Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Adult Name Changes in Harris County, Texas

Here is the adult name change process in a nutshell:
1. Before you come see an attorney - You pay for finger print cards – you need 2 finger-print cards that are prepared at the Houston Police Department on Main Street & Rusk Street in Downtown Houston. It costs under $50 to have these 2 finger print cards made. You pay HPD for these cards. Then you call me for an appointment.
Warning: If you have any outstanding arrest warrants, you will be arrested when you try to enter the building so be sure that you do not have any outstanding tickets or any other legal problems before you attempt to enter the building!
2. There is some legal paperwork (Title of the Document -- Petition for An Adult Name Change) to be filed at the courthouse in Downtown Houston. The filing fee to do an adult name change is approximately $300 payable to the Harris County District Clerk’s office. This is the only fee that Harris County collects.

3. Then one of the finger print cards must be sent to Austin Texas and that costs under $100 for the agency in Austin to do a state and federal background check to make sure that you are not a “terrorist” and that you do not have a state or federal felony criminal record.  (If you do, the court is not going to issue you a name change & you have wasted your money.)
4. After Austin agency has done their criminal background check, they send their paperwork directly to the Judge. This agency can take up to 4 months to get this paperwork done. (FYI: From my past experience with this agency, it is not in your best interest to attempt to hurry this agency.  They don't like being "rushed".)
5. Then you and I must appear before the Judge and you must swear under oath that you are not a terrorist and that you are doing asking for a name change to avoid criminal prosecution or avoid creditors. You must briefly explain why you want a name change. 

Do It Yourselvers Beware:  I have found that most Harris County judges prefer that you have an attorney present when you are trying to do a name change.  You can certainly try to do this pro se, however, most judges put you at the end of the daily court docket. 

Also, if you purchase the paperwork sold on the internet, radio or television by companies outside of the State of Texas, you are probably wasting your money.  These companies are not using paperwork that the judges in Harris County are used to seeing.  They are not using forms prepared by Texas attorneys.  These forms are prepared by attorneys that have probably never set foot in the State of Texas. 

Also, do not purchase forms from office supply stores.  If you look carefully on the back of the kit, it says "state forms not included".  Therefore, why would you purchase a kit that does not include the forms that you need? 

Lastly, do not call "411" and ask for legal aide.  There is no such "animal" in the Houston area.  The phone number that you are given is not located in the State of Texas and is owned by a person that has numrous BBB complaints against him.  This company sells worthless forms and you will not get your money refunded. 
6. After the judge signs the paperwork, it must go through Harris County “processing”. Then approximately 2 weeks later you get a certified copy of the final document that the Judge signed that approved the name change. 

In order to receive a certified copy you must pay $1 per page.  You go back downtown to the courthouse and stand in line at the certified copy window.

7.  Actually changing your name.  You take that paperwork that the judge signed to the Social Security Administration to get a new Social Security card. Then you can go to the Texas Driver’s License Bureau to get a new driver’s license. After that you can get a new bank account and other accounts with the new name. 

8.  Think carefully before beginning this process.  Before you think about changing your name, remember a name change is a major change.  You must change everything! 

Just to name a few of the things are: Your employer, all of your medical providers, your medical insurance, utilities, car insurance, car title, life insurance, professional licenses, schools, diplomas, bank, real estate, credit cards, all legal documents, etc. 

It is going to impact your credit rating.  Don't be surprised if credit file gets lost in the shuffle! 

Changing your name takes a lot of time and effort. 

True horror story: A major hospital in the Sugarland area lost my chest x-rays because some clerk filed them under my "old married name" (I'd been divorced over 20 years!)  and I almost died when I had a pulminary embolism.  My doctor had to release me from the hospital and sent me to back to try to locate the missing x-rays because she needed to review them.  So a name change can be a life-threatening experience.  (To make matters worst there is another Fran Brochstein & they kept trying to give me her records from her broken arm -- I've never broken my arm!)

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