I Want to Change My Name

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There are many steps involved in changing your name. The steps include:

  • filing your completed petition
  • paying fees
  • getting a criminal background check (for everyone 22 or older)
  • publishing a notice of hearing (in most cases), and
  • attending a hearing

Read this article to learn more about the process.

If You are Getting Divorced

If you took your spouse’s last name when you were married and you are now getting divorced, you may ask the judge to let you change your last name as part of your divorce. Read Finishing Your Michigan Divorce without Minor Children or Finishing Your Michigan Divorce with Minor Children to learn more about changing your name as part of your divorce.

The Process and Requirements

File a Petition for Name Change to start the process of changing your name. You can use the Do-It-Yourself Name Change tool to complete your petition. The process to change your name typically takes between four and six months. The processing time varies depending on if you need to have a criminal background check or not.

Along with the other information required in your petition, you must say why you want to change your name. You can’t change your name for fraudulent reasons. Fraudulent reasons include wanting to deceive creditors or escape a criminal history.

Once you complete the petition, make a copy of it. File the original with the circuit court in the county where you live. You must have lived in that county for at least one year before you file your petition. It will cost $175 to file your petition. If you cannot afford to pay this, you can ask the judge to waive the fee. Read the article Fee Waivers in Court Cases to learn more about fee waivers.

If You are a Minor

If you are a minor who is at least 14 years old, you can ask the judge to change your name, but both your parents must agree to it.

If your noncustodial parent objects to the name change, the judge may still approve it if that parent:

  • Had the ability to pay support, but did not provide you with substantial support for the last two years, AND had the ability to visit or contact you, but has not had substantial contact with you in the last two years, 
  • Was convicted of child abuse or a sexual assault crime and you or one of your siblings was the victim, OR
  • Was convicted of first-degree or second-degree murder.

Your noncustodial parent must be given legal notice of the hearing and have a chance to object to the proposed name change. If you do not know their address, you must publish a notice with their name, to try to notify them about the name change. The Do-It-Yourself Name Change tool will create the forms you need to do this. 

If one of your parents is deceased, and your other parent has custody of you, that parent must agree to your name change. If that parent does not have custody of you, you must still notify your parent about your proposed name change and the hearing date.

If both your parents are deceased, your legal guardian must agree to your name change. You must submit letters of guardianship with your Petition for Name Change.

Criminal Background Check

If you are 22 years old or older, you must get a criminal background check. The processing fee for the criminal background check is $43.25.

First, you need to get fingerprinted. Some courts require that your fingerprints be submitted on a Michigan Applicant Fingerprint card (RI-008). Other courts will accept an electronic or "Live Scan" submission. Call the court where you are filing your Petition to find out which option the court will accept.

RI-008 Card Fingerprints

If your court uses the RI-008 card process, go to a local Michigan law enforcement agency and ask to be fingerprinted on a Michigan Applicant Fingerprint card (RI-008). Complete the card entirely. The law enforcement agency will take your fingerprints and give you the completed RI-008 card. The cost to get fingerprinted varies depending on the police station. Check with your local police station about the cost.

Then mail your fingerprints, a copy of your Petition for Name Change, and a check or money order for $43.25 to the Michigan State Police Department: 

Michigan State Police
P.O. Box 30266
Lansing, Michigan 48909-7766

Once the state police receive your fingerprint card, it usually takes three to five weeks to process it.

Electronic Live Scan Fingerprints

If the court where you filed your petition uses Live Scan, the court will give you the Live Scan Fingerprint Background Check Request form when you file your Petition. Contact the Live Scan vendor the court gives you to schedule a fingerprint appointment. If the court does not have a specific vendor it works with, select a vendor closest to you from the list of Live Scan Vendors

The Live Scan vendor will collect the $43.25 processing fee. The Live Scan vendor may charge an additional fee. It will send your fingerprints to the Michigan State Police. Once the state police receive the Live Scan, it usually takes seven business days to process.

Background Check Results

The state police department will report its findings and any information it got from the FBI to the court. They will not send you a copy. 

The background check will likely show any criminal records you have, including:

  • open or closed criminal cases
  • cases from out of state
  • very old records, including juvenile records
  • expunged records

If you have no pending charges or criminal record, the state police will destroy its copy of your fingerprints.

If You Have a Criminal Record

If your background check shows a criminal record, the judge will presume you want to change your name to escape your criminal history. You have to convince the judge that you're not trying to hide the criminal record with your name change. To do this, you can explain the the real reasons for your name change at the name change hearing.

If the judge grants your name change, the order will be sent to the state police, and maybe:

  • The department of corrections if you are now in prison, on parole, or you were in prison during the last two years,
  • The sheriff of the county where you were last convicted, if you were in a county jail anytime during the last two years, or
  • A court that has jurisdiction over you. A court has jurisdiction over you if you were the Plaintiff (or Petitioner) or Defendant (or Respondent) in a case in that court.

Publishing Notice of the Name Change

The Process

Most notices of name change hearings must be published in a local newspaper. This gives people your name change may affect a chance to object to it. You can use the Do-It-Yourself Name Change tool to get your Publication of Notice of Hearing form.

If publishing notice of the hearing would be dangerous or harmful, you can ask the judge not to publish. For more information, read Asking the Judge NOT to Publish Notice of the Name Change below.

Some courts work with the local Legal News for publication. In these courts, a copy of the Publication of Notice of Hearing form is sent to the Legal News for publishing when you file it. The Legal News will bill for the amount owed. After the fee is paid, the Legal News will mail you the original Affidavit of Publication. File it with the court.

Other courts require you to contact a local newspaper to publish your notice. Ask the newspaper to publish your notice right away.

After the local newspaper publishes your name change notice, submit a copy of the published notice and Affidavit of Publication to the court. The newspaper must complete the Affidavit of Publication, not you. The Affidavit of Publication must list the qualifications of the newspaper and the date or dates the notice was published.

Most newspapers have a standard affidavit form they use. If the newspaper publishing your notice does not, you can send it this Affidavit of Publication Form.

The judge will not sign the order granting your name change without the published notice and the Affidavit of Publication.

The notice must be published before your name change hearing. Depending on the county you live in, the notice needs to be published between two and eight weeks before the hearing. Some courts require you to check with them three days before your hearing to make sure they got the publication information. You can contact your local circuit court to find out its publication requirements. Use the Courts & Agencies section of this website to get contact information for your local circuit court.

Publication Fees and Fee Waivers

There is usually a fee for publishing notice of a name change. Some newspapers also charge a fee for the Affidavit of Publication. The prices depend on your county and the newspaper.

If you get a fee waiver, the court must pay the publication and affidavit costs. Read Fee Waivers in Court Cases to learn more about fee waivers.

Asking the Judge NOT to Publish Notice of the Name Change

If you have a good reason you don’t want to publish notice of the name change, you can ask the judge to keep the record of the proceedings confidential. The Do-It-Yourself Name Change tool will give you the forms you need. 

You need to show there is “good cause” not to publish. The Do-It-Yourself Name Change tool includes options to explain that there is good cause for any of these reasons:

  • Publishing would put someone in physical danger;
  • Publishing would put someone at risk of discrimination (for example, discrimination against transgender people); and/or
  • Publishing would be harmful for another important reason.

After you file your petition the judge may either agree or disagree with your request. If the judge agrees and grants your request, you can continue the name change process without publishing. (Note, if a minor is changing their name, and one of their parents has no known address, you may still have to publish the parents' names.)  

If the judge decides not to grant your written request, you have three choices:

  • You can publish notice of the name change hearing and continue with the process.
  • You can stop the name change process. You can file again in the future if you want. 
  • You can request a special hearing about publication. At the publication hearing, you explain why publishing notice of the name change would be harmful. If the judge still doesn’t agree with you, you will have another chance to choose one of the two options above.

For step-by-step instructions, go to Filing for a Name Change, and find the instructions that apply to you.

The Name Change Hearing

On the day of your name change hearing, bring any documents that are related to your name change. It is always a good idea to have two copies of the documents, so you can give the judge one.

At the hearing, the judge will likely ask you questions about the information in your petition. The judge will also give anyone who objects to your name change a chance to talk about their reasons for objecting.

If your petition is approved, the judge will complete and sign the order changing your name. The order is one of the documents that you can get by using the Do-It-Yourself Name Change tool. There is a $10 fee to have the court enter the order. A certified copy of the order costs another $11. It is generally a good idea to get two certified copies, if possible.

If the judge ordered your name change records be kept confidential, then the records will be kept in a sealed envelope marked confidential and placed in a private file. Only you will have access to these records, unless a judge orders otherwise.

Family Name Changes

When you ask to change your own name, you can also ask the judge to change your child’s name or the last name of your entire family using the same petition. The same general rules apply.

Complete and file the Petition for Name Change with the family division of the circuit court in the county where you and your child or family live. Anyone listed on the petition must have lived in that county for at least one year. Pay the fees associated with a name change. Everyone 22 years old or older must get a criminal background check. Publish the Notice of Hearing (unless the judge orders your case be kept confidential). 

If you are not currently living with your child’s other parent, you must notify your child’s other parent.

If your child’s noncustodial parent objects to the proposed name change, to have the name change approved you must prove that parent:

  • Had the ability to pay, but failed to provide your child with substantial support for the last two years, AND had the ability to visit or contact your child, but has not had substantial contact with your child in the last two years;
  • Was convicted of child abuse or a sexual assault crime and your child or one of your child’s siblings was the victim; OR
  • Was convicted of first-degree or second-degree murder.

Any minor child listed on the petition who is 14 years old or older must agree to the name change and sign the Minor's Consent to Name Change form in front of the judge during the hearing. If any child listed on the petition is younger than 14 years old (typically seven or older), the judge will decide if the child is capable of expressing a preference, and will consider that child’s wishes.

After Your Name Change

Not all documents that have your old name on them will automatically change. To learn more about what you should do after your name change, read the article After Your Name Change.

Finding a Lawyer

You might decide you want a lawyer to help you. If you have a low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have a low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area. If you are not able to get free legal services but can’t afford high legal fees, consider hiring a lawyer for part of your case instead of the whole thing. This is called limited scope representation. To learn more, read Limited Scope Representation (LSR): A More Affordable Way to Hire a Lawyer. To find a limited scope lawyer, follow this link to the State Bar of Michigan lawyer directory. This link lists lawyers who offer limited scope representation. You can narrow the results to lawyers in your area by typing in your county, city, or zip code at the top of the page. You can also narrow the results by topic by entering the kind of lawyer you need (divorce, estate, etc.) at the top of the page.