There will be as many answers to the question ‘how much does it cost to change your name’ as there will be individuals who ask it. In reality, evaluating how much it will cost to change your name will depend to a large degree on your reason for doing so.
There are many compelling reasons for wanting to change your name, but the two that are most common are marriage and divorce. In these two instances, the name change process will be relatively simple and the cost relatively low. In some cases, a marriage certificate or divorce decree issued by a judge is all that will be required to facilitate a name change.
If you want to change your name for almost any other reason, however, the change will require a court order, and the cost in doing so may increase. Obtaining a court order can involve:
- Official documents that meet court requirements
- Filing fees to record the documents with the proper court
- The cost of an attorney to help prepare the documents
- Charges for certified copies
- Publication of a notice in a local newspaper
- Time enough to deal with the legal matters
So: how much does it cost to change your name? The truth is that the cost can vary anywhere from $150, to several thousand dollars, depending on where you live, how involved your name change case becomes, and how much your attorney charges.
What’s in a Name Change? – Looking at the Variables of How Much Does It Cost to Change Your Name
A name change can be a journey, with ups and downs along the way. At times, how much does it cost to change your name may be the last question on your mind. It is important to remember that if your name change is not the result of a marriage or divorce, you will likely need a court order to effect the change, and this will require some additional steps.
Getting a court order will require petitioning a judge to issue the order. In some instances, a name change is not a cut and dry deal that the judge will summarily grant. Legitimate reasons for a name change that will usually result in the court order being granted by a judge include:
- Aesthetic reasons – You may not be entirely pleased with your birth name. Some people dislike their name because of spelling, or because of difficulty others may have with pronunciation.
- Divorce – If the name change was not part of your original divorce decree, then the process will probably involve a court order.
- Adopting a hyphenated married name – For women, the marriage certificate with the new last name is usually sufficient evidence for a name change to a hyphenated last name. For men, the situation can be different, and will probably require a court order to make the change official.
- Ethnicity – Some people want a less ethnically identifiable last name. Others want to return to an ethnic surname that was changed generations before by an earlier ancestor.
- Religious affiliation – If you adopt a new religion, you may want to assume a new name that more appropriately reflects your beliefs.
- Adopting the name of an unmarried partner – Many longtime partners who do not want to go through the civil or religious ceremonies of marriage may still want to share a last name.
- Cost – For some, the consideration of ‘how much does it cost to change your name’ is outweighed by the concern for ‘how much will it cost not to change my name’.
On the other hand, a judge need not grant a court order automatically. If he or she believes that you have ulterior motives for the name change, or if there is reason to believe that the name may in some way be offensive to the public, then a judge may decline to issue a court order. Your new name will have to pass some legal tests:
- Debt or other liabilities – If the judge believes that you are changing your name for some nefarious reason (such as escaping debt, or to hide a criminal history), then the court order will probably not be issued.
- Future criminal acts – The court order will likely not be issued if the judge becomes aware or believes that you are affecting the name change in anticipation of participating in some future criminal activity. (In this case, the answer to “how much does it cost to change your name” may be some hard time!)
- Fraud – If your name change petition seems to indicate that you want to adopt a new name that will make it easier to commit fraud, the judge is probably going to dismiss your petition. This may include adopting the name of a famous person, whether or not you intend to capitalize on that similarity.
- Legal Conventions – Trying to adopt a new name that includes numbers, punctuations, or gibberish will probably be frowned upon by a judge and could easily result in a denied petition.
- Offensive, intimidating, or racially motivated name changes – If you petition the judge for a name change that the judge believes is motivated by an intention to be offensive or to intimidate those with whom you come into contact, the petition is almost assuredly dead in the water. The same is true if the name requested is in any way considered to be a racial slur.
Finding favor with the judge is the biggest variable you may face. A good attorney who knows the court system where you live and is familiar with judges and with name change petitions can advise you about your chance of success, as well as give you a better sense of how much does it cost to change your name.
The Actual Costs of How Much Does it Cost to Change Your Name – Why Such a Wide Variation?
The court costs associated with filing a name change petition are driven by where you live. You ask: how much does it cost to change your name? We ask: where do you live?
Each court with jurisdiction over this kind of legal action sets the fees to ensure that the court operates in as economically efficient way as possible. By and large, the court systems want to keep the filing fees as low as possible so they don’t shut out those on limited incomes, while high enough to help cover the cost of operating the court system.
Surveying average court costs by state, we found the following numbers regarding how much does it cost to change your name:
- The Lowest Filing Fees – Some counties in Alabama set their filing fees for the court having jurisdiction over name change petition as low as $10.
- The Highest Filing Fees – In Louisiana, some parishes charge filing fees about $500.
- The Overall Average – On average, filing fees across the US appear to be in the range of $120 to $300
The best advice we can give if you are budgeting for a name change is to contact an attorney who routinely performs name change petitions, and who will be able to answer more specific answers regarding how much does it cost to change your name. These attorneys will know the precise amounts charged by the courts when filing the necessary paperwork. You can also contact the secretary for the court where you will be filing to request a fee schedule for that court.
Attorney’s Fees – The Other Big Factor to How Much Does It Cost to Change Your Name
We all know that attorney fees can be a budget buster. With hourly rates that can run into the hundreds of dollars, it doesn’t take much to tally a hefty bill for an attorney’s services. When trying to understand how much does it cost to change your name, added attorney’s fees can be a real headache. Some attorneys will give you a ballpark estimate, while others may offer you a package deal. This set price should include all the filing fees and any registry changes with the agencies that hold birth certificates and/or other records.
The 4 Hidden Costs – What You May Forget to Consider
There are many hidden or unrecognized costs to making a name change when a court order is required. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the costs you may encounter, but it does include the most common costs that are often overlooked when considering the question of how much does it cost to change your name:
- Charges for Certified Copies – When you do a legal name change, organizations and agencies requiring you to make a formal name change in their records may require you to give them a certified copy of the court order. These certified copies are available from the court clerk. Courts typically charge anywhere from $1.00 per page to as much as $10 per page for certified copies of court documents.
- Agency Costs – State governmental agencies may impose a fee to make a change in a legal document, such as a birth certificate.
- Public Notices – Several states require that anyone making a name change publish their intent (or the results of the court order) in a public newspaper. There is almost always a charge from the newspaper for printing such a notice.
- Your Time – You may have to take time away from work to attend court hearings, to meet with your attorney, or for various other reasons during the name change process. You may also spend personal time preparing required documents, gathering information, making necessary updates to your accounts and other personal affairs once the court order is issued… or simply researching how much does it cost to change your name!
Do not discount these often forgotten costs. They can easily add up and, when taken into account, make the process of affecting a name change run into thousands of dollars. Thankfully, the answer to “how much does it cost to change your name” is not entirely outside of your control.
Going Forward – Really, How Much Does It Cost to Change Your Name?
A name change can be an exciting moment, as you open a new chapter of life with a new name. Do not let unforeseen costs creep up on you once the process has already begun! Failing to anticipate the costs you may incur can prove disastrous. But have no fear: by making a plan, thinking ahead, and seeking out good advice, you will be well on your way to enjoying life with your new moniker! With that, we hope that we’ve answered how much does it cost to change your name. If you are ready to kick off the process, head to Change My Names, and get started today.