7 Questions Asked and Answered About Changing Your Name in Washington State

If you’re 18 or older and live in Washington State, you can legally change your name to anything you want as long as you’re not doing so to commit fraud. For example, if your goal is to change your name to evade a creditor, this wouldn’t be a legal name change.

In the state of Washington, there are three ways to change your name. You can change your name through marriage and divorce, by court order, and under common law. Questions frequently come up regarding name changes in Washington. This is what you need to know.

1. How do I change my name if I’m getting married?

Many people decide to change their name when they get married. Whether you choose to do so is entirely a matter of preference and isn’t gender-specific. A woman can take a man’s name, and a man can take a woman’s name.

In Washington State, the process for changing your name at marriage is extremely straightforward. Simply sign all of your documents using your new name, with the exception of your marriage license.

2. Can I just start using my maiden name after divorce?

No. The procedure for changing your name as a consequence of divorce is a little more involved than it is when you get married, but not much. You can change your name during the divorce process or afterward. The procedures are different for both.

3. How do I change my name if I’m getting divorced?

Many spouses opt to change their surname name during a divorce. Again, the process in Washington State is easy. All your lawyer must do is file a request for a name change along with your divorce petition. The judge will grant the name change in the final divorce order.

The easiest way to change your name is to do so during the divorce process. However, if you decide to change your name after your divorce has concluded, you’ll need to change it via court order, which, although easy, will involve additional paperwork and be a little more time-consuming.

4. How do I change my name by court order?

To change your name by court order in Washington State, you’ll need to complete a Petition for Change of Name. In addition to asking for your personal information including name and address, the form will ask you what you would like your new name to be, whether you’re a registered sex offender, whether you’re an offender under the Department of Corrections, whether you’re changing your name to commit fraud, and whether changing your name could harm someone else’s interests.

Next, you must file your Petition for a Change of Name with the district court in your county. The clerk will then schedule a hearing date during which you’ll appear before a judge. At the hearing, the judge will ask questions about the information you provided in your form. If satisfied with your answers, the judge will approve the name change.

At that point, you’ll file the judge’s signed order with the county clerk’s office. Your county’s clerk’s office will advise you if there are any other offices with which you need to record your name change. You can also buy certified copies at the clerk’s office, which you can send to any institution requiring proof of your name change.  

5. Will changing my name during divorce affect my divorce proceedings?

No. You can use whatever name or title (Ms. versus Mrs., for example) you want. However, your name change won’t be legal until the time when the judge grants the petition in your final divorce order.

6. Can my ex force me to change my name due to divorce?

No. Your ex cannot force you to change your name just because you’re getting divorced. People have different reasons for deciding to change their name or leave it the way it is. It’s a matter of personal preference.

Some people choose to keep their maiden name, take on their spouse’s name when they marry, change back to their maiden name when they divorce, or keep their ex’s name. Some people opt to keep their ex’s surname even if they marry again so that their surname is the same one as their children’s. There’s no right or wrong choice.

7. Can I change my child’s name as a consequence of my divorce?

You can only change your own name during your divorce. If you would like to change your child’s name, there does exist an exception, and that’s for domestic violence survivors.

Name change requests for children are filed separately from the divorce proceeding in district court. To change your child’s name, you’ll have to make a showing to a judge that there have been incidences of domestic violence and you’re seeking to change your child’s name as a means to protect them.

How easy the process is for changing a child’s name depends on whether both parents agree to the name change. If both parents agree and sign the petition requesting the name change, the judge will ask whether the questions in the petition are true and correct, then sign the order.

If both parents don’t agree to the child’s name change, you and the other parent must appear before a judge. The other parent must have notice of the petition to appear in court and court date.

If the other parent decides to challenge the name change, the judge will consider the child’s wishes, the effect a name change could have on the child’s relationship with each parent, the length of time the child had their existing name, and any challenges the child might encounter from having their existing name or the new one.

Depending on the county, judges might consider what’s in the child’s best interests when deciding. Children 14 years of age or older must consent to a name change. 

How can I find a Seattle divorce and family lawyer to help change my name?

Changing your name during or after divorce doesn’t have to be a complicated process but can be even easier when done with a seasoned Seattle divorce and family lawyer by your side. A Washington State divorce and family lawyer can advise you about the pros and cons surrounding whether you should change your name and when. Call our Seattle office today to discuss your options.

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