How to Legally Change Your Name

Why would you want to legally change your name? Well, if you’ve ever met anyone whose parents were hippies in the 1960s you wouldn’t ask that question. There are a host of other reasons why someone would want to change their name, including simplifying a difficult to pronounce moniker and trying to escape from an abusive spouse. Is the process of legally changing one’s name difficult? Surprisingly, no, not really.

In the first place, however, you have to have a legitimate reason for changing your name. Or, to be more precise, you have to not have an illegitimate reason for changing your name. Anyone attempting to change their name for any fraudulent purposes, such as attempting to escape massive debts, will run into difficulties. Also, if you try to change your name to Ronald McDonald or Wendy’s Hamburgers you will run into trouble. Unfortunately, this is just another example of how corporations run America and individuals are treated with far less respect. For instance, can anyone give a logical and rational explanation as to why a person doesn’t have the right to change their name to Donald Trump and then go into the real estate business? If “The Donald” was dumb enough to name all those hotels after himself, why should his idiocy restrict some other enterprising young American from cashing in? Isn’t that what free enterprise is all about? Isn’t that what’s so great about capitalism? Yeah, right.

In the same vein, you can’t change your name to Madonna and then try to capitalize somehow off the real pop singer. Heck, even if your name really is Madonna you can’t do that! Capitalism sucks.

Despite that silly little symbol that the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince once supposedly changed his name to, you can’t actually legally change your name to a symbol. Nor can you change it to a number, although if you want to give the impression of belonging to the infamous blue book of original Mayflower settlers you can legally add a Roman numeral to it so as to give yourself a pompous sort of sound.

When it comes to legally changing your name, it’s a G-rated world. Don’t even consider trying to legally change your name to something obscene or even racially or ethnically offensive. Yes, we all know there are some really amusing porn names out there, but none of them are legal.

The legal process involved in changing one’s name goes through the court, but which court exactly will depend on your state, though usually it will be the superior court. Once you find out which court is involved, the next step is filling out forms. Typically the forms include a petition for a change of name, an order that grants the name change, a legal backer form, a notice of public petition, and affidavits of consent by the spouse if required. You may also be required to get an affidavit of service of notification to authorities if you have a criminal record or if you are of foreign birth.

Some of these files will need to be witnessed and notarized, and that normally means a few extra bucks out of your pocket. There will also be small filing fee involve. Once the paperwork is completed and filed, you’ll get a court appearance and more often than not the judge will immediately make a decision on whether your name change request is approve or denied. Under certain circumstances-usually if you have a criminal record-the judge may request a hearing. This hearing is usually held merely as a formality to make sure that you aren’t changing your name in an attempt to escape legal responsibilities. Almost every name change requested is granted.

Once the petition is signed, it’s time to use that notice of public petition. In most cases, this merely requires that you take out an advertisement in the newspaper announcing your name change. Ex-convicts must then notify the justice system and aliens must notify the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Following the advertisement announcement and notifications, you will receive an affidavit which you must sign and return. At long last you will finally receive a legal order granting your change of name. Often this requires another nominal fee.

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