In Washington, residents have the legal right to choose their name, but it’s not as simple as just adopting a new name informally. Government agencies typically require proof of a legal name change before updating your identification documents, like your driver’s license or passport. Divorce presents a common opportunity for name changes, especially for women who wish to revert to their maiden name. However, anyone can seek a name change. Here, we outline the three primary methods to officially change your name.
Method #1: Changing Your Name During Divorce
If you’re the one initiating the divorce, there’s usually a section in the divorce petition where you can request a name change. Simply fill in your desired name in that space. The judge will typically approve this change along with the divorce.
If your spouse filed for divorce, you could still request a name change in your response to the petition. There’s usually a designated section for this purpose. Once your divorce is finalized, you can obtain a certified copy of the divorce order, which serves as legal proof of your name change. Use this document to update your:
- Social Security Card
- Driver’s License
- State-issued ID
- Bank accounts
- Credit cards
Method #2: Changing Your Name After Divorce
If you didn’t request a name change during the divorce process, you can still change your name post-divorce. To do this, you’ll need to complete a Petition for Name Change form and file it with the court clerk. You’ll also need to attend a hearing where a judge will decide whether to approve your petition. If your request is granted, you’ll receive a certified order confirming the name change. Use this certified document to update your name with government agencies and other organizations.
Method #3: Changing Your Name & Sealing the Record
Survivors of domestic violence often seek name changes for safety reasons, allowing them to make a fresh start away from their abuser. However, standard name changes are public records, making it easier for an abuser to locate their victim. Fortunately, Washington offers an option to request a name change and ask the judge to seal the record. Sealed records are not accessible to the public, ensuring your new name remains confidential. This process can also be used to change the names of your children for added protection.
Choosing the Right Option for You
The Law Office of Amanda J. Cook, PLLC, is here to assist anyone seeking a name change, whether as part of a divorce or afterward. We understand the importance of this process and can guide you through the legal steps. For a consultation and personalized guidance, please contact our firm today. Your safety and peace of mind are our top priorities.