Changing your name in Florida does not necessarily require the help of lawyers that specialize in name changes. Chapter 68 Section 7 of Florida Statutes Title VI, Civil Practice and Procedures describes all of the procedures needed to do this. Follow the instructions provided in the Office of the State Courts Administrator document Petition for Change of Name and it’s unlikely you will have issues changing your name on your own. A college application now requires more information than a judge who will review your name change petition.
There are, however, some circumstances when it’s beneficial to hire an attorney to assist you. In this article, I first share resources on how to change your name in South Florida without the help of lawyers that specialize in name changes. After this, I describe the problems that could arise by doing it yourself. In close, I describe the circumstances when you should speak with a lawyer that specializes in name changes.
When Not to Hire Lawyers that Specialize in Name Changes
A lawyer specializing in name changes isn’t required if you want to change your name. One reason why this is that petitioning for a name change is, generally, a non-adversarial filing. This means that there won’t be a lawyer arguing why you should be prohibited from changing your name in the same room. If after review of the documents required by the court you feel confident about proceeding, you can go it alone or with some assistance.
When You File Pro Se
Pro se is Latin for “in one’s own behalf.” When you do not retain a lawyer to appear in court – you are considered Pro Se. Pro se representation is common in name changes as you need only prove you meet requirements of obtaining a name change rather than arguing a case. The procedures published on the websites listed below are all guides that someone without a Juris Doctor can follow with relative ease.
- How to Change you Name in Florida by Clinton M. Sandvick, J.D., PhD. on WikiHow
- How to Legally Change a Name Without Cost by Edward A Hama, J.D. on LegalZoom.
- Florida Name Change Forms – How to Change Your Name in FL on eForms
While their advice is free, changing your name won’t be just because you will have to complete and file the paperwork yourself. As of December 2021, the petition filing fee costs $401 in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties.
You’ll also need to schedule a criminal background check and fingerprinting. The cost of these depends on the authorized service provider. Information on these providers is on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Obtaining Criminal History Information website by searching through their vendors.
After you’ve collected all of the information required and completed the form, it must be filed. You can’t, however, just walk into any court to file it. The Petition for Change of Name must be filed with the Clerk of Court of the county in which you live. If the Clerk of Court has e-file options available, you may not even need to leave the comfort of your own to file it. Below are links to South Florida’s courts that handle name changes as well as information about whether they can provide people representing themselves with answers for procedural questions.
Palm Beach County Clerk
The Unified Family Court of Palm Beach County operates at multiple facilities in Palm Beach County, including two locations in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Delray Beach, and Belle Glade. They accept e-filings for petitions and they will answer your procedural questions in person, by calling the offices of one of their locations, or by email.
Broward County Clerk of Court
Broward County’s Family Division is the office that accepts filings for name change and they have offices in Fort Lauderdale, Deerfield, Hollywood and Plantation. They accept e-filings for petitions and procedural questions can be answered by calling one of their locations, or by email.
Miami-Dade County Family Court
Miami-Dade County Clerk of the Court Civil and Family Court has 11 locations in Miami-Dade County. Visiting the Family Court Self Help Program at the courthouse or call their office (305) 349-7800 will help you get your procedural questions answered.
While all of these clerks and pro se programs will answer basic questions about procedures, none can provide any form of legal advice. Might you need another form? Supplementary documentation? They won’t say as they are not your lawyer.
When You’re Filing with Legal Aid
Another way to avoid hiring lawyers that specialize in name changes is to seek assistance from attorneys working at legal clinics to represent you. If your income level makes you eligible according to specific criteria, you can save yourself some legal fees.
Partnered with the Florida Bar Foundation, Florida Name Change is an organization that provides free services to help residents throughout the state of Florida update their legal name.
Palm Beach County
Palm Beach County residents that want assistance from lawyers that specialize in name changes may be eligible for free legal assistance from Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc., depending on their income level.
If you think you may be eligible for free legal services contact Southern Legal Counsel or apply online for their assistance.
Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. provides free legal assistance in the filing of petitions to those that meet certain income requirements.
Risks in Not Hiring Lawyers that Specialize in Name Changes
Generally speaking not many small mistakes you can make on your own can result in durable negative consequences except for false information within the petition submitted to the court. Time delays in processing the documents and receiving court orders are likely to be the biggest issues you will face when petitioning to change your name. These holdups can cause significant inconvenience. Say you are planning a vacation to another country. Airlines may require fees for you to change your name to comply with the regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration. You ought not to consider booking anything until you have all of your paperwork in hand.
There are, however, several circumstances when it is worth consulting with lawyers that specialize in name changes. You want to save time you’d otherwise spend if your interpretation of a phrase and a legal term in the application are the same. Perhaps you have encountered problems collecting all of the documents required to change your name and need help producing creative solutions. Or it could be that you don’t feel comfortable standing in front of a judge in a courtroom. Maybe you want to ensure that the name you desire, for example, Kevin, doesn’t accidentally become Kelvin because of a typo. Perhaps there are extenuating circumstances that make you want to seal the petition so someone can’t use your old name to search for what your new name is. Whatever the case may be, Klein Law Group can help.
When to Hire Lawyers that Specialize in Name Changes
Every few weeks we receive an e-mail from someone that searched “name change attorney near me” and wants to ask how much it costs. The answer is always: “It depends.” Just like an auto-mechanic can’t provide a realistic estimate before looking under the hood of a car and determining which services need to be rendered, a lawyer can’t assess the effort involved in a case before learning all of the elements. Normally Klein Law Group charges a $3500 flat rate plus $500 for court-related fees. However, this may change depending on the complexity of your case. What you get with that is the assurance that the Petition will be processed in the shortest time possible and you will not have to resubmit due to mistakes you make pro se.
Any adult can change their name by following the rules described in Florida Statutes and the steps given in online how-to guides. What having attorneys that specialize in name changes complete and file your petition with the court gives you is peace of mind. Their professional experience ensures that any issue which could come up if you submit it without legal help will be quickly addressed. If there are significant faults in what you submit, for example, you may have to start the process from the beginning and pay for the filing fee and court date a second time.
Klein Law Group has lawyers experienced in name changes ready to help you begin your life under your new name. Contact us if you’d like to set up a free 30-minute no-obligation consultation.