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Basics on Applying for a Name Change
Generally, under Minnesota law, people can change their legal name through marriage, divorce/legal separation, or by filing a name change action in court. Changing a legal name through any of those processes requires that you do specific things. The process of filing a name change action involves filling out court forms, appearing before a judge, and it may also involve notifying third-parties. If you do not understand how to fill out the forms and follow the court procedures, you should talk to a lawyer. There may also be Self-Help Services in the Courts where you could get help with the forms and court procedures.
Who May Apply for a Name Change
Under Minnesota law, to apply for a legal name change the person must:
- have lived in the State of Minnesota for a least six (6) months before filing the application;
- file the Application for Name Change in the county where the applicant currently lives;
- be at least 18 years old (a parent, legal guardian, or next-of-kin may apply on behalf of a minor child); and
- pay the court filing fee or get a Fee Waiver if you qualify based on your low income
FRAUD: You cannot change your name to avoid paying debts, to avoid being sued, or to avoid being arrested or charged with a crime. This would be the same as having a "fraudulent intent" to change your name.
PRIVACY: With some exceptions, the public can generally access court files. Any information in your name change file will be accessible unless the court determines that the name change is made in connection with participation in a victim or witness protection program.
MINOR NAME CHANGE: MN Statute § 259.10 requires that both parents have notice of an Application for Name Change of their minor child filed with the court. The applicant must show proof that the non-applicant parent(s) have been served with a Notice of Hearing, or if the non-applicant parent cannot be served, then the applicant must publish the Notice of Hearing in the legal newspaper of the county of the non-applicant parent’s last known address. If the non-applicant parent is not known, the applicant must bring a certified copy of the birth certificate to the court hearing to show the judge that the non-applicant parent’s name does not appear on the birth certificate.
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How to Apply for a Name Change
If you are eligible to apply for a name change in the State of Minnesota, you must file an "Application" and other forms with the District Court in the county where you live. Depending on your situation, you may also have to notify third-parties. NOTE: The last page of the Application has a place for you to sign only in front of a Notary. This is called the "Verification." Do not sign it until the Notary can see you write your name in the Verification. Make copies of your papers after you have filled them out.
Bring the papers to the court administrator to "file" them. You will need to pay a filing fee or request a Fee Waiver based on low income. When you file the forms with the court, the court administrator will give you a hearing date and time for when you must appear before a judge or will tell you how to schedule your hearing. NOTE: If you are asking to change the name of a minor, you must give notice of the hearing date and time to the non-applicant parent(s). Save that date on your calendar. For information on how to prepare for a hearing, see Tips for Representing Yourself if Court.
Go to court for the hearing. The applicant must bring two witnesses to appear in court who can testify about the applicant's identity. If the application for a name change is made on behalf of a minor (under the age of 18), the minor must be present at his or her court hearing.
If the judge approves the Application, the judge will sign an Order Granting Name Change. The Order will be entered into the court's record and you may get certified copies of the Order from the court administrator for a fee. NOTE: You will need certified copies of the Order to change important documents such as a driver's license, Social Security card, and bank accounts. It is a good idea to keep at least one certified copy of the name change order with your personal records.
The judge may order you to notify certain public agencies, officials or other third-parties about your new legal name, or you may want to do so for other purposes. See What to Do After a Name Change for more information on notifying others about a name change.
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How to Change a Birth Certificate
1. Mistake. If the information on a birth certificate is wrong or missing because a mistake was made when the birth certificate was created, do not file an Application for Name Change with the court to have that birth certificate changed. Mistakes can be corrected through your local County Vital Statistics office or the Minnesota Department of Health. Procedures to amend (change) the birth record are available on the MN Department of Health website or by calling (651)201-5970.
2. Exceptional circumstances. You may file an Application for a Name Change with the court only if you can prove that there are exceptional circumstances that make changing the birth certificate necessary. You must state your reasons on your Application form and specifically ask the judge to order the Registrar of Vital Statistics (MN Dept. of Health) to change the birth certificate. You should talk with an attorney and get legal advice if you want to pursue this option.
Applicant is Currently in Prison
An inmate confined in a correctional facility may request a name change only one time, unless the name change would infringe on a constitutional right of an inmate. Inmates must complete an additional form called Inmate Affidavit for Name Change.
Applicant Lives in Minneapolis
The City of Minneapolis, which is in the 4th Judicial District (Hennepin County), has a City Ordinance (law) that allows two adults to register as domestic partners. Do a search for "142.20" to find Registration of Domestic Partners. If you live in Minneapolis and are registered as a domestic partner, make sure you use the Name Change Forms for the 4th District Court.
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