A person can change their name for any reason. The only conditions are that:
- the name change cannot be for any illegal or fraudulent purpose, and
- the new name does not interfere with the rights of others.
For example, you cannot change your name to a celebrity's name to take advantage of the celebrity’s name.
A name change can be made informally, by usage, OR formally, by going to court and filing a petition.
Topics on this page
- Name Change Through Usage
- Going to Court and Filing a Petition
Name Change Through Usage
You may change your name by simply picking a new name and then using it in your daily life. You can just start using your new name with friends, family, and any businesses with which you have contact. You will also need to change your records with various government agencies.
Be aware that changing your name by usage will not be accepted by all organizations, particularly financial institutions. You may need to change your name by filing a petition with a court.
Going to Court and Filing a Petition
You can change your name through a legal proceeding through the courts. A legal proceeding has the advantages of being speedy, definite, and a matter of record.
- Where to File Petition - To legally change your name through the Maryland courts, file a Petition for Change of Name in the Circuit Court of the county where you live, conduct regular business, are employed, or were born.
- Contents of Petition - Court Rules require certain information to be contained in the petition. For a list of requirements, please see Maryland Rule 15-901. If you are filing the name change yourself, you may want to use the court form found on the Maryland Courts website. Other helpful forms and instructions can be found on the Maryland Judiciary's Department of Family Administration court forms page.
- Required Documentation - a copy of your birth certificate or other documentation confirming your current name should be attached to the petition.
- Objections - If someone opposes your request for a name change, they can file an objection to the petition. The individual opposing the name change must file their objection in writing, indicating their reasons for the objection. The must send a copy of the objection to you. You will have 15 days to respond to the objection by filing a written response with the Court.
Name Change Series: Objecting to a Name Change from the Maryland Courts
- Court Actions - If no one objects, and everything is done properly, then the judge may sign the Order for Name Change without a hearing. If objections have been filed, or the judge needs additional information regarding the petition, a hearing may be held. After the hearing the judge will rule on the petition and enter the appropriate order in the record. A certified copy of the Order will be mailed to you. Use the certified copy of the Order for Name Change to change your name with the Social Security Administration, on your driver's license, with the Bureau of Vital Statistics, creditors, etc.
The court may not enter an order earlier than 30 days from the date the petition was filed. This time period is provided to allow adequate time for individuals who may object to the petition to file objections with the court.
Read the law: Md. Rule 15-901
Note for anyone convicted of a sex offense: Registered sex offenders whose name has been changed by court order must send a written notice of the change to every local law enforcement unit within three days after the order is entered. You will also be asked about this issue on the name change petition.