Name Changes

The need for a legal name change may arise for any number reasons, ranging from marriage to divorce, or adoption, or simply from a desire to have a different name.  

Generally, a minor child’s name can be changed as long as it is in the best interest of the child.  If both parents agree to the change, then it can be done by agreement, but if the parents do not agree then it is up to the Court whether the change is appropriate or not.  Adults can seek name changes and will be permitted to do so, as long as they are not attempting to evade criminal records or actions and/or civil judgments or actions.  Additionally, a name change cannot be made to avoid any outstanding debts, when another person’s rights would be affected (such as a famous person with the same name), or if an individual attempted to change his or her name to include profanity. 

In order for a person to legally change his or her name, he or she must first file a petition with the court, which includes the reason(s) for the name change, in addition to some other requirements such as fingerprints and civil and criminal record searches After filing the petition, the person must follow specific procedures to notify the public of their intentions to change their name, including advertising in one newspaper of general circulation in the county where the individual lives as well as the law reporter or similar publication distributed to the local bar association for that county After the appropriate procedures have been followed, then the court will hold a hearing to determine whether or not to allow the name change. 

After an individual’s name has been legally changed, he or she must also send a copy of the court decree to the Department of Health to amend his or her birth certificate, and to the Social Security Administration to amend his or her social security information.  Other potential records that may need to be updated include the individual’s driver’s license, passport, post office address/box, IRS records, voter registration, bank accounts, credit cards, medical and insurance information, state tax authority records, clubs, memberships, employment, and retirement plans.  A name change may also require modification of important legal documents including one’s will, health care proxy, living will, trust, power of attorney, and any contracts he or she may be a party to. 

It is always advisable to consult with an attorney regarding any significant legal matter, including a proposed name change.  Due to the complexity of some name change documents, it may be advantageous to consult an attorney for an explanation of the full effects resulting from a name change.  A knowledgeable attorney at Musi, Merkins, Daubenberger & Clark will help you through the legal process of changing a name for yourself or a minor child.