How to get a name change in Washington State

In Washington State, if you are eighteen or older, you can choose and use any name you wish, as long as you are not trying to defraud (cheat) someone. This describes the process. #3400EN

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

In Washington State, if you are eighteen or older, you can choose and use any name you want, as long as you are not trying to defraud (cheat) someone. Example: It is not legal to change names to avoid paying creditors or child support.

It is not hard in most situations. There are 3 ways to change your name legally in Washington State:

  1. Through marriage and divorce
  2. By court order
  3. By common law (see "What is a common law name change," below)
* There are special rules for changing a child's name and for requesting a name change if you have Department of Corrections status or Sex Offender Registration status. See below.

You can choose to change your name if you get legally married. It is not required. You might only be able to change your last name though if using a marriage to do so. If you want to change your first and middle name, you may still need to complete a court ordered name change from your local district court.

All marriage license and application information should be completed and signed using your current legal name. You might also have to provide your birth name if it has been changed before. To change your name using your marriage, you should provide a certified copy of your marriage license to the agencies and organizations that you need to change your name with.  You can use your certified copy of your marriage license to change your last name at places like the Social Security Administration and the Washington State Department of Licensing as well as banks and other accounts. The procedure is the same no matter your gender.

A divorce is another chance to change your name. You or your lawyer can simply include the name change request in the divorce petition. The standard petition for divorce (or "dissolution") in Washington includes a section that will ask if a name change is requested with this divorce for the Petitioner. If you are the person seeking a divorce (the "Petitioner"), then you would ask for your name change in this section.  You can ask to change your first, middle and/or last name. 

If you are the spouse who is the Respondent in a divorce (or the person replying to a divorce petition from your spouse), you can also ask for a name change for yourself in your Response to a Petition about a Marriage that you will file once you are served divorce papers. The court will grant your request to change your first, middle and/or last name in the final divorce order. You can then use a certified copy of the final divorce order to change your name on your social security card, ID and other documents and accounts. The procedure is the same no matter your gender.

Only if you are a domestic violence survivor asking for safety reasons. See "There is domestic violence. Can I keep my new name confidential?" below. You can only change your own name through a divorce. To change a child's name, you must start a separate case in district court. See "How do I get a court-ordered name change for a minor?" below.

Your local county District Court is the court that you will use to ask for legal name change for most name changes. Call your local county District Court or look online for forms specific to your location.

To change your name by court order you must:

  • Fill out a Petition for Change of Name. It must state all of these:
    • Your current legal name and the name you want.
    • Your birthdate and place of birth.
    • The county you live in.
    • That you are not a registered sex offender.
    • Whether you are not an offender under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections (see "What if I am a Convicted Felon?" section).
    • That you are not changing your name for fraudulent purposes.
    • That changing your name will not hurt anyone else's interests.
  • If you have a low income, prepare a Motion and Declaration for Fee Waiver. If you are under 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, use our Ask a Court to Waive Your Filing Fee packet to ask the court to waive (forgive) the fee.  Or use our do-it-yourself interview program, Washington Forms Online, to complete the forms at If you need help finding out how the federal poverty limits apply to your income, you can use this guide from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services. Review the 2023 Federal Poverty Levels from the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Under a new law starting July 1, 2022 all name change recording fees must also be waived in addition to the filing fee if you qualify for a fee waiver. In a name change case, the court must also order the county auditor to waive all recording fees related to your name change if you qualify for waiver of the court filing fee. Read RCW 4.24.130 to learn more.  You can also use our Ask a Court to Waive Your Filing Fee packet to ask the court to waive (forgive) the recording fee. You can use one fee waiver request form for both the filing and the recording fee waiver requests.  Or use our do-it-yourself interview program, Washington Forms Online, to complete the forms.

    * When you submit a Motion and Declaration for Fee Waiver, the clerk may tell you that you do not qualify for a filling fee or recording fee waiver. You can ask the judge to waive both the filing and the recording fees. Only a judge can decide if you must pay the fees.  If a clerk asks you to pay it, but you believe you are eligible for a fee waiver, say, "I would like to take that issue in front of the judge."  If the clerk still will not let you file, contact a lawyer.
  • File a Petition in the district court of the county where you live. You must show photo ID when you file.  If you are houseless or do not have a photo ID, the clerk should tell you what other proof you can use to show you live in the county. If you expect to pay the full filing fee, you must pay it to the clerk when you file. Call the clerk ahead of time to ask what the fees will be. They vary by county. The court assigns a case number when you file.

    * View Washington Courts list of courts, including district courts.
    * Each court may require you to use their forms. Ask the district court clerk in your county for their forms if available.
  • Schedule a hearing date. The clerk will schedule a date for you to appear before a judge. Each court has its own schedule and procedure for hearing these cases. You might be able to have a hearing on the same day you file your petition. You might have to come back another day. If you filed a Fee Waiver Request, there may also be an extra hearing for that request.

Name change hearings are usually quick and easy. The judge calls your name when it is your turn and asks you a few questions. The judge will ask if everything in the petition is true and correct. You will also be asked if you are trying to change your name for fraudulent purposes or if you are trying to avoid debts.

If you have asked for a fee waiver, the judge may ask you about your finances. If all goes well, the judge will then sign off on the name change and fee waiver, if applicable.

If the judge does not waive your fees, you may not be able to proceed until you pay the filing fee. Get legal help if the judge denied your fee waiver and you are unable to pay.  You can find more information about where to get legal help at the end of this document.

You should:

  • File the signed Order in the clerk's office.
  • Get certified copies of the signed order. (This is usually about $5 per copy. You will often need at least 5 copies to update all common IDs.)
  • Send copies of the signed Order to all institutions or persons needing proof of the name change.
  • Keep a certified copy for your files.
  • If you were born in Washington State and want to change your birth certificate, send certified copies of all paperwork to Department of Health, Center for Health Statistics, P.O. Box 9709, Olympia, WA  98507-9709.  (Learn more about court-ordered name changes from the Washington State Department of Health.)
  • If you were born outside of Washington State, look up that state's procedures for changing the name on a birth certificate.
  • Record your Order. In some counties, the court records your Order with the Auditor. In others, you must send the Order to the Auditor yourself for filing. (District courts keep records only for a few years.) Each district court's name change procedure is different. Ask your district court clerk how to record your name change.

If both parents agree and sign the petition, it is similar to the procedure above. Check your district court's website or talk to the clerk to get the appropriate forms. Name change forms for people under 18 are different than the forms used for adults.

If the other parent does not agree with the petition, you should schedule a hearing in front of a judge. You must prove to the court that you gave the other parent notice of the petition and the court date.  The other parent can challenge the proposed name change.  

When parents disagree about the child's name, the court will consider:        

  • The child's wishes
  • The effect of the change of the child's name on the child's relationship with each parent
  • How long the child has had a given name
  • Any difficulties, harassment, or embarrassment the child may experience from having the present or proposed name
* Children ages fourteen and older must give their permission to change their names.
* Some counties have a local court rule requiring the court to decide a minor name change based on the child's best interests.

Courts generally permit name change requests in adoptions. The absent natural parent gave up their parental rights to the child when they agreed to the adoption. Name changes are normally part of the adoption case. You do not need to file a separate case.

It is possible to get a name change with only one parent's consent. You will probably have to serve the other parent with notice of the hearing date. Ask your district court clerk how to do this. Each county has its own procedure.

If your child's medical provider supports their request for a name change, ask the doctor to write a supporting declaration.

If there is an active custody case or parenting plan, follow the parenting plan or talk to your lawyer before filing for a name change for your child.

Maybe. Name changes are recorded as public record. A different procedure keeps your new name confidential for safety reasons.

If you are a domestic violence survivor and you want the record sealed due to a "reasonable fear" for safety, you should petition the superior court in your county to change your name and/or child's name. The court will seal the file if it believes safety justifies the sealing. Once sealed, there is no public access to any court record of the name change filing, even if the court does not grant the name change. Contact your county domestic violence program for help. Find it by calling the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

You can also ask for a name change for domestic violence survivors as part of a divorce or parentage case. It is the only time a superior court in a divorce action may change a child's name. The court in these cases will not seal the record.

This is when you use only the new name, all the time, for all purposes. This is legal but is not the same as a "court ordered name change". You have a common law right to use any name you choose. The court is not involved.

The common law method has downsides. Many government agencies may need proof that you have made a court ordered name change. Since you have not gotten a court order for your name change, you need some other document for this requirement.  You may not be able to change your name on all IDs or accounts using a common law name change.

Some offices will accept an affidavit of name change. This written statement explains:

  • You have changed your name for all purposes.
  • You have not made the change for fraudulent purposes.

You must swear to and sign the affidavit before a notary public.

You should notify:

  • All creditors
  • Insurance companies
  • Banks
  • Employer(s)
  • Your children's daycare and/or schools, and the teachers
  • Any schools you attend, and the teachers
  • Doctors and dentists
  • The Social Security Administration
  • The IRS 
  • Your Tribal enrollment office if you are an enrolled Tribal member

You must also send the Department of Licensing (DOL) written notice to have your driver's license and car registration changed. If you have real estate deeds, mortgages, stocks, bonds, or other documents reflecting ownership of other assets, you must have your name changed on those through written notification.

Some of these entities will accept a letter or verbal statement that you have changed your name. Others will require a formal document as proof. This could be:

  • A certified copy of your final divorce order, if you changed your name in a divorce
  • A sworn and notarized affidavit, if you used the common law method
  • A certified copy of the court order, if you do a court ordereded name change

If you are a felon and are incarcerated right now OR if you are on probation,parole or under post-prison supervision at the time that you file for a name change, you must give the Department of Corrections written notice of the hearing time and date along with copies of your petition five days before the hearing on the name change. RCW 4.24.130(2). If this is your situation, you should use these special rules from RCW 4.24.130(2) for your name change.  Ask your parole or probation officer whom you should send the notice to. You can also ask the prison records officer if you are currently living in prison.

If you are currently incarcerated in a prison in Washington, it may be difficult to plan for the required name change hearing appearance you might have to make in the local district court.  Some prisons will not allow you to attend the hearings if it requires you to leave the prison complex. Some counties have procedures to address this and others do not. Ask the court clerk at the District Court of the county you are incarcerated in for more information about the local process.

* If you are a convicted sex offender or kidnapper, other rules and restrictions will apply. RCW 4.24.130(3); RCW 9A.44.130(7). Talk to a lawyer for more help.

If your name change is granted, you must also give a copy of the Order Changing Name to the Department of Corrections within five days of getting the order. It is a misdemeanor to fail to do these things.

You should be able to request a name change petition form from the county jail in which you are being held.  You may need help from a support person who is on the outside to be able to complete and file the petition in the court itself. Some county district courts will be able to process name changes for people being held in jail in their county and will work with the jail to make sure you can attend your name change hearing if required. Some county district courts will not be able to do so.  If you need help, you should contact a lawyer.

Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

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Last Review and Update: Jan 17, 2023
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