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How to Change Your Legal Name in Florida

Some states are very restrictive in their requirements to change a person’s legal name.  Fortunately, Florida is relatively permissive, and Family Diplomacy has successfully represented dozens of clients to help get their name legally changed.

What follows is a step-by-step guide on how someone can request a change of name in Florida.

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Is it too Late to Restore My Maiden Name in Florida?

In Florida, as in most other jurisdictions, women can restore their maiden name as part of the divorce process.  However, for a lot of reasons, many women keep their married name.

Sometimes it is so they can maintain the same last name as their minor children, making it easier to communicate with school and healthcare officials.  Sometimes it is related to their employment, and they do not want to disrupt an earned reputation by altering their name.  And sometimes it is because they simply did not know they had the option to restore their name in divorce proceedings.

So, after divorce, is it too late to restore a maiden name?

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Could Chelsea Manning Have Received A Legal Name Change in Florida?

A couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post reported that an army soldier convicted of leaking classified materials had changed her legal name from Bradley Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.  Ms. Manning’s name change has come after her public acknowledgment that she is transgender.

So could Chelsea Manning have been granted a name change in Florida?

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Athletes Have Changed Their Legal Name…And So Can You

There are many athletes who, for various reasons, have changed their legal names.

Basketball star Ron Artest changed his legal name to Metta World Peace to “inspire and bring youth together all around the world.”

Football player Chad Johnson became Chad Ochocinco in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, reflecting his jersey number, 85.

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Born Outside of Florida? You Can Still Get a Legal Name Change.

I recently had a conversation where a woman told me that she wanted to get a name change.  She had lived in Florida for the past 5 years, but she was born in New York City, and she was wondering if she would have to travel back to NYC to change her name and get her birth certificate amended.

I assured her that she could get the name change here in Florida.

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How Long does a Florida Legal Name Change Take?

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.

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Florida Transgender Name Change

Transgender residents of Florida, just like all other residents, have the right to petition the court for change of a legal name.  As in every name change case, whether the petition will be granted is determined by the following eligibility guidelines:

  • Whether the petitioner has an ulterior or illegal motive in seeking the name change (such as attempting to avoid criminal prosecution, attempting to avoid a debt, or attempting to assume the identity of someone else).  Though there is not much case law on the matter, changing a name to reflect a transgender identity should not be considered an ulterior motive.

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Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

The unfortunate truth is that current Florida law is not conducive to recognizing the relationships that develop in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families.  However, there are steps that Florida and Tampa Bay LGBT parents can take to boost the recognition of their parental rights.

Adoption

If LGBT parents are committed to raising a child together and recognizing each parent’s rights, I highly recommend that partners consider adopting each other’s children.  This helps form an unbreakable legal bond between the children and each partner.  Though the law is not completely settled in this area, the judges in Hillsborough County (including Tampa) are granting adoptions by LGBT partners.  What’s more, an adoption attorney located in Hillsborough County (such as myself) can help Florida parents come before Hillsborough County judges no matter where in Florida the parents live.

Co-Parenting Agreements

Co-parenting agreements can be great evidence that LGBT partners intend to parent children together.  It can boost the argument that “psychological parenting,” or the formation of a parent-like relationship between a child and a non-legal parent, has occurred and make it or more likely that parental rights will be recognized by Florida’s legal system.

Hyphenated or Unified Last Names

A hyphenated or unified last name can go a long way in demonstrating to the Florida legal system that partners intended to raise children together.  For example, if partner 1 is named Jones, and partner 2 is named Smith, it would be helpful to have all partners and children’s last names hyphenated or unified, so that everyone has a last name of Jones-Smith, Smith-Jones, Smones, Jith, etc.  Florida has laws to aid in legal name changes.

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If You Want a Legal Name Change in Florida, Know Thyself

Florida permits most people who want to change their legal name to do so, but there are some hoops to jump through.

You must file a legal document, known as a petition, in the circuit court of the county in which you reside.  The petition must include extensive information regarding you and your history, including all addresses at which you have lived since birth. 

In other words, before filing the petition, you must know thyself, and gather all appropriate information about you.

Keep in mind that you will likely have to go through a background check through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, so it is best to be as thorough and up front in the petition as possible.

A judge will review your petition, and he or she may require you to appear in court and provide testimony about the request to change your name.  This is mainly done to ensure that you are not requesting the change for an illegal or ulterior purpose.

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Where In Tampa Bay Can I Get Fingerprinted For My Legal Name Change?

If you want to get your legal name changed in Florida, and you are not getting married or divorced, you will probably need to submit fingerprints for a state and national background check.  Pursuant to Florida Statute section 68.07, the fingerprints must be submitted electronically, and they will be reviewed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

So where do you submit fingerprints electronically?

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