Bauer Family Law - Name Change
From Wikipedia, the encyclopedia
Name change is a basic legal act that is recognized in practically all legal systems to allow an individual
the opportunity to adopt a name other than the name given at birth, marriage, or adoption.
State laws can regulate name changes in the United States; still, they cannot altogether forbid common
law name changes. Several specific federal court rulings have set precedents regarding both court
decreed name changes and common law name changes (changing your name "at will").
One may be employed, do business, and enter into other contracts, and sue and be sued under any
name they choose at will (Lindon v. First National Bank 10 F. 894, Coppage v. Kansas 236 US 1, In re
McUlta 189 F. 250).
Such a change carries the exact same legal weight as a court decreed name change as long as it is not
done with fraudulent intent (In re McUlta 189 F. 250, Christianson v. King County 196 F. 791, United
States v. McKay 2 F.2d 257).
This at will right is guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, specifically the Fourteenth Amendment (Jech
v. Burch 466 F.Supp. 714).
The federal courts have overwhelmingly ruled that changing one's name at will, by common law, is
clearly one's Constitutional right. Nonetheless, one may still choose to have a court issued name
Usually a person can adopt any name desired for any reason; most states allow you to legally change
your name by usage only. There are differences in specific requirements among U.S. states, and
usually a court order is the most efficient way to change names (which would be applied for in a state
court). 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).
The applicant may be required to give a somewhat reasonable explanation for wanting to change
his/her 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 judicial discretion to grant or deny
a change of name, especially if the name change is for "frivolous" or "immoral" purposes, such as
changing one's name to "God," "Penis," or "Copyright."
In 2004, a Missouri man did succeed 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), and the North Dakota Supreme Court denied the same request several
years before (Petition of Dengler, 1976). 
In nearly all states one cannot choose the name of a notable person with the intent to mislead, a name
that is intentionally confusing, a racial slur, threats, obscenities, or a name that incites violence.
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 grant of citizenship with no additional fees.
This allows them the opportunity to adopt a more Americanized name. In the 2005 version of Form N-
400--Application for Naturalization--Part 1 (D) asks whether the person applying for naturalization would
like to legally change his or her name. During the naturalization interview, a petition for 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 becomes final once a federal court naturalizes an applicant.
In some states, individuals are often allowed to return to the use of any prior surname (e.g., maiden
name upon divorce). Some states, such as New York, also allow married couples to adopt any 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.
In order to maintain one's identity, it is desirable to obtain a formal order so there is continuity of
Informal methods of legal name change
The "open and notorious" use of a name is often sufficient to allow one to use an assumed name. In
some jurisdictions, individuals may register the use of a trade name that is distinct from their legal
name and is registered with the county clerk, secretary of state, or other similar government authority.
Individuals who wish to publish materials and not have the publication associated with them, may
publish under a pseudonym; such a right is protected under the First Amendment.
The usage method of name change
In California the usage method (changing it at will under common law) is sufficient to change one's
name. Although it is federal law to allow this, it is not followed in all states. Regulations vary from state
to state, but typically in states which allow this method, any person or agency with whom one does
business must be notified of the new name, and the new name must be used exclusively, by the person
changing their name, once the name is changed. This type of name change is sometimes considered
as an interim solution, prior to having the name 'ratified' by court proceedings. Any fraudulent usage or
intent, such as changing one's name to the same name as another person's name, may invalidate this
type of name change.
Specifically in California, Civil Code § 1279.5 and Family Code § 2082 regulate common law and court
decreed name changes. Civil Code § 1279.5 (a) reads, “Except as provided in subdivision (b), (c), (d), or
(e), nothing in this title shall be construed to abrogate the common law right of any person to change his
or her name.” Subdivisions b through e preclude one from changing their name by common law if they
are in state prison, on probation, on parol, or been a convicted sex offender. So if a person is not in any
of these categories, then a common law name change is allowed. Family Code § 2082 also specifically
states, “Nothing in this code shall be construed to abrogate the common law right of any person to
change one's name.”
Orlando Divorce Attorneys
Bauer Family Law
5401 South Kirkman Road
Orlando, FL 32819
Phone: (407) 926-0255
Facsimile: (407) 926-0254