One of the first questions I am always asked by potential clients who are seeking to change their legal name in Tampa Bay or elsewhere in Florida is how long it will take.
First, it depends on whether you retain an attorney who is experienced in name change proceedings. I have helped countless Florida residents obtain a change of their legal name throughout the state, and I have addressed situations that could have caused the name change to be delayed by months.
For example, after a client completed the required fingerprinting and FBI/Florida Department of Law Enforcement background check, the results did not make their way to the Brevard County Clerk of the Court. The fingerprint vendor claimed that the clerk should have received the results, and the clerk claimed that the results were never sent. Further, the judge would not set a final hearing on the name change until the Brevard clerk received the background check results. Accordingly, my office got on the phone, did some investigating, reached out to our contacts at the vendor and the clerk’s office, and were able to locate the background check results. Immediately thereafter, we got the results in the clerk’s file and set the final name change hearing.
In a case in Hillsborough County, I represented a woman who declined to restore her maiden name during her divorce, but a couple of years later had a change of mind. So, she hired me to represent her in the name change. As she was restoring her maiden name, rather than changing to a new legal name, she was not required to have the fingerprints and FBI background check. However, when we go to the final hearing, we had a judge who recently joined the family law bench and was not yet familiar with the name change laws. The judge asked where the background check results were and was prepared to delay the hearing until fingerprints were submitted and received by the clerk. Fortunately, I was there to point out that Florida Statutes section 68.07(2)(a) does not require a person restoring a former name to go through the background check, and the judge then granted the final judgment.
So, once you hire an experienced name change attorney, then the question of how long it takes usually depends on two people: you and the judge. Specifically, it depends on (i) how quickly you can fill out and return the easy-to-read name change worksheet that I provide and go to get your fingerprints scanned and (ii) how busy is the judge’s schedule. Fortunately, as an attorney, I am usually able to access openings in a judge’s calendar of which the general public is unaware.
Though some cases may take more or less time, on average, I am usually able to help a client obtain the name change within 4 to 8 weeks of receiving the completed worksheet.