In New York State, you have the right to adopt any name you wish by using that name for everything in your life. This does not apply to children or prison inmates. But, it may be better to legally change your name because most government agencies will not accept your name change without a court order.
You can ask the court to legally change the name you were given at birth, adoption, or marriage
Name Change Basics
To ask the Court to change your name or your child’s name, you need to give the Court the following:
- court papers asking for the change, this includes Name Change Petition and Proposed Order. The petition must be filled out and signed in front of a Notary Public. You may need additional forms to change a child’s name. You may also need to give a self-addressed, stamped business-size envelope to the Court
- proof of birth
- court fee ($210 in Supreme and County Courts; $65.00 in New York City Civil Court)
- in Supreme Court you must also submit a Request for Judicial Intervention (RJI) to have a judge assigned to the case. There is no fee to file this form.
- depending on your situation there may be additional papers that you need to give the court.
If you are concerned for your safety or your children’s safety, read about Privacy.
Note: You may not need to ask the Court to change your name if you already Changed Your Name Through Marriage, Divorce, Adoption or Citizenship.
Where to Go
A name change request can be made in the County Court or Supreme Court of the county where you live. If you live in New York City, you can go to the New York City Civil Court or the Supreme Court in the county where you live. The Civil Court costs less money than the Supreme Court.
The Name Change Petition
The Name Change Petition must include the following information:
- the reason you want to change your name or your child’s name;
- if you or the child were convicted of a crime, information about the crime and time served. You can attach a copy of the Certificate of Incarceration or Certificate of Disposition to your Petition. If you committed certain serious felonies and you are in prison or on parole, see Name Change: Criminal Conviction;
- if you were convicted of bankruptcy, when the judgment was made and the terms. You can attach a copy of the judgment along with the Petition;
- if there are judgments or liens against you or the child, explain when the judgment was made, who the judgment is owed to, and the amount of the judgment. If you have judgments or liens against you or your property, you can attach copies;
- if you or the child are involved in a lawsuit, give the names of the people in the lawsuit, the reason for the lawsuit, and what court the lawsuit is in. You can attach copies of the court papers to your Petition;
- if you pay child or spousal support. You can attach a copy of the support order;
- if you are changing a child’s name you need to give information about any other parents or legal guardians. See More About Child Name Changes.
Filing the Papers
Bring proof of where you live and your identity along with the court papers and filing fee to the court. It is a good idea to call first to see what else the court may require you to bring. Use the court locator box to find the court’s phone number. Your papers will be reviewed by the Court Clerk and submitted to a Judge. But, if you are changing a child’s name you may have to notify the other parent or legal guardian and come back to court. See More About Child Name Changes. If you committed certain felonies and you are in prison or on parole, you will need to serve the District Attorney and Court where you were convicted. See Name Change: Criminal Convictions. You may be able to file your papers over the internet using NYSCEF, the New York State Courts Electronic Filing system. Check to see if you can do this on the e-filing County list.
If the Judge approves your name change, you will need to publish your new name in the newspaper that the court tells you to use. The newspaper charges a fee for publishing your name change.
The Judge can also make you tell other parties about your name change, such as, the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, Selective Service System, a wife or husband or ex-wife or ex-husband, Bankruptcy Court, N.Y.S. Criminal Justice Services and any other party that the Judge thinks should be told.
If the Judge grants your name change request, you will need copies of the Order to change all your legal documents, like your social security card and driver’s license.
Reasons for Denial
If the judge believes that you are changing your name to commit fraud or to hide from the law or the police, or to avoid paying child support or debts, or for some other illegal reason, the Judge may deny your request to change your name.
The Judge may also deny your name change if the name you choose is offensive, like Kill U. All; or misleading, like Officer, or Doctor; or you choose the name of a famous person, like Beyoncé Knowles, or Chance the Rapper; or you choose the name of a company, like Google or Facebook.
If you are asking to change the name of a child, the court decides if the name change is in the child’s best interest. Read More about Child Name Changes.
If you do not have money to pay the court costs and fees, you can ask the Court for a Fee Waiver to continue without paying the court costs. Some courts call this “Poor Person’s Relief.” But, even if the Court grants your Fee Waiver request, you will still have to pay for any fees that the newspaper charges to print your name change.
Changing Your Name Through Marriage, Divorce, Adoption, or Citizenship
Adults can legally change their names when they get married, divorced, have a marriage annulled, become a United States citizen, or ask the court for a Name Change.
A child’s name doesn’t change when a parent gets married or divorced. You can change a child’s name through adoption, citizenship, a Paternity case in Family Court, or by asking a civil court for a Child Name Change.
You can choose to change your last name when you marry by putting the new name on the marriage license application. You can’t change your first or middle name by marriage. The new last name is officially your name when the marriage ceremony is completed. Your marriage certificate is proof of your new name and can be used to change your name on other identification papers such as your driver’s license.
You can change your last name to any of the following:
- your spouse’s last name;
- any former name of either spouse;
- a new name combining into a single name all or a part of either spouses’ present or former last names;
- a hyphenated name consisting of any combination or either spouses’ last name or former last names.
To find information about getting married in New York State, visit the Department of Health.
You can ask the court to use any name that you used before the marriage when you get divorced. You can’t change your name through a divorce to a new name that you never had. Your divorce judgment will say if you can use your former name. This is a legal name change. Use the divorce judgment to change your name on other identification papers, like your social security card or driver’s license.
When a child is adopted through the courts, the Judge can change the child’s name in the adoption order and the child gets a new birth certificate. You can choose a new name. The child’s last name will be the same as yours. This is a legal name change. Read more about Adoption.
You can change your name at the same time you become a United States citizen by choosing a new name on your USCIS Form N-400. If a Judge orders the name change at your swearing-in ceremony, this is a legal name change. You can use your naturalization certificate as proof of your name change.
More About Child Name Changes
This section gives you information about legally changing a child’s name by court order.
Read Name Change Basics first before reading this section.
A Child’s Name Change
A child is 17 years old or younger. A child is sometimes called a “minor” in court and on court papers.
You can ask the court to change a child’s name if you are the child’s biological or adoptive parent, the child’s legal guardian or next friend. A name change is not as adoption.
Changing your child’s name to your spouse’s or domestic partner’s name will legally change your child’s name, but it will not legally make your spouse or domestic partner your child’s parent. For example, if your child is from a previous relationship and you now change your child’s last name to your current spouse’s name, your spouse will NOT be your child’s legal parent. The only way to do this is to do an adoption.
Reason for Name Change
You must give the Judge a reason that you want to change the child’s name so the Judge can decide if the name change is in the child’s best interest. If the judge doesn’t find that it is in the child’s best interest then the name change request will be denied. The Judge will consider several facts, including:
- what the child wants, keeping in mind the child’s age and experience;
- what the name change may do to the child’s relationship with each parent;
- how long the child has used the name;
- any problems, embarrassment, or harassment that the child may have from the present or new name; and
- the motives or interests of the parents.
Other Parent’s Consent
Either parent can start the name change case. If there is another living biological or adoptive parent, or legal guardian, that parent or legal guardian must also give permission in writing to ask the court to change the child’s name. This is called consent.
If the other parent’s parental rights have been terminated, you do not need consent. You can attach proof of the termination to the Petition.
If you can’t get consent in writing from the other parent because you do not know where he or she lives, you must take steps to locate him or her. If you can’t find the other parent, your name change request must tell the Judge why the other parent is not available and what you have done to contact the other parent.
If you can’t get consent from the other parent or legal guardian and you know his or her last address you will have to notify the other parent or legal guardian to give him or her a chance to tell the court why he or she objects to the name change. You need a Notice to Non-Petitioning Parent.
If the other parent is less than 18 years old you need permission in writing from the other parent’s parent or guardian.
Many Courts require a child who is 14 years or older, but less than 18, to give his or her permission for the name change. The child must sign the Minor Consent form in front of a Notary and you must give it to the Clerk with your Petition.
Privacy and Name Change
If you or your child are in immediate danger, call 911.
WARNING: Your computer activity can be tracked or monitored. Think about using a public computer or a friend’s if you are afraid this may happen to you. Always clear your browsing history and cache or use the “private browsing” option on your internet browser to protect yourself.
All name change applications can be viewed by anyone because they are public records. Also, the Court will require notice of the name change to be printed in a newspaper.
The law says that if your safety or your children’s safety is in danger you can have your name change request “sealed” right away [New York Civil Rights Law Section 64-a(2)]. A sealed name change request cannot be found in the public records. The Court file will stay sealed while the Court considers the request.
After the judge rules on your name change, if the Court finds that your safety is in danger, the law also says that you do not have to publish the name change in the newspaper and the Court can seal your name change for good [New York Civil Rights Law Section 64-a(1)].
It is best to speak to a lawyer or a domestic violence counselor to help you through the name change process. You can also speak to the Court Clerk to find out how to ask to seal your request or you can visit a Court Help Center. Visit Safety & Violence for more information about domestic violence.
Name Change Forms
Here are the forms for changing a name in the Civil or Supreme Court. There are different forms to request a name change for an adult and a child. If you want to change your name because you are getting married or divorced go to the Changing Your Name Through Marriage or Divorce page.
The easiest way to change a name is to make the court papers you need using the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form program. This program walks you step-by-step through the paperwork you need and gives you helpful definitions and legal information. When you finish the program you get the court forms you need and instructions of what to do next.
Correcting a Birth Certificate
You may not need a court order if you only want to correct a “mistake” on your birth certificate.
An example of a “mistake” is correcting Dauid to David. This requires written proof of the mistake which may include:
- a letter from the hospital
- immunization records
- doctor’s records
- school admission letter
- religious document
- life insurance policy
If you want to change your name, you need a court order. An example of a name change is changing June to Edna. You can use the DIY Form to make your court papers.
How to Correct a “Mistake”
If you were born in New York but outside of New York City, contact the Department of Health, Vital Records Section, Correction Unit at 855-322-1022.
If you were born outside of New York, contact the vital statistics office in the State or area where you were born.
To correct the birth certificate of a child under 12 months of age, bring the original birth certificate with an application directly to the hospital where the child was born.
Proof of Birth
You must be able to prove where you or the child was born if you want to change your name or your child’s name. In most cases, this is done with a certified copy of a birth certificate.
A certified copy is a copy from a state agency that shows that it is a correct copy of the original and can be used for legal purposes like applying for a passport or a name change. It may have a watermark, a raised seal, micro-printing, multi-colored background, printed with heat-sensitive ink, or other security features to show that it is real.
Born in New York City
To change the name of someone born in New York City (Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, or Staten Island) you can get a certified copy of the birth certificate by ordering it from the New York City Department of Health over the internet or in person at 125 Worth Street, New York, New York 10013.
Born in New York State but not in NYC
To change the name of someone born in New York State, but outside NYC) you will have to bring an original or certified copy of the birth certificate to Court. You can get a certified copy of the birth certificate over the internet, by phone or by mail from the New York State Department of Health Vital Records section. If no birth certificate exists, bring a certificate from the Commissioner of the local Board of Health saying that no birth certificate is available.
Not Born in New York State
To change the name of someone who was not born in New York State you can use any document that proves when and where the person was born. An official birth certificate should be on file at the place of birth. These records are filed permanently in a State vital statistics office or in a city, county, or other local offices. To get a certified copy of the birth certificate, write or go to the vital statistics office in the state or area where you were born. The National Center for Health Statistics has a list of state agencies that keep vital records on their website.
Not Born in the United States
To change the name of someone born outside the United States, most, but not all, foreign countries have records of births and deaths. Most foreign countries will give certifications of births. You can contact the Embassy or the nearest Consulate in the U.S. from the country where you were born. Addresses and telephone numbers for these offices can be found online.
If you can’t get a certified copy of your birth certificate, the Judge may permit a copy of the birth certificate, baptismal certificate, passport, or other legal documents which show the date and place of your birth.
Publication in a Newspaper
If the Judge grants your name change request, you will have to put a notice of the change of name in the newspaper chosen by the court. The newspaper charges a fee for this service.
The signed Order will say that you have 60 days from the date of the order to put an ad in a newspaper (known as “publication”). This ad gives notice that you legally changed your name.
The Order will tell you the name of the newspaper, or newspapers, where you must put the notice, what the notice should say and how many times it must be published.
A sample notice looks like this:
Notice is hereby given that an order entered by the _______ court, ____county, on the ___ day of ___, bearing Index Number ____, a copy of which may be examined at the office of the clerk, located at ____, in room number ____, grants me the right to assume the name of ___________. The city and state of my address are ____________; the month and year of my birth are ____________; place of my birth is _________; my present name is ___________.
Publishing the Notice
Take a copy of the Order to the newspaper as soon as possible so that the Notice can be published. It is your responsibility to pay the newspaper fee. The newspaper will give you an Affidavit of Publication. You have to bring this to the Clerk’s Office and file it within ninety (90) days of the date on the signed Order. Once you have filed the Affidavit of Publication, your name change is complete and you can use the new name.
You will need the Order to change all your legal documents, including your birth certificate, social security card, and other government-issued identification like your passport or driver’s license. You can get certified copies of the Order from the Clerk’s Office after the Affidavit of Publication is filed. Keep a certified copy for yourself.
Name Change: Criminal Convictions
If you have been convicted of certain crimes, like violent felonies and sex offenses, and you are in prison or on parole, there are different requirements for asking the court to change your name. You must serve the Petition with a Notice of Petition on the District Attorneys in any counties where you were convicted and on each court where you were sentenced for each felony. The Notice of Petition must have a court date at least 60 days after the court papers are served. The Petition is served like a Notice of Motion is served. The District Attorney can choose to submit papers objecting to your name change. See Civil Rights Law section 62.
You must give the court all the details about the conviction – felonies convicted of, dates convicted, and courts where convicted.
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