There are a variety of reasons that people would want to change their name. You can call me old fashioned but the first thing that springs to my mind is when a couple gets married. Over the years, here in the States and in most other European cultures, it’s been traditional for a woman to take on her husband's last name but as we mature as a species, it seems to be becoming less and less common. Maybe one reason for that is that the divorce rate here in the States is hovering somewhere around fifty percent and women just don’t want to go through the hassle and additional cost of changing it back. More likely though, they’re comfortable in their identity and don’t feel the need to change it in the first place.
But then again, what if you’re a product of the 1960’s and your parents lived a hippie lifestyle? After all, it was an idealistic time and as they drifted from commune to commune they thought it would be no big deal if you wandered around life with a moniker like “Sunshine Watermelon Jones” or something similar. Of course you were gonna grow up and share their values and it was just their way of bucking “the Establishment”.
But as we all know, times and people do change and somehow it just might occur to you that a name like “Sunshine Watermelon Jones” won’t exactly put you at the top of the list when it comes to getting into law school or being offered a partnership in some type of business venture.
Ah, but maybe you’re looking to make your mark in acting and you figure your name would look a lot better in lights if it read something like this instead of Marion Morisson which could easily be misconstrued as being from either gender.
Lastly, maybe you’ve run afoul of the authorities and are looking to go on the lam for a spell to avoid some jail time? If you’ve changed your name for that reason, you can add another charge to the docket. That’s what’s known as an “alias” and since it was done for “fraudulent purposes” is illegal.
For whatever reason, people have been changing their given names for as far back as when Roman law ruled the land and there are two ways to go about it.
The first is to just start calling yourself pretty much anything you want and use it on a consistent basis. You just can’t be “Bill Jones” one day and then miraculously decide to be “Max Power” the next and then flip flop back and forth as your mood and circumstances apply. This method is what’s known as “common usage” and is within the boundaries of law unless you choose to abuse it.
There are some things to consider with the common usage method though. In these days of identity theft, places such as banks, insurance companies and credit card issuers are sticklers when it comes to the matter of people names They usually will hassle you to no end to get your name changed legally and then provide them with the appropriate documentation in order to cover their respective asses.
The second method is to go through a formal court process. More on that later…
What’s in a name?
Believe it or not, you can’t just start calling yourself anybody or anything. For instance, if the name has been trademarked like Oscar Mayer or Sara Lee, you’re free to call yourself that but don’t think you can go making money off them by selling hot dogs or delicious snacks. Their corporate attorney’s will pounce on you like a hungry lion and chances are you’ll have to cede all of the profits you made to them and start calling yourself something different.
Even if you’re a dead ringer for that handsome or beautiful Hollywood star, you can’t change your name to theirs and expect to make some money off it. That qualifies under the “fraudulent intent” and chances are they’ll sue your ass off.
Numbers in your name is also verboten. I can’t legally start calling myself 911 or 007 or anything else that has a number in it. Despite what he thinks, symbols such as ampersands and percent signs are also a no-no. You can however, add as many Roman Numerals to the end of your name as you like although calling myself Borgo CCXXVVII might come across as a little pretentious.
Other things such curses and racial slurs aren’t tolerated either. While I might want to change my name to “Fuck You Shithead” or “I Hate (insert slur here)” it won’t stand up in court.
A rose by any other name…
Okay, now that you’ve decided to go the legal route, there are still some things to consider. Getting a court order to legally change your name hinges on three or four things and the paperwork and proceedings might differ based on each one. The first one we’ll look at is what’s known as “desire”.
Depending on your state, there are certain forms that need to be filled out and processes that have to be gone through to change your name. The first step is figuring out all that shit out in the first place and if it’s even worth it. Consult your local courts, libraries, lawyers or the Internet for advice.
Once again, depending on your state of residence, you’ll have to petition the court and file your papers for them to even consider making a case for changing your name. Before you can even do that though, in some cases you have to make a public notice expressing your intent to change your name. This usually comes in the form of placing an advertisement in your local papers announcing to one and all that you wish to assume a new identity. If they find that you’re up to no good and doing it for fraudulent purposes, you might be called into court and have to face the judge before your request is denied. If they find you’re on the up and up, you can stay at home and they’ll grant an order stating as such.
It’s then up to you to contact anybody and everybody who knew you by your original name and advise them of the change. And when I say everybody, I mean everybody! Depending on your circumstances, here’s a partial list of some folks who might take an interest in your newfound identity.
Credit cards– you might wanna get those old ones replaced.
The Internal Revenue Service – for obvious reasons
Utility companies - only if you like heat and electricity
Your boss – only if you want to cash a paycheck
Post Office - only if you want to receive your mail
Your passport - thinking about taking that vacation to Europe?
Your bank - “What do you mean there’s no money in there?”
Your retirement plan – After all these years, you deserve something.
Real estate – “What do you mean I can’t sell my house?”
Voters Registration – “FOUR MORE YEARS MY ASS!”
Car registration - “I swear officer, it is my vehicle”
Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…
In most states, there’s a little place on your marriage license that has a line for you to indicate your new name. Fill it out.
For the most part, you’re done. Some institutions might need a copy of your marriage certificate but for the most part, you’re done.
Have your attorney put it in the divorce decree that you’re returning to your maiden name. Once the divorce has been granted, you’re good to go.
Just like in marriage, some institutions might ask for a copy for their records and to cover themselves in the event of fraud. My advice is to go ahead and give it to them and get on with your new life.