Note: I am not a lawyer; I am a nerd with a blog. This information could be out of date, inapplicable to your nuancèd situation, or I could have even got some of it wrong. I won’t mock you by suggesting you hire a lawyer (if you were a zillionare you wouldn’t have Googled this), but be sure to check any “facts” I claim before acting on them, double-check them before spending any money acting on them, and triple-check them before submitting potentially binding legal documents based on them.


To change your name on your driver’s license in Alabama without any extenuating circumstances (not getting married, no native tribal government OKing the change, etc.) will cost about $90 in Madison County, including materials; not including whatever you value your own time at; not including replacement certificates for various personal achievements.

In Alabama, you must do things in exactly this order:

1. Get the Court Order

(Expect to spend about ~$2.00 on postage and printing in total, or up to ~$5.00 if you live outside of Madison County.)

A court order for name change costs about ~$37.00, depending on your county of residence.

Note that the court (no matter which county) will permanently confiscate the official copy of your birth certificate you submit with the request. If you don't already have a spare copy of your birth certificate, it’s wisest to get one of those first, to avoid being stuck standing around without one.

Also note that the court may impose additional requirements or fees. Call your probate court to verify these details.

  • For Example: Madison County uses a custom form available on its website, rather than the state-wide standard PS‒12 name change request form. They have no other special requirements. They publish the entire cost clearly on their website.
  • For Example: Morgan County requires you to get an ALEA fingerprint background check (~$25.68) and an FBI fingerprint background check (~$18.68), which you must include with your name change request. The Decatur Police Department reportedly offers fingerprinting for free, while the county sheriff’s office will charge $40.00 for the 2 sets you’ll need. Morgan County also imposes unclearly documented “additional recording costs”, which seem to total about $9.00 if my math is right, and are seemingly not included in the $22.00 “filing fee”.

To save time, I mailed in the form; they accepted scanned copies of everything (except, obviously, the notarized application itself.) I guess I feel a bit weird now about not having made a duplicate of my original application form as a memento. I believe I gave “Personal, Professional Image, Religious” as my reasons for requesting the name.

When it was approved, they called me and gave me the option to pick up the orders in person or to receive them back by mail. Madison County provided me with 3 official copies at no further charge, and the clerk said I could request further official copies @$2.00/ea at any time if needed. Obviously, YMMV.

2. Amend your Birth Certificate (Optional)

Note that (depending on your definition of “necessity”) this is NOT strictly necessary, and in fact is not allowed in some states! Where applicable, you can save around ~$5.00 to $10.00 by just getting a regular, non-amended duplicate to surrender te the courts instead.

Amending the birth certificate will cost about ~$20.00, depending on your birth state. However, the requirements and pricing for this vary significantly depending on your birth state, especially if amending. Either use “Where to Write for Vital Records” ( to find yours, or just Google it.

If amending, see “Catch-22” below for further complications.

3. Update your Social Security card

Updating your Social Security card is free.

Provided you’re not changing your sex, you can fill out the information online beforehand to make the physical appointment go a bit quicker and shorten your in-person wait. (Note that, per RM 10212.200B.2.i.b, the SSA does not yet allow an “X” sex marker.)

I did this in-person; I think you can mail in the SS‒5 instead, but I’ve heard that that’s a horrible option because you’ll have to mail away an actual copy of your identity documents; scans aren’t accepted. (If you go the mail-in route, don’t fill out the online form; that’s only a precursor for an in-person visit.)

No matter whether you file this in-person or by mail, you will get your updated card in the mail.

If you’re in a hurry, ask for a “SSNAP Printout” (pronounced “snap printout”) at the end of your visit. I couldn’t find clear policy about this, but at least as of my visit in June 2023, the Huntsville / Church Street DMV accepts this as a substitute for an updated Social Security card. (They do NOT accept a “confirmation letter” — it has to be the “SSNAP Printout”. I found this out the hard way…)

I only needed to present my current ID, and the court order for the change. I’m not completely sure why they didn’t require my birth certificate. Perhaps having a Star ID matters?

4. Update your State ID card (“Driver’s License”)

Technically, this step is optional; but, realistically, living without a state ID card is extremely unusual. If you use a federal ID card such as a Passport in lieu of a state ID card, obviously go follow the update procedure for that, instead; and if you don’t have any government-issued photo ID, then you probably don’t have anything further to do.

You’ll need to request a “Duplicate” ID card, which will be $31.25.

  • If you’re <180 days from expiry, add +$5.00 to the cost, for a “renewal” instead of a “duplicate”.
  • If you’re paying with debit/credit, add +$1.25 to the cost.
  • You are not allowed to use the online or mail-in duplicate/renewal options when changing your name.
    • You may, however, make an appointment online. They’re usually booked out 2~4 weeks.
      • However, there are some DMV offices not available on the appointment tool, such as 100 Plaza Boulevard in Madison. These “secret” walk-in-only offices usually have extremely short waits, since the average person doesn’t know they exist.

Specific to the Huntsville / Church Street office: When you arrive, there may be many people standing around in a line waiting. Walk past them and get a ticket from the clerk; then you can actually start waiting “productively”! 🎪

You’ll need to bring your current ID, the court order, and your Social Security card. If you’re too impatient to wait for the Social Security card with your new name on it to arrive, you can bring your old Social Security card and also the SSNAP Printout from step 4.

Also, update your voter registration while you’re in there! (The clerk will probably remind you of this.)

5. …and The Rest

With your court order plus updated photo ID in hand, you should now be “armed” to handle “the rest”. Quick list of ideas to jog your memory:

  • Mortgage, Vehicle Title
  • Bank (investment accounts? paypal or similar?)
    • Fidelity 401(k) refused to accept any account changes from me, and redirected me to my employer’s Finance department
  • Other Utilities (Phone, Internet, Electricity, Mailbox, Landlord)
    • Huntsville Utilities demands 2 forms of ID + 1 substantiating document if you attempt to file the change online or by-mail. However, if you just stop by their office in-person, they only require 1 form of ID, and no substantiating documentation. YMMV.
    • USPS per se should be notified if you have residential mail service at all (even if you use a non-USPS mailbox as your primary mail service), so that they can properly deliver any mail which is slightly mis-addressed to your residential address and is in your new name.
  • Auto/Home Insurance, Vehicle Registration (they may care to see the respective title deed’s been updated)
  • Health Insurance (lol)
  • Doctor/Dentist/etc. (can likely just update these guys on an as-you-see-them basis; they may care to see any relevant insurance cards updated)
  • School/Employer (employment alternatives? LLC / self-employment paperwork?)
    • if working in anything government-related, you may be required to notify Security before you notify HR. Ask your manager what, if any, the policy on this is.
  • “Extra” IDs (passport? TWIC or TSA Pre?)
    • if working in contracting: customer IDs? system access agreements? VARs?
  • Physical certificates (e.g. degrees?)
  • Online certs?
    • CompTIA name change requires a “Score Report” which you have to access from this portal if you didn’t keep the piece of paper after the test (or don’t want to bother scanning it in).
      To access it, browse to CompTIA Login > Manage Exams > Manage Your Exams > My Exams > (right column) My account > View Score Reports.
  • Professional societies?
  • Paper cheques? Return address labels?
  • Online service handles? (e-mail account “From” field? social media handles?)
  • [Other things that come up?]


Between amending the birth certificate and getting the court order for name change, there’s a bit of a pinch:

  1. If you attempt to amend the BC before getting the CO, then (depending on your state of birth) you might be denied for lack of supporting documentation; this could cause annoyance, waste a lot of time and effort, and waste the application fee. There are 3 ways out of this:
    1. Happen to have been born in a state like New Mexico, which seemingly doesn’t require supporting “legal documentation” to amend a birth certificate, but rather allows “at-will” changes. (The name change process has been merged into the “gender designation change” form, which does not list any evidentiary requirements beyond the will of the person in question. It might be the case that name changes are only accepted in conjunction with a gender designation change, but I cannot confirm this. If it is the case, then you might be able to “cheese” the system a bit by burning your birth sex over to an “X” marker as a legal “legitimation of” (excuse for) the BC name change. I would be interested to hear specifics from people who’ve tried this.)
    2. Choose not to amend the name on your birth certificate; only order an unamended duplicate of your existing one to give to the court.
      • I went with this option. Personally, I’d recommend it for general-purpose “vanity” name changes as an adult.
      • If you go this route, you can optionally compress the timeline by sending off for the name change and duplicate/replacement BC at the same time. (Be sure to copy all existing deets off the BC for your own reference beforehand!)
    3. Get the CO before amending the BC.
  2. If you aim to amend the BC after getting the CO, you will be stuck with these 3 painful choices:
    1. Simply let the court have your only official copy of your birth certificate.
      • Be very careful not to misplace your driver’s license in the (potentially doubly-long) interim, if you go this route.
      • Be doubly sure to copy the existing deets off it for your own reference before sending it off.
    2. Happen to already posses a spare official copy of your birth certificate.
    3. Waste $10.00~$15.00 ordering an arguably unnecessary spare official copy of your birth certificate, with your “old” name on it.

“Muh Common Law?”

Let’s say that you don’t want to get the court order. Maybe you’re a sovereign citizen or currently entertaining their psychological impulse. Maybe you live in Madison County and want to avoid spending 37 bucks. Maybe you have some other reason. Whatever. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

First: other states may be more flexible, but in Alabama, you absolutely cannot get a new state ID (“Driver’s License”) until you’ve updated your name with the SSA. I know it has been claimed, well-cited, that Alabama allows common-law name changes, but I don’t believe the DMV actually respects those court rulings. Or maybe there are other, later laws or rulings that overrode or overturned those cited rulings. Either way, the DMV’s policy of refusing to accept non-SSA-validated name changes is clearly stated and I’ve never heard of exceptions being issued to it.

Second: the SSA does not accept name changes without proof of the “name change event” per se (RM 10212.010).

Third: Per RM 10212.165H (and, indirectly, RM 10212.010), the SSA does not currently consider even a common-law-amended state ID to be “evidence” of a ”name change event”; it requires something to attest the change, and their hypothetical Annette Martin’s amended (non-Alabamian) ID card doesn’t link the old and new names together in any way. (It’s unclear whether they would accept two ID cards from the same state issued with the same number but different names as evidence of the change; I couldn’t find policy or anecdote either way on this point, but would be willing to bet it’d not be accepted until or unless the policy’s updated to allow that specifically.)

Fourth: If you are able to amend your birth certificate at-will, and want to use it in lieu of a court order to bootstrap changes to your Social Security card and state ID card, the SSA has published inconsistent and unclear documentation on whether this’d work. RM 10212.001 and the online informational page imply an amended birth certificate would work; Publication No. 05-10513 implies it won’t. The clerk I spoke with in-person said that an amended birth certificate wouldn’t be accepted. But oSSNAP, the online alternative to SS‒5, explicitly names an amended birth certificate as an option for this proof, though SS‒5 itself is ambiguous. Most annoyingly, RM 10212.095RM 10212.090 (which identify themselves as containing the bottom-line answer to this question) are also unclear. (Or maybe I just have poor reading comprehension.)

(The Alabama DMV’s documentation on supporting documents they allow/require to accompany the proof-of-change-with-SSA is even more sparse.)

In any case, I was not able to find solid anecdotes online about lodging name changes with either the SSA or Alabama DMV without a court order, adoption, or marriage documentation; if you have any experience trying this, let me know and I’ll update this post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Warning: This site uses Akismet to filter spam. Until or unless I can find a suitable replacement anti-spam solution, this means that (per their indemnification document) all commenters' IP addresses will be sent to Automattic, Inc., who may choose to share such with 3rd parties.
If this is unacceptable to you, I highly recommend using an anonymous proxy or public Wi-Fi connection when commenting.