This article is for people who want to change their name to a mononym (i.e., having only one name, instead of a first, middle, last name) in Washington state. Having a mononym is pretty unusual in the United States, but it is definitely possible to accomplish. There is no law preventing you from having a singular legal name. The most recent famous example to date of someone legally changing their name to a mononym is Kanye West changing his name to Ye in 2021. If you are thinking about changing to a mononym, you must first think about potential difficulties that you may face with a singular name, given the fact that society in the United States is set up for individuals with at least a first and last name. In particular, you may run into issues when filling out standard forms – particularly government-issued forms. Generally, and with the court’s approval, in Washington state if you are 18 years or older, you can choose any name you want (including a mononym) so long as it isn’t for a fraudulent purpose. RCW 4.24.130. There are additional requirements if you have been or are an offender under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections and if you are a registered sex offender. RCW 4.24.130(2),(3). The most common way to change your name is through a marriage or divorce, however you can also get your name changed by a stand-alone court order. 

How Do I Change My Name Legally in Washington?

Your local county (where you live) District Court is where you should go to ask for the name change packet (these are the documents needed to make the request for a name change via a court order). You can also look to see if they post them online. The documents required will be the Petition for Change of Name, Confidential Information form, and proposed Order for Name Change. You will need to fill out all the required documents fully and then take them to the District Court to file them. The court will ask you for your current ID, so be prepared for that. There will be a filing fee for to obtain this kind of court order, but you can always ask for a fee waiver and see if you qualify. Once you file your initial name change request documents with the District Court, they will assign you a case number and schedule a hearing in front of a Judge. Make sure that you write down that court date and appear at the hearing.

Can You Seal a Name Change in Washington?

In general, name changes are always public records. However, it is possible to get your name change request and resulting order sealed from the public record. If you want your name change records to be sealed, you must show the court that you are the victim of domestic violence and you are also in reasonable fear for your safety. RCW 4.24.130(5). If both of those factors are true, then you can proceed with making a request to seal your name change. To proceed, you will file this sealed name change request in Superior Court (instead of District Court as discussed above). In the Petition document, you will need to specify that you are asking for a sealed name change. Make sure that you explain in your request exactly how you are a domestic violence victim and why you are still in fear for your safety. Be specific. You will be asking the Judge to grant the name change and seal all documents filed. It will ultimately be up to the Judge whether they grant the name change and seal the file. However, it is comforting to know that whether or not the name change petition is granted, there shall be no public access to any court record of the name change filing, proceeding, or order, unless the name change is granted but the file is not sealed. This means your request for the name change will always be sealed even if the name change isn’t ultimately granted.

Name Change Legal Tip:

If your name change is granted, make sure that you request several certified copies of your Name Change Order (the actual court order that is signed confirming your name is changed). Several third-party entities will require a copy of the certified order before they will update your name with their records. Some third-party entities may not require a copy of your court order at all to update their records. Here are some key third parties that should be updated about your name change: Employer, financial institutions, Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, Department of Licensing, your doctors, etc. 

Hire an Experienced Attorney in Vancouver, WA!

Most of the time legal name changes are pretty straightforward, however sometimes they can attract more court scrutiny and it is more difficult to get granted. If you need help requesting and completing your name change, I would be happy to help. Give attorney Amber Rushbanks a call at Navigate Law Group.

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Every legal issue is very unique. Accordingly, the information in this blog is intended as general education material and not as legal advice. If you think you may have a legal issue, you should consult an attorney.