What’s in a Name?

How easily can you change your name?

Names changed through marriage do not require a visit to a lawyer or a courtroom. Your marriage license is generally all that’s needed. If you’re getting divorced, you can generally request that the judge handling your divorce formally restore your old name.

What if you change your name for religious reasons? Or, what if you simply don’t like your name? The procedure is a bit more complicated if you seek to change your name for reasons other than marriage or divorce. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Judges have broad discretion in granting name changes. So, unless you’re attempting to change your name for an improper purpose, your name change will likely be granted.

What’s an improper purpose? You cannot change your name for a fraudulent, criminal, or illegitimate purpose, like avoiding creditors or prosecution. In fact, in changing your name attendant to a divorce proceeding, you will be questioned on the record so the Court can ensure you are not seeking a name change for any of those reasons.

You can generally change your name to anything you want. In one New Jersey case, the court allowed Rosa Linda Ferner to change her name to “Koriander”. (No last name necessary with a first name like that). The court allowed this because it was determined that Ms. Ferner’s- excuse me- Koriander’s request was not for fraudulent or criminal purposes.

A judge cannot deny your name change based simply on personal preferences. So, even if the judge hates the name Koriander, that cannot be a factor in whether the name change is granted.

However, judges do have some discretion. Even if a name change is not requested for an improper purpose, it may still be denied if the name is “bizarre, unduly lengthy, ridiculous, or offensive to common decency and good taste.”

Date Published: April 4, 2017

Written by: Alexandra Rigden

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