Many devotees of traditional African spiritual systems (religions) are given new names. Some of you may decide to change your name legally, so that your family, professional peers and friends will call you by the name you believe more accurately portrays you. Here is a short guide to changing your name. Please be advised, this is not an attempt to provide legal consultation. See a lawyer or call your local city government if you have questions.
Changing your name is a relatively simple procedure, which can usually be done without a lawyer. Just about anyone can change their name, for any good reason. This pamphlet will explain the required procedure.
The most common reason for a name change is when a person wants to return to a prior name after a divorce. This type of name change is typically done as part of the divorce, but it can also be done as a separate matter, as described in this pamphlet. Another common reason for a name change is when a parent wants to change a child’s name to be the same as the parents. Another valid reason is when a person simply may not like the name they have, and wants to establish a new identity.
A name change may not be allowed if the court thinks that the change might affect the rights of another person such as a creditor or the other parent of the child. It is important to recognize that after a name change, you are still the same person. You will still have all the same legal responsibilities and obligations; you will simply be known by a different name.
In Some states, as in most other states, a person can change his or her name by either of two methods. The first is referred to as the common law method. The second is referred to as the court order method.
THE COMMON LAW METHOD
An individual’s right to change his or her name without a court proceeding is recognized under common law. (The common law is the law which the courts have developed and applied over several hundred years.) Under common law, an individual may adopt any name he or she wants as long as it is not done for an illegal or fraudulent purpose. This can be done without any court hearing. To accomplish it, you simply begin using the new name in all aspects of your social and business life. It costs you nothing and you do not have to go to court. You should contact all governmental and business organizations where records about you are kept and inform them of your name change. Tell your friends to begin addressing you by your new name.
It is essential that you be consistent. If you decide to change your name, by the common law method, you must use the same new name with everyone.
Even though you do not have to go through any formal proceeding to change your name, you may find that some people with whom you deal do not know that this common law method exists. They may insist on seeing a formal document showing your name change. For this purpose, you will find attached, a DECLARATION OF LEGAL CHANGE OF NAME. You do not need to file them with a court. You may wish to have one recorded in the Office of the County Recorder in the county in which you reside. This makes a public record of your name change and permits others to easily verify its existence. Simply complete the fore and show one to anyone who questions you about your common law name change. You can give originals or photocopies to those who request them and to anyone else you wish to inform of your name change.
THE COURT ORDER METHOD
The chief reason for using the court order method for changing your name is to obtain an official record that your name has been changed. Also this method should always be used to change the name of a minor who is not old enough, and mature enough, to make an intelligent choice about his or her name.
Some states have very brief and simple laws pertaining to name changes. They are found in sections 12-601 and 12-602 of the some states Revised Statutes and are as follows:
12-601. Application; venue; judgment
A. When a person desires to change his name and to adopt another name, he may file an application in the superior court in the county of his residence, setting forth reasons for the change of name and the name he wishes to adopt. The court may enter judgment that the adopted name of the party be substituted for the original name.
B. The parent, guardian ad litem or next friend of a minor may file an application for change of the name of the minor in the county of the minor’s residence. The court shall consider the best interests of the child in determining whether to enter judgment that the name of the minor be changed.
12-602. Notice of application; effect of change on rights and obligations
A. If upon the filing of the application for change of name the court deems it proper that notice be given; it may order that notice of the application be given by publication or by service upon any party interested.
B. The change of name shall not operate to release the person from any obligations which he has incurred or is under by the original name, or defeat or destroy any rights of property or action which he had in his original name.
Generally speaking, under the court order method you may have you name changed to any name you like provided that it is not done for some fraudulent or illegal purpose.
A name change by the court order method is accomplished by filling out an application, filing it at the county courthouse in the county of the applicant’s residence, and, a short time later, attending a brief hearing in court.
You should consult a lawyer if you want to use this method to change your name.
PROCEDURE FOR LEGALLY CHANGING YOUR OWN NAME
1. In order to legally change your name, you must prepare two documents, a Petition for Change of Name and an order. These forms may be picked up at the Clerk of Courts office. Make sure the forms are completely filled out and that they are legible.
2. Take the Petition and Order, and a copy of each, to the Superior Court Building, located in Pima County at 110 West Congress Street, Tucson, Some states. Hearings for name changes are held at 1:30 p.m. on each court day. Tell the Legal Records department that you have come for a name change. You should come about 20 minutes early in order to allow time for the clerk to file your petition and take it to the courtroom.
3. File the Petition at the court clerk’s office. The filing fee is $130.00 in cash. The clerk will assign a number to your case.
4. Proceed to the courtroom; when your name is called, go forward and be sworn by the courtroom clerk. Answer any questions the Commissioner or Judge has for you.
5. If the Commissioner or Judge approves your Petition and signs the Order, the courtroom clerk will take the original order and the completed copy to the clerk’s office. You should accompany him or her. The original order will be filed, and you can keep the copy. However, you will probably want to get a certified copy, which will cost $18.00.
Show or mail your copy, or a certified copy, to any office or agency whose records you want to reflect your new name, such as Social Security, Drivers License Bureau, your bank, etc.
AMENDING YOUR BIRTH CERTIFICATE
To amend your birth certificate, take or mail the certified copy of the Order to the Bureau of Vital Records in the state in which you were born. Request that your birth certificate be changed to reflect your new name. You will have to pay a fee of about $18.00 for a certified copy or you may also purchase a certified computer copy for approximately $18.00(for births from 1950 to present).
NAMING YOUR CHILD AT BIRTH
Generally, you can give your child any name you want at the time of his or her birth provided that your choice of name does not serve a fraudulent or other illegal purpose. For example, a woman may not give her child the surname of a man to whom she is not married to make it appear that he is the father of the child, unless he acknowledges in writing that he is the father or unless a court determines that he is the father.
PROCEDURES FOR LEGALLY CHANGING YOUR CHILDS NAME
The procedure to change your child’s name is very much the same as the procedure for changing your own name. A slightly different Petition and Order are included for use when you are applying to change your child’s name.
You should not attempt to change your child’s name by the common law method. The court order method must be used for any child who is not of sufficient age and maturity to make an intelligent choice about a name.
In most cases, the court will not approve a name change for a minor unless both parents agree on it. However, where it can be shown that for a long time there have been no child support payments made and no contact with the child by the parent who does not sign the name change papers, the Court may approve the request to change the child’s name. If the other parent does not object, the simplest thing to do is to have both parents sign the petition. You could also have the other parent sign a separate document consenting to the name change.
The court may decide that the other parent must be notified of the name change. If the other parent cannot be reached either by service or by mail, the petition for the name change must be published.
PUBLISHING A NAME CHANGE PETITION
The petition must be published in the county where the action is taking place, and must also be printed in a newspaper published in the county of the last known address of the other parent. Publications must run once a week for four continuous weeks. There is a fee for publishing the petition.
It is also advisable to follow up within a week of publication of the petition. Be sure to call the newspaper and request an affidavit of publication.
If you have more than one child, and the reasons for changing the names are the same, you can combine both children in the same petition so that you will only have to pay one filing fee.
KEEPING YOUR MAIDEN NAME AFTER YOU MARRY
There is no some states law which requires a woman to assume her husband’s name upon marriage. It is simply custom to do so. So, women in this state may legally retain their own names after marriage. To keep your maiden name after you marry, just don’t change it. There is no need to get a court order or take any other official action. It is important, however, that you be consistent. If you choose to retain your maiden name, you should avoid using your husband’s last name.
RESTORING YOUR MAIDEN NAME AFTER YOU MARRY
If you are married and have used your husband’s last name since you married, and you now want your maiden name restored, you can use either the common law method or the court order method. Some judges and commissioners may require that your husband consent to your name change. You may believe that this is unfair, but you may not get your name changed if you don’t comply with it.
DIVORCED WOMENS NAMES
In Some states, a woman can have her maiden name or some other former name restored to her as a part of the divorce proceeding. Or, if she wishes, she can keep her husband’s last name after the divorce. Of course, she may not hold herself out as still being married to him.
If you have been using your former husband’s name since your divorce, and you no longer wish to do so, you may use either the common law or court order method to change your name.
DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE
When a woman divorces and has a former surname restored to her or remarries and assumes her new husband’s name, she cannot automatically change her children’s surname to match her name. Some states courts have held that she must prove that the name change is in the best interest of the children. Furthermore, as long as the father of the children maintains his parental relationship with them (i.e., pays child support, exercises visitation rights, etc.), the mother should not attempt to change the children’s name without the fathers consent.
If you’re not sure about whether grounds exist for a change of name without the fathers consent, or if you expect the child’s father to contest your application, you should see a lawyer.
Keep in mind that even if you are successful in having your child’s surname changed to that of a new husband; it does not impose on him any legal responsibility to support the child. Only adoption will do that.
CHECKLIST FOR CHANGING YOUR NAME ON IMPORTANT RECORDS
The following is a list to assist you in determining who to notify after you have changed your name. If you have used the court order method, many agencies or businesses may require a copy of the order changing name which the Judge or Commissioner signed. You can obtain copies from the Clerk of the Court.
Checking and Savings accounts
Federal income tax records
Motor Vehicle Registration
State Income Tax Records
Stocks and Bonds
DECLARATION OF LEGAL CHANGE OF NAME
Some states Law permit a person to change his or her name without going through legal formalities. this right was specifically recognized by the Some states Court of Appeals in the case of LAKS v. LAKS, 25 Ariz. App. 58, 540 P.2d 1277 (1975). The court stated that a minor also has this right, if he or she is of sufficient age and maturity to make an intelligent choice about a name.
I, __________________________, state that I was born on the _____ day of _______________, __________ at ___________________________, ________________________.
I declare my intent to change my legal name from _____________________________ to _______________________________ and henceforth I shall be known exclusively as _______________________________.
I am of sufficient age and maturity to make an intelligent decision about this change of my name.
I am not aware of any objections to this change of name, and know of no reason that could be urged against it.
This change of name will not operate to affect, defeat or destroy any obligations. Rights of Property or actions which exist in my original name.
State of __________ ) )ss. County of __________)
This Declaration of Legal Change of Name was acknowledged before me on _______________, by ___________________________.
My Commission Expires: Notary Public