedules a hearing, the court may require you to publish a notice of the hearing in a local newspaper at least 30 days before the hearing. You are responsible for publication costs paid to the newspaper. Ask the Probate Court clerk if you need to publish notice before paying the publication costs.

If publishing your name change in the newspaper would risk your safety, you can add a confidentiality request form to your application. To be eligible for confidentiality, you must show proof that a public name change puts you in danger. 

The court may schedule a separate confidentiality hearing. At the confidentiality hearing, you must show evidence proving that a public name change puts you in danger. If the confidentiality request is approved, the name change hearing is not published, and the court records are sealed. Check your Probate Court’s website for the confidentiality request form for your county.

Attend the hearing

If the court schedules a hearing, you must attend it to continue the name change process. The hearing may be in person or held remotely by telephone or videoconference. Be sure to bring or have available:

  • Copies of your application forms. Bring copies of your name change application forms.
  • Your photo ID. Bring your valid photo identification.
  • Other documents your county requires. Bring any documents your county requires. Requirements may include a certified copy of your birth certificate, proof of your published hearing notice or other documents.

On the day of your hearing, go to the Probate Court and wait in the assigned courtroom or hallway until your case is called. If your hearing is held remotely by videoconference, make sure you have the sign-in information, and sign in early so you have time to fix any technical issues. If you don't have a computer or another way to attend a videoconference, ask the court if you can attend in-person or by telephone. 

At the hearing, answer the judge’s questions respectfully and truthfully.

If you have any problems at the hearing, ask the judge if you can talk to a lawyer. The judge may approve or deny the request.

Updating your documents

If the judge grants the court order to change your name, the court sends you certified copies of the court order approving your name change. The name-change court order may be called an “Entry for Name Change” or "Judgment Entry for Name Change." Ask for at least 6 certified copies of the court order. The certified copies help you update your name or gender on other important documents. There may be a charge to receive extra certified copies.

It is your responsibility to update your name on important documents like your :

  • Birth certificate. If your birth state is Ohio and you want to update the name on your birth certificate, the court can forward a certified copy of the court order (the “Judgment Entry”) to the Ohio Bureau of Vital Statistics. Depending on your county, the court may forward the order automatically, or you may need to ask them to. The Bureau issues a “Certificate of Birth” in the new name within 90 days of receiving the Judgment Entry. The new certificate includes a footnote about the legal name change. 
  • Social security account. To apply for a Social Security Administration (SSA) name change:
    • Complete the application for a social security card.
    • Gather a certified copy of your name-change court order, your valid identification (like a U.S. passport or driver’s license), and proof of U.S. citizenship. It is ok if your documents have your former name.
    • Mail-in or submit your application and supporting materials in person at your local Social Security office.
    • The SSA will mail you your new Social Security card and return any documents you sent them. There is no fee to update your Social Security records.
  • Passport. If you have a valid passport and want to change your name you can apply by mail by sending in:
  • Driver's license. To update the name on your Ohio driver’s license or Ohio ID card, bring your current driver’s license and a certified copy of your court order to a local BMV office. If your license or ID is expired for at least 6 months, there are additional requirements, including getting a temporary permit and taking tests. There is a fee to update your driver’s license.
  • Selective Service. If your birth-assigned gender is female, you do not have to register with Selective Service. If you change your name after registering for Selective Service, you must notify Selective Service using SSS Form 2, which is available online or at any post office. You must attach a certified copy of the court order changing your name. 
  • Other official documents. Be sure to update your name with your employer, health insurance, property insurance, auto insurance, bank, lenders/creditors, vehicle title, military record keeper, and on any other important documents like your will, lease, mortgage, power of attorney, deed, diploma, school transcript, immigration documents, and other documents. You may need to provide a certified copy of your court order to change some of these items.

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