Washington, like any other state, has its own legal procedures for changing names. So, if you intend to change your name, don’t assume. We will cover the steps you need to take in this article.
People change their names for many reasons including:
- For Marriage
- Personal reasons
You can change your names in four (4) legal ways in Washington
- By court order
- By marriage
- By divorce
- By common law
Changing Your Name by Court Order
1. Know the Requirements
To do this, you petition a court to grant you the change of name. While the process is relatively easy and quick compared with other states, you should be prepared to invest some time.
Your petition should include:
- Your current legal name
- The name you want to change to
- Your place of birth
- Your date of birth
- The county you live in
- That you are not a registered sex offender
- That you are not changing your name for fraudulent purposes
- That changing your name will not hurt anyone else’s interests.
2. You should apply for a fee waiver if you cannot afford to pay
Changing your name costs some fees. The filing fees in Washington range from $150 to $200. To find out how much it will cost specifically, you should call the court in your district. In some instances, you can apply for a fee waiver by completing a Motion and Declaration for Waiver of Civil Fees and Surcharges. You can apply if:
- you are under 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
- do not have enough income to cover all of your expenses
- you are a low-income earner
By filing this motion, you basically let the judge know that you cannot afford the fee. The judge then asks that the fee be waived for you.
However, if you are not in any of the categories above, you will have to pay the necessary fees. You pay these fees to the clerk when you file your petition. The fees vary from county to county. So, you should call your county ahead of time to find out exactly how much it will cost.
3. The court schedules a hearing date
After a successful filing, a case number is assigned to your file by the court. You will also be required to come before a judge. The clerk with whom you filed will schedule this date. Just as the fees vary, each court has its own procedures when changing names. In some counties, the court will hear your case the day you filed the petition. In others, you will be required to appear before the judge on another day.
On that day, the judge calls you to ask a few questions. His or her questions will also include the waiver if you applied for it. If he is convinced that you cannot afford it, he signs off on your name change and the fee waiver. Otherwise, you will have to pay the fees.
After changing your name, you should file the signed order, get certified copies, and send them to all institutions and bodies that should be aware of your name change. Don’t hesitate to seek advice from your divorce attorney when doing this.
In Washington, you can decide whether you want to change your name or not after marriage.
If you intend to change your name when applying for a state marriage license, you have to sign all documents in your new name except for the marriage license, which you sign with your current legal name. It is advised that you involve your attorney. The valid marriage certificate will carry your new legal name.
Washington courts also give people a choice to change their names after a divorce. The process is also easy and straightforward, but you should involve your divorce attorney. You have to include the name change request in the divorce petition. The court will grant your request to change your first and/or last name in the final divorce order.
Basically, you choose a name you want and bear that name. While this is legal, it has no proof and has a lot of disadvantages. The court is not involved and you have no evidence of a valid name change. You can get some form of proof by swearing an affidavit of a name change.
Chad Foster is a trusted family law and divorce lawyer serving Snohomish and King counties with an office in Bothell. Contact us today to discuss your legal issue.