Changing Your Name: Adults

Last Updated On: 3/18/2016 6:52:36 PM

I'm not getting married or divorced, but I want to change my name. How do I do that?

Changing your name in West Virginia is a simple process if the right steps are followed and you meet the requirements.

You must file a Petition for Change of Name with the court. The court must then sign an order granting you a new name. To allow a person to change their name, the court has certain requirements that must be met to make sure that the name change is not being done to avoid legal trouble.

What are the requirements to change my name?

Before you file paperwork to ask a court to change your name, you should know that there are certain requirements that must be met.

(1) Age: To file paperwork to change your own name, you must be at least 18 years old.

(2) Where to File: You can file a Petition for Change of Name with the circuit court or family court in the county where you have lived for at least 1 year. If you have not lived in the county for 1 year, you can file in the county where you were born, you were married, and you previously lived for a period of at least 15 years.

Are there reasons I might not be able to get my name changed?

A court will not allow you to change your name if you are asking for a reason that is improper or illegal. Under West Virginia law, a court cannot change the name of any person who is:

  • convicted of any felony during the time that the person is in jail,
  • required to register as a sex offender, or
  • convicted of first degree murder or kidnapping for a period of 10 years after the person is released from jail or parole whichever occurs later. 

There are criminal penalties for seeking a name change if you meet these criteria.

What is the Petition for Change of Name?

The Petition for Change of Name is the form you file with the Court asking for the name change. A fill in the blank Petition can be found here. Legal Aid of West Virginia created this form for people to fill out and file on their own. You can handwrite or type your Petition.

The Petition must be verified, which means that the Petitioner must sign the Petition in front of a notary public and swear that all information in the Petition is true. The last page of the Petition above has a verification. Usually, someone in the Circuit Clerk’s office is a notary public and will notarize your verified Petition when you go to file it. Do not sign the verification until you are in front of a notary public.

When you are finished preparing your Petition, you will file it with the Circuit Clerk’s office. The Circuit Clerk will assign your case to a judge and will give your case a Civil Action Number.

What information is in the Petition for Name Change?

The person filing the Petition is called the Petitioner. Under West Virginia law, the Petitioner must include the following information in the Petition

  1. The current name and age of Petitioner
  2. That the Petitioner is a resident of the county where he filed one year prior to filing the petition or if the petitioner is not a resident of the county then petitioner must clarify he was either born in the county, was married in the county, and was previously a resident of the county for at least fifteen years;
  3. The reason the name change is being requested;
  4. The full new name requested;
  5. That the name change sought is not for purposes of avoiding debt or creditors;
  6. That the Petitioner is not a registered sex offender;
  7. That the name change sought is not for purposes of avoiding any state or federal law regarding identity;
  8. That the name change sought is not for any improper or illegal purpose;
  9. That the Petitioner is not a convicted felon in any jurisdiction; and
  10. That the name change sought is not for any purpose of evading detection, identification or arrest by any local, state, or federal law enforcement agency.

You can also ask that your identify be protected for personal safety reasons. You should include this request in your Petition.

Is there a fee for filing the Petition for Change of Name?

There are fees for filing the Petition for Change of Name. However, if you file a Fee Wavier form and it is approved, you will not have to pay to file your Petition. You can find a Fee Wavier form here. Fill out the form completely, but do not sign it except in front of a notary public or the staff at the Circuit Clerk’s office. The staff at the Clerk’s office will go over this form and let you know whether you qualify for a waiver of the filing fee for your case.

What is the Civil Case Information Sheet?

This form gives the Court basic information about your case. You do not need to fill in a name for the Defendant. You can find a civil case information sheet here. 

What is the Legal Notice of Publication?

After you file the Petition with the Circuit Clerk’s office, you should ask the judge’s office for a date and time for a hearing. At least 10 days before the hearing, you must publish a notice in a newspaper in the county where you filed your Petition.

The Circuit Clerk’s office may provide you with forms for a “Legal Notice of Publication Change of Name.” If not, here is one you can fill out.

If you asked that your identity be protected for personal safety reasons and your request is granted, the court will not require you to put your new name in the notice and the court may order that your hearing be closed to the public.

Once you have published the notice, you will need to file proof of publication with the court.

Are there fees for filing the Legal Notice of Publication?

There are fees for filing the publication in your local newspaper. However, you may be able to avoid paying these fees if you file a Financial Affidavit and it is approved. Here is a motion and order you can file with the court, asking that you not pay the fees.

Once you have published the notice, you will need to file proof of publication with the court.

What happens at the court hearing?

At the hearing, the judge will go over the information in your Petition. The judge will ask you to swear under oath that the information in your Petition is true. The judge will likely review the prohibited reasons for changing your name with you and want you to testify under oath that you are not seeking a name change for any of those reasons. The judge will also make sure that you gave proper notice as required by law.

If these requirements are met and the change of name does not violate the law, then the judge may order a change of name. The judge will write and sign an Order. Once you receive the Order signed by the judge, you are responsible for making sure a copy of the Order is filed with the clerk of the county commission in the county where you live.

What happens after the judge approves the name change?

Once your name or the name of the child has been changed it is your responsibility to inform government agencies, your employer, your creditors, and other interested agencies and businesses of the new name.

This is general legal information. For guidance about your situation, talk to a lawyer.