Legally changing your name in Arizona is usually a fairly simple process. It takes a petition to the court, a filing fee (currently $333 in Maricopa County), and a court appearance. It’s a situation where you want a lawyer to prepare the documents for you, but you don’t need a lawyer standing at your side in the court room.
Requirements for a Name-Change Application
The application to change your name must be submitted under your current legal name. (I tell clients this is the last time they have to use their old name.) It contains your current legal name, your new legal name, the reason for change, and that you are not changing your name to avoid legal obligations. It’s about a two-page document.
If you are legally married, you need to have your spouse sign a notarized consent to the name change or attend the hearing. If they refuse, you must submit proof of notification to the court, similar to when a parent refuses to consent to a child’s name change. (The court needs to know that you’re not changing your name to skip out on your legal obligations to your spouse.) You lawyer can prepare this document and may even have a notary on staff. Your spouse can also waive the right to receive future notifications about this matter.
Along with the application, you also need to draft the court order you want the judge to sign granting you the name change.
Hearing for a Name Change
Once you have your completed application and filing fee, you must file them with a court that processes name changes. If time is of the essence, call the clerk at each court house and ask how long it will take to get a hearing to find out when you can get the earliest hearing date. You don’t show up and get your hearing the same day.
Bring the original of your application and at least two copies when you submit your application and fee at the court house. You also need the civil court cover sheet. When you submit your documents and payment at the clerk’s office, they will give you your court date for the hearing to change your name.
Show up on time for your court date at the courtroom assigned for your hearing with your application, all necessary consents or affidavits of service, and multiple copies of the court order you want the judge to sign. (Having multiple copies of the order will make it easier for you to get your legal documents updated to your new name.) The judge will likely go through the information on your application: your new name, your desire for the change, etc. As long as you’re not changing your name for nefarious reasons, the judge will likely sign the order granting your name change.
Updating Your Documents with Your New Name
Once you have the signed court order for your new name – Congrats! Your new name is your official legal name. The next step is to update your legal documents – and the order you do them in matters:
- Social Security Card
- Birth Certificate
- Driver’s License and Passport
- Everything Else: Bank accounts, credit cards, utilities, professional licenses, school records, library card, etc. You have no idea how many documents and accounts you have in your old name until you have to change them.
Name Change for a Minor
If you’re under 18 and not emancipated, you need consent from a parent or guardian (collectively “parent” for convenience) to legally change your name. The parent(s) have to petition the court to change your name. You can’t do it yourself. If you are 14 years old or older, you must sign a notarized consent to the name change or attend the hearing. You lawyer can prepare this document and may even have a notary on staff.
The process for changing your name as a minor is the same as an adult except it’s the parent(s) who submit the application on your behalf and attend the hearing. As a minor, you may not be required to attend the hearing.
Last year on Mother’s Day, I worked at a 1-day legal clinic at One n Ten to help people prepare their documents who wanted to legally change their name and/or their gender. I met with people of all ages, including a 12 year-old and a 13 year-old (with their parents). They wanted to change their names before starting high school because the school wouldn’t acknowledge their chosen name otherwise. The 12 year-old was really cute. I asked him what his new name would be, and he told me his new name with the same last name as his birth name.
“You know you can pick any last name you want,” I said.
“Really?” The kid lit up with a smile.
“No,” his mother immediately responded sternly as she whipped her head around and looked down at her child. We all grinned.
If Both Parents Won’t be at the Hearing
If both parents are not going to be present at the hearing, the non-attending parent must sign a consent to the child’s name change and have it notarized. Again, your lawyer can prepare this document for you. The parent can also waive future notifications about this matter. This consent informs the court that there is no dispute in the family regarding the child’s name.
If One Parent Opposes the Child’s Name Change
If one parent is opposed to the child changing their legal name or refuses to be part of the process, the parent who consents to the child’s name change is obligated to notify them.
You can hand deliver a stamped copy of your application (this is one reason why you bring multiple copies to the clerk’s office) and the Notice of Hearing Regarding Application for Change of Name that shows the date, time, and place of your hearing and have them sign an “Acceptance of Service.” You can also send the opposed parent a stamped copy of the application and a Notice via certified mail (at least 30 days before the hearing date) and bring the proof of delivery post card and a completed Affidavit of Service by Certified Mail to the hearing.
The parent who opposes the child’s name change has the right to appear at the hearing and be heard before the judge decides whether to grant the name change.
If the whereabouts of the other parent are unknown, there is a process to notify the other parent by publication.
For most people, legally changing your name and updating your documents and accounts is a straight-forward process. If you are female-to-male or male-to-female transgender and need to change your gender as well as your name, you can take care of that at the same time with a physician’s letter.
Because of the complications like required consents, it’s best to have a lawyer draft the documents for you, inform you of the requirements that apply to your specific situation, and remind you about what you can expect during the process. If you’re interested in having me work on your name change, please send me an email. Otherwise, contact a lawyer in your community for assistance.
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