Your name is an essential part of your identity; some people might argue it is the most essential part. Because your name is so interwoven with who you are, when you experience a major life change, it may feel right to change your name, too. One common situation in which people decide to change their name is divorce. You may no longer want to share a last name with your ex, especially if you don’t have children together. Or you may simply want to reclaim the identity of the person you were before you were married.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to change your name, things will go more smoothly if you know the rules and follow them. There are different requirements for different situations, and we will walk you through them in this blog post. In all cases, however, you must have lived in Minnesota for at least six months before you can change your name through the Minnesota court system.
If you’re getting a divorce and want to change your name, it may be simplest to do so as part of your divorce decree (which is, of course, already a court order). Your attorney can simply include in your decree a provision that your name will be restored to your name prior to the marriage, or to another name if you so choose. The name by which you will be known going forward must be specified in the divorce decree. As with other types of name changes, a court will not grant your request to change your name if it finds that you intended to change your name to defraud anyone.
Maybe you didn’t feel the need to change your name when you divorced, but realized afterward that you wanted to. (Some people do this when their ex-spouse remarries because they don’t want to share a surname with the new spouse. The process is a little more involved than if you changed your name in your divorce decree, but it is still pretty straightforward.
The first step in changing your name is to file an Application for Name Change in the District Court for the county in which you reside. You will also have to file other forms along with your application, such as a Criminal History Check Release Form, as well as a filing fee (currently $298). If you cannot afford the filing fee, you may be able to get the fee waived, which will require another form.
If you have a felony conviction, you will have to serve notice of your application to change your name on the Minnesota prosecuting authority that obtained your conviction. If your conviction was in another state, you will need to serve the Attorney General with notice.
At the time you file your application, you will either be given a hearing date, or will be told how to schedule your hearing. On the day of the hearing, you must bring two witnesses who can testify under oath as to your identity. This is to prevent fraudulent name changes.
Unless the court finds that your request for a name change is intended to defraud or mislead someone, it will grant your name change with a court order. For a fee, you can (and should) obtain a number of certified copies of the order from the court clerk. Keep one with your important personal papers, and use the others for official business such as getting your driver’s license and Social Security number changed to your new name.
If your child is a minor and you want to change their name, you can do so in a manner similar to the procedure above. If your child is aged 14 or older, they must also consent to the name change. Both parents must be notified that an Application of Name Change was filed, and both parents must receive a notice of the hearing on the application.
What if you don’t know where your child’s other parent is, or how to find them? If you can’t show the court proof that the other parent has been served with a Notice of Hearing, or you cannot locate them to attempt service, you will need to “serve” the parent by publishing a notice in the legal newspaper for the county in which they were last known to live. Your lawyer can arrange this publication.
If you don’t know the identity of your child’s other parent, you will need to bring to court a certified copy of your child’s birth certificate showing that the other parent is unknown.
As with many legal processes, a name change can go much more smoothly with an attorney’s help. If you have questions about the Minnesota name change process or need help filing an application for a name change, please contact Mundahl Law to schedule a consultation.