Article by Aleksandra Kocelko, Esq.
The process for obtaining a name change has become more and more common. We have seen an increase in name changes for transgender individuals and for many others based on a variety of factors. Some individuals want to change their name to start over when escaping an abusive relationship or others simply need a fresh start. It is also common for a biological parent to want to change the name of a child, whether to include a biological father’s surname or for other reasons. Whether the person seeking a name change is an adult or a minor, the general procedure remains the same.
It is important to know that name changes, because of a marriage or divorce, do not follow this process, but are much more efficient and usually require less paperwork.
In order to initiate a name change, a Petition must be filed with the courts in your county. This Petition requires facts and pieces of information the court will need. When evaluating adult name changes, the court is cognizant of the reason, as it is important to ensure that someone is not changing their name to avoid creditors or a criminal record. Those over the age of 12 will need to be fingerprinted as part of the name change, to determine if there is a criminal record and how that will be handled. The existence of a criminal record is not an automatic bar to a name change but is relevant to the analysis.
Once the Petition is filed with the court, a hearing will be scheduled. In advance of the hearing, the court typically requires advertising and a judgment search. Usually, the name change is advertised in a newspaper of general circulation and the local legal journal. The purpose is to provide legal notice to anyone who may have an interest in the name change, but most specifically to creditors. The court will also require that a judgment search be performed and the results provided to the Court before the final hearing. Additionally, if the person seeking the name change is a minor, notification to the other biological parent is required.
At the final hearing, if there are no issues with the criminal record, creditors, or judgment search, the court will typically grant the name change without further delay. In the case of a minor, if a biological parent objects to the name change, the court will have to hear testimony and evidence as to why the name change might be in the best interest of the child.
Once the name change is completed, the individual is responsible for updating their name on all legal documents including drivers’ licenses, social security cards, etc. This can be done by submitting a copy or certified copy of the name change order to the various entities. It can be a time-consuming process but is often a big relief once finalized.
If you have questions about name change procedures or want to begin this process, contact the experienced family law team at Burns White for a free consultation.