In United States name changes are governed by state laws. There are many federal court rulings that have set several precedents about name change by court procedure and common law name changes. In United States of America a person can change is name at his will but a court order is required for that new name to be accepted by several institutions like Banks or Government organizations etc.
In United States the process to change the name is quite simple. One can change the name the name at will but such a change though can have social acceptance but no legal acceptance. To change a name legally one should do it through a court order. However, each state has some variance since name change in United States of America is a state subject. The law in general can be put in as follows:
Most of the states in US allow transgendered to change name before or after the sex reassignment surgery.
Marriages as a special case allows for legal acceptable name changes. Some states even allow couples to accept new surname post marriage which is a hyphen separated surnames of both the partners or any new surname mutually agreed by them. This surname however should be mentioned in the marriage certificate.
In Some states post divorce a person can resume usage of maiden surname.
During immigration, when an applicant applies for naturalization, they are given an option to change name at no additional fee. This gives the applicant an opportunity to adopt a name more suitable to his new citizenship. During the process the applicant needs to certify that the name change is not for any illegal purpose or unlawful gain or for misleading.
During normal name change using court order, the applicant should provide a reason for name change and should plead that the name change is not for any illegal purposes. The applicant is also required to pay a fee and publish legal notices in newspapers.
A name change can be denied by court if it is found that it is for fraudulent purpose or immoral purpose or is intentionally confusing or racial in nature.