Change Of Name

There are many reasons why people change their name. Often they don't like the name that was given to them by their parents. The given name Susie Sunshine might be fine for you as a child but you may not be as happy with it as an adult! Others get tired of their name and want to improve it. Some women want to change their married name back to their maiden name and didn’t request that at the time of their divorce. Sometimes a step-child wishes to honor the step-parent by taking that step-parent’s last name.

To change your name you must file a petition in the circuit court and fulfill statutory requirements. The filing fee is approximately $110 and publication costs could be another $200 ( higher or lower depending on the jurisdiction). The laws seek to prevent fraud by not enabling a person to use a new name to prevent creditors or others from being able to identify the individual after the name has been changed. Some may say that the important issue with the identity of a person is not their name but their social security number. I agree that an individual’s social security number is most important when applying for credit and other forms of commercial activity. However, in addition to your social security number, what is important is who you are and are known as. That is your name.

It is often best to have an attorney prepare the petition for you because the statute, although being fairly straightforward, may cause some uncertainty with regard to exactly what information must be included in the petition in order to achieve a successful change of name.

In addition to completing the petition and, in some instances, attaching additional documents, a publication is required in a local newspaper to provide a notice to the public of your intention to change your name. It is possible to have the publishing requirement waived, meaning the court may excuse you from having to publish your intention in very limited circumstances, such as changing the name of an infant. The reason for allowing the waiver of the publishing requirement is that infants do not have assets. Individuals or businesses have the right to respond to the publication and oppose the change of name petition. In that event, you, as the petitioner, have the right to request a hearing to assert your right to change your name. A court will hear the case and decide whether to grant or deny the change of name.

Over the years some clients of mine have changed their names from an “easy” name to a name that is very difficult to hear and/or to write and so is not “user friendly”. We recommend that individuals seek a new name that is readily understood.

When the court issues an order permitting you to change your name, you need to have all important documents changed, and particularly identity documents. These may include your passport, driver’s license, deed to your home, social security card, credit cards, membership cards, diplomas, licenses, and other photo IDs. Diplomas are a unique area so you need to determine, in advance, if the school permits the name on your diploma to be changed.

It is generally possible to change your name as long as it is not an effort to commit fraud. A properly prepared petition should contain enough information for the court to determine that your intended purpose is not to defraud anyone.

As incidents of identity theft haven increased, courts are now more scrupulous in reviewing the petition before issuing a court order for a name change.

Despite the fact that your name is yours to choose, please recognize how many times every day you say or write your name or apply for various services where you need to provide your name.

Fred Antenberg has successfully petitioned the courts to have individuals’ names changed. Call Fred for a free initial consultation. Call 410 730 4404.