Name Change (Youth & Young Adult Legal Issues Edition)


By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)

Learn how to change your name on your birth certificate and other important documents.
Resource Information

How can I legally change my name?

To change your name on your birth certificate, you must file papers with a court. Some common reasons for requesting a name change are:

  • You do not like your name and would like a new one;
  • You want to reclaim a family name;
  • You want to escape a violent situation by creating a new legal identity; or
  • You want to have the same last name as your partner, but you are unmarried.

A name change cannot be done to avoid debt, hide a criminal record, or for any other improper reason.

Pros of Formal Name Change:

  • You can pick your new name
  • You can request a new birth certificate and social security number after the court approves your name change
  • A new legal name could help you make a fresh start
  • You may ask the court to seal your court papers requesting a new name, which may help keep the link between your old and new names confidential
  • An abuser or anyone trying to do you harm may have a harder time finding you if you have a new identity.

Cons of Formal Name Change:

  • You have to go through a court proceeding
  • The court proceeding and public notice may cost money – you can apply for a waiver of court fees
  • Some people say it can be mentally and emotionally exhausting making the adjustment to a new name
  • Your name must be changed with every agency you interact with, which can cause complications in receiving your public benefits.

Changing your name for safety:

If you are trying to escape a dangerous situation, people seek out the advice of a local advocate for legal advice and safety planning:

Take Action

Legal Help

  • Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) provides free civil, non-criminal legal help to eligible clients. Apply for free legal help by calling 1-800-666-6899 or applying online.
  • For tribal members, find more information on name changes at MontanaLawHelp.org. If you are a tribal member living in a tribal community, contact MLSA to apply for free legal help on your specific situation at 1-800-666-6899 or by applying online.
  • Contact your nearest Self Help Law Center for free legal information and forms.

Legal Forms

There are options for name change forms for minors and for filing with a sealed record (for those whose safety is at risk).

Non-Legal Resources

  • The Youth Homelessness Development Project (YHDP) is designed to support Montana service providers in the development and implementation of a coordinated community approach to preventing and ending youth homelessness. More information is avaliable at the YHDP website.
  • County resource guides provide an up-to-date list of avaliable help centers.

Find more resources using our interactive Legal Guide.
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