Court order name change

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Name change generally refers to a legal act allowing a person to adopt a name different from their name at birth, marriage, or adoption. The procedures and ease of a name change depend on the jurisdiction. In general, common law jurisdictions have loose limitations on name changes while civil law jurisdictions are restrictive.

A pseudonym can be regarded as a name adopted to conceal a person’s identity, and does not always require legal sanction. Additionally, there are other reasons for informal changes of name that are not done for reasons of concealment, but for personal, social or ideological reasons.

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State laws regulate name changes in the United States. Several specific federal court rulings have set precedents regarding both court decreed name changes and common law name changes (changing the name at will).

Usually a person can adopt any name desired for any reason. As of 2009, 46 states allow a person legally to change names by usage alone, with no paperwork, but a court order may be required for many institutions (such as banks or government institutions) to officially accept the change. Some states allow transgendered persons to change names either before or after sex reassignment surgery. Although the states (except part of Louisiana) follow common law, there are differences in acceptable requirements; usually a court order is the most efficient way to change names (which would be applied for in a state court), except at marriage, which has become a universally accepted reason for a name change. It is necessary to plead that the name change is not for a fraudulent or other illegal purpose, such as evading a lien or debt or for defaming someone else.

The applicant may be required to give a reasonable explanation for wanting to change their name. A fee is generally payable, and the applicant may be required to post legal notices in newspapers to announce the name change. Generally the judge has limited judicial discretion to grant or deny a change of name, usually only if the name change is for fraudulent, frivolous or immoral purposes. In 2004, a Missouri man succeeded in changing his name to They. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a name change to 1069 could be denied, but that Ten Sixty-Nine was acceptable (Application of Dengler, 1979); the North Dakota Supreme Court had denied the same request several years before (Petition of Dengler, 1976).

In nearly all states, a person cannot choose a name that is intended to mislead (such as adopting a celebrity’s name), that is intentionally confusing, or that incites violence; nor can one adopt, as a name, a racial slur, a threat, or an obscenity.

Under the federal immigration-and-nationality law, when aliens apply for naturalization, they have the option of asking for their names to be changed upon the grants of citizenship with no additional fees. This allows them the opportunity to adopt more Americanized names. During the naturalization interview, a petition for a name change is prepared to be forwarded to a federal court. The applicant certifies that he or she is not seeking a change of name for any unlawful purpose such as the avoidance of debt or evasion of law enforcement. Such a name change would become final if within their jurisdiction, once a federal court naturalizes an applicant.

In some states, individuals are allowed to return to the use of any prior surnames (e.g., maiden names upon divorce). Some states, such as New York, allow married couples to adopt a new surname upon marriage, which may be a hyphenated form of the bride’s and groom’s names, a combination of parts of their family names, or any new family name they can agree upon adopting as the married name.

To maintain a person’s identity, it is desirable to obtain a formal order so there is continuity of personal records.

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