It is not strictly necessary to go to court to change your name. You can change your name without legal proceedings merely by using the new name. This name change must not be used for fraudulent purposes, or it will not be effective. Be aware, however, that such an informal name change may cause difficulties in governmental offices that will ask for documentation proving that you are in fact you. You may have chosen to change your name when you married, which will be documented by your marriage certificate. A change of name is given in an adoption. In a divorce there is no need to file for a name change, so long as you are changing your name back to one that you had prior to your marriage and the court orders the name change in your divorce judgment.
You may petition the court for a name change. If you are under age 18, written notice must be given to your parents or legal guardian. You may also need to have your parents' consent, or have a guardian appointed for the purpose of changing your name. A name change for a minor child is not an adoption.
Several documents are needed for a name change, prepared and given to the court with a filing fee, or fee waiver forms. A brief hearing may be required when the judge reviews the documents and asks some basic questions.
You can prepare the papers, or you may hire a lawyer to prepare and file the documents and represent you in court. If you are doing your own legal work you should review sections of the Oregon Revised Statutes, the Uniform Trial Court Rules, and the Local Trial Court rules of your county, before filing.
Necessary Legal Forms
The documents you need can often be found at the courthouse in the county where you live, for free or at low cost. Depending on the county, the forms may be available on the court';s website. Some law libraries also may have forms or sample documents for free. The documents you need can also be found in Portland at Stevens-Ness Law Publishing Co., and at some office supply stores, bookstores and now online: search for "name change Oregon forms", and several companies will come up. The documents you will need are:
Petition for change of name;
Order to give notice to appear and show cause;
Notice of change of name hearing;
Affidavit of proof of posting notice of hearing;
Post order affidavit of posting;
Change of name decree; and
Notice of change of name.
If you are under 18 years old, or if you wish to change the names of your whole family, more documents are needed. You may also find a lawyer helpful in those types of cases.
The Court Process
First you complete and file the petition, which asks the court to order that your name be changed. Use your full name on this form and all the others. Fill out two copies of every form completely, typing or printing neatly in black ink. File the petition in the county where you live, and pay a filing fee. The rest of the procedure (using the rest of the documents) is different in each county, so find out the procedure from the court clerk, a local lawyer or your own review of the local and state rules.
There will be a court hearing. The hearing allows anyone who may object to the name change to come before the court. Remember to bring a copy of all your papers with you to the hearing. Be prepared to tell the judge why you want the name change. (Allow yourself 15 minutes extra time to find parking and find the courtroom where the hearing will be.)
If the judge has granted your name change, you complete and post the notice of change of name. Then, 14 days later, with proof by you that the proper notice was posted, the court clerk will issue a certificate of change of name.
Legal editor: Erin Fitzgerald, October 2011.