If you would like to legally change your or your child’s name, there are certain steps you must take. These steps vary depending on whether the name change is for an adult or a child.
Name Change for Adults:
There are three ways for an adult to change their name.
First, an adult can change their name after they are married by completing a marriage license. You may apply for such a license at your local county recorder’s office.
- You, your future spouse, and a witness who is 18 years old or older must be present and have photo IDs when signing the application to marry in front of a notary.
- Applications may only be obtained from a County Registrar's office, either in person or by mail.
- There is also a $35 fee (due upon application).
- There is a three-day waiting period after your application is accepted for your marriage license to be valid and is only valid for six months after the date of application.
- The county where you file the marriage license and marriage certificate does not have to be the same county where the marriage ceremony takes place
- Once the marriage ceremony has been performed and the completed Certificate of Marriage has been returned to the Recorder’s office, you will receive a certified copy that you will then use to update your Social Security card, driver’s license, etc.
Second, an adult may change their name as part of a divorce proceeding.
- This usually happens when a divorcing spouse wants to return to their maiden name. In a divorce, a person can only change his or her name back to the name that appears on their birth certificate or to the legal name the person had immediately prior to the marriage.
- If you are seeking a name change as part of a pending divorce, include your request for name change in your Petition (if you are the petitioner in the divorce action) or in your Response/Answer (if you are the respondent in the divorce action).
Third, an adult can file a petition for name change in district court. The petition must include the following information:
- The person's current name
- The county where the person lives
- A description of the person; including height, weight, hair and eye color, sex, place and date of birth
- The place or places where the person has lived for the past five years
- The reason for the request
- A legal description of all real estate in Iowa owned or in which the person has any legal interest
- The new name the person wants
A certified copy of the person’s birth certificate must also be attached to the person’s petition. If the person's birth certificate is not available, the person must explain why it is not available and provide another form of identification. There is a court filing fee of $195 and you must file your petition electronically unless you get permission from the court to file in paper. The petition must be served on the person’s spouse if they are married, which will be at a cost determined by the local sheriff. The Judicial Branch’s website has made a form "Petition for Name Change (Adult)" available to the public for free. This form can be filled out and filed with the District Court clerk. The form may be found at:
Be aware that a person’s name may only be changed once by filing a petition in District Court unless a very good reason can be given to the judge. This limit does not apply to a name change in a divorce proceeding.
Name Change for Minor Children:
The name change process for minor children is similar to that of adults. There are two ways to change a minor child’s name.
The first way is through either a pending custody action for the child, or a pending divorce action for the child’s parents.
- If you are the petitioner in the pending action, include your request for the name change in your Petition
- If you are the respondent in the pending action, include your request for the name change in your Response/Answer
The second option is for the child’s parent to file a petition for name change with the District Court clerk. The filing fee to do so is also $195. The petition must include:
- The child’s current name and county where they live
- The parent filing the petition's name and relationship to the child
- A description of the child; including height, weight, hair and eye color, race, sex, place and date of birth
- Place or places where the child has lived for the past five years
- The reason for requesting the name change
- The new name being requested for the minor child
A certified copy of the child’s birth certificate must be attached to the petition. If the child's birth certificate is not available, you must explain why it is not available and provide another form of identification.
If the child is under fourteen:
- Both parents listed on the birth certificate must file their consent (agreement) to the name change.
- If one parent does not consent to the name change, the court will set a hearing.
- At the hearing, the court may waive the need for consent from both parents (meaning only one parents' consent would be required) if it finds one of the following:
- The non-consenting parent has abandoned the child
- The non-consenting parent has been ordered to contribute to the support of the child or to financially aid in the child's birth and has failed to do so without good cause
- Or the non-consenting parent does not object to the name change after having been given due and proper notice
If the child is fourteen years of age or older, the petition must include the child’s written consent to the name change. The Iowa Courts website has made a form Petition for Change of Name of Minor Child available to the public for free. The form may be found at:
For court orders granting a name change, for both adults and minors, the clerk of court will provide a certified copy of the "Decree of Name Change".
Next Steps: After you change your name, there are several steps you should take to change the rest of your records.
First, you should update your birth certificate. If you were born in Iowa, both adults and minors must complete an “Abstract to Change Registrant’s Legal Name on Birth Certificate.” You may obtain the form by calling Iowa Vital Records at (515) 281-4944. The completed form must be signed by the District Clerk of Court. You then need to send the form, a certified copy of the court order changing the name, and $20 (check or money order) to the Iowa Department of Health. The processing time is approximately 4-6 weeks.
Second, you need to update your Social Security card. To do so, you must have a completed Form SS-5 (available at https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ss-5.pdf), proof of your U.S. citizenship (if not already on file) or lawful U.S. presence (e.g. citizenship certificate, working visa and I-94 print out, U.S. passport), a certified copy of your name change order, and proof of identity. Proof of identity may be a driver’s license, state-issued identification card, U.S. passport, employer ID card, school ID, health insurance card, or U.S. military ID. You may mail these documents to Social Security Administration (SSA) or take them to your local office. It typically takes about 14 business days for SSA to mail your new card.
Once you have updated your birth certificate and social security card, you should change your name on any Iowa driver’s license or photo ID you may have. There is a $10 fee. This must be done in person and you will need a certified copy of your updated birth certificate, Social Security card, and two documents that establish your residency in Iowa (e.g. utility bill, bank statement, credit/debit card statement, piece of mail that includes a postmark, Iowa ID card that has not been expired for more than one year). Photocopies and faxes of documents will NOT be accepted. A certified copy is one that contains the original seal and certificate of the court or registrar instead of a simple file or date stamp. You can visit https://iowadot.gov/mvd/realid/success.aspx to verify what documents you need to bring with you. Contact your local Department of Transportation (DOT) office for more information and office hours.
Lastly, you should update all other records to reflect your name change. This may include your health insurance and doctors, bank accounts and credit card companies, utility companies, post office, voter registration, etc.
Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans.
To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:
- Call 800-532-1275.
- Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161.
- Apply online at iowalegalaid.org
If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website iowabar.org. A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice.