Unless you are restoring your former name as part of a divorce action, a name change will have to be approved by the court.

The process of legally changing your name starts with the filing of a petition for a name change in the county of your residence. Before the court can hear your petition you must first have your fingerprints taken at your local law enforcement agency for a criminal history check. The results of your criminal background are submitted directly to the clerk of court. Once the court receives these results, your name change action may be heard by the court.

To ensure a successful name change proceeding, you must first determine if you are eligible to proceed with your petition. Per the Florida law there are certain requirements that must first be satisfied.

For instance, you must currently reside in Florida and live in the county where you will file your name change action. For adult name changes, you must, of course, be an adult or a person who is eighteen (18) years of age or older. You must also not have an ulterior or illegal purpose for filing your petition and the granting of your petition may not in any manner invade the property rights of others, whether partnership, patent, good will, privacy, trademark, or otherwise. Finally, you must not have had your civil rights suspended, or, if your civil rights have been suspended, the full restoration of your civil rights had to have occurred.

If you are seeking a name change for your child(ren), the process is similar to an adult name change proceeding but does contain certain variations. As to the similarities, the residency requirements are the same and the minor, just like an adult, may not have an ulterior or illegal purpose for seeking a name change such as to avoid debts or to adversely affect the rights of another person. Also, the minor may not have his or her civil rights suspended.

As to the differences between the two name change actions, a proceeding to legally change the name of a minor does require written consent to the name change by all adults who have legal rights over the minor. When it is just one parent who submits the petition for a name change on behalf of their child(ren), then written consent must be obtained from the other parent. If the other parent refuses to consent to the name change, that parent must be formally served with the petition. Also, it will be the parents and not the minor who must have their fingerprints taken to proceed.

If you have met all these requirements for moving forward with your name change petition, whether the petition is for an adult or a minor, it is still not a slam dunk. You will still have to attend a hearing before a Judge where you will have to give testimony. The courts usually do grant name changes quite liberally but the petition must still be complete and contain all the necessary, statutorily mandated, allegations.

Once a Judgment changing your name or that of your child is signed by the Judge, you must take steps to ensure that the various government agencies such as the Social Security Administration, Department of Motor Vehicles, etc., update their records with the new name. Be sure to take sufficient time to contact all the pertinent government agencies for the new documents. Otherwise, you may encounter difficulties with the renewal of your driver’s license and your passport. If you are just applying for your first passport, you should make sure that all other identification documents have already been updated with your new name so as to avoid a delay in the processing.

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