Your name follows you wherever you go, for better or worse. Fortunately, it’s possible to have your name legally changed, even if you aren’t getting married. You don’t have to have a specific reason if you are 18 years of age or older, but some of the most common reasons for a name change appear below.

Reverting to Your Previous Surname after Divorce

When you divorce the spouse whose surname you took at the altar, you may very well want your maiden name back. Changing your name after a divorce (especially if you didn’t have children who share the name) cuts ties completely and allows you to move forward with your life.

Changing for Religious Reasons

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Muhammad Ali, and all the most recent Popes changed their names for religious reasons. The new names reflect their connection to the faith by referencing those who have gone before them in the faith.

Simplifying Your Name

We all remember the kid in school who groaned every time a substitute tried to pronounce their name. For some, those struggles carry on into adulthood and become the motivation for an adult name change. Simplifying a spelling or pronunciation often makes it easier for people to recall your name. Such was the case for Jennifer Aniston who was born Jennifer Anastassakis and for Helen Mirren who was born Ilyena Lydia Vasilievna Mironov. Katy Perry, on the other hand, changed her name from Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson so she wouldn’t be confused with actress Kate Hudson. Regardless, her name change was motivated by simplification.

Leaving the Past Behind

Whether you want to cut ties with your family of origin because of abuse or a falling out, or you want to take your stepfather’s surname but your biological father wouldn’t permit it when you were a child, changing your name gives you the freedom to be who you want to be.

1 Invalid Reason for a Name Change?

For those who think that legally changing names would be a good way to dodge criminal prosecution or debt collectors, think again. The name change has to be court-approved and judges look into things like that.

Things to Keep in Mind During a Legal Name Change

Once the court approves the name change, it’s not a done deal. It’s a process. A court order may make it easier to change your name on all your documents, but it will still require a lot of leg work from you. Don’t forget to change your name in these places:

  • On your government ID
  • On your passport
  • On your Social Security Card
  • With all government and financial institutions (IRS, banks, financial planner, mutual funds, etc.)
  • Anywhere your name is on a contract (lease, mortgage, employer, etc.)