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Introduction

There are many reasons why a person may desire to change his or her name. Whether due to family circumstances or otherwise, name changes have been a common occurrence throughout history. Did you know that Paul Revere was originally known as Appollo Rivoire? President Gerald Ford started life as Leslie King. More recently, President Bill Clinton was originally known as William Jefferson Blythe IV.

Missourians wishing to change their name have six methods available to them, depending on circumstances:

  1. Adoption
  2. Dissolution of Marriage
  3. Naturalization
  4. Custom and Usage
  5. Statutory Change of Name
  6. Paternity

This article will discuss each circumstance, but will focus on statutory name changes, as this method is available to everyone.

Adoption

Section 453.080 RSMo permits the circuit court to change the name of an adopted child if so requested by the petition. The court will look to a “best interest of the child” standard in determining whether to grant such name change. Requests to change the child’s name to match that of the parents are routinely granted, however.

Dissolution of Marriage

Missouri court’s may restore a parties maiden name either with the consent of the parties or under a court’s equitable powers. Such restoration of a party’s maiden name may be entered by the court even over objection of the other spouse. In order to seek restoration of a party’s maiden name the request must be made in the petition for dissolution and should be presented to the court at the time of hearing. In order for such restoration to be effective the Judgment of Dissolution must specifically state that the party’s maiden name is restored.

In limited circumstances it is also possible to change the name of a minor child of the marriage during a dissolution proceeding. Absent consent of the parties, however, such change is much more rare than restoration of a party’s maiden name. In determining whether to change a child’s name as part of a dissolution proceeding the court will look to the same factors as a statutory name changed as discussed herein below.

Naturalization

A name change can also be accomplished as part of becoming a United States Citizen. Such request should be made at the time of application on Form N-400 (the Application for Naturalization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).  However, there is a caveat, the name change service is only available through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services where the ceremonies are presided over by a Judge. In some regions ceremonies are only performed by a Judge (and not a USCIS officer) a few times a year.

However, there is one catch. This name-change service is available only through USCIS offices where the swearing-in (oath) ceremonies are held in a courtroom, presided over by a judge, not a USCIS officer. The judge has the authority to grant your name change at the swearing-in ceremony. If a Judge is not available to perform the swearing in ceremony, you will need to seek a statutory name change discussed herein below.

Custom and Usage

A person’s name may be changed upon marriage through usage of the new family name. In such circumstances the person should update their information with the Social Security Office, request a new driver’s license, and request new passport documents. The person should also update their name on any bank accounts.

Although a persons name may be changed through custom and usage, doing so in circumstances other than a marriage runs many inherent risks and is not advised. Among other things, the person may run the risk of violating Section 417.200 RSMo for using an unregistered false name which could result in a misdemeanor conviction. If you desire to change your name outside marriage or one of the other specific categories discussed herein, the best and recommended course of action is to seek a statutory name change.

Statutory Name Change

Seeking a statutory name change is often the safest and most fool proof method to guarantee a name change. Such method is available to any person seeking to have his or her name changed.

In order to receive a statutory name change a person must file a petition with the clerk of the circuit court of the county of his or her residence. The petition should list:

  1. The present name of the person and the desired name
  2. The reason for the change
  3. The county of residence of the person
  4. The date and place of birth of the person and of the person’s mother and father
  5. If the person is married the name of his or her spouse and the names of any children
  6. If the person’s name has previously been changed the date and court that entered such change
  7. Any court judgments have been entered against the person, and, if so, the case names and numbers
  8. Whether and court cases are pending against the person, and, if so, the case names and number
  9. That the change of name will not be detrimental to any other person

Thereafter, a hearing will be scheduled in which the person will appear before the court to provide brief testimony. Usually, the testimony is fairly straightforward consisting of the reason the name change is requested and why it will not harm any third-party. Once a name change is granted Rule 95.05 the order must be published at least once each week for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation.

In addition to the requirements discussed above, additional requirements exist for the change of a name of a minor. A petition for the change of name of a minor may be filed by a relative as a “next friend.” In addition to the matters to be included in the petition discussed above, a petition for a minor should also allege that the change is in the best interest of the child. If the child’s surname is being changed to a name other than that of the child’s father, and the father does not consent to the change of name, the petition should state facts showing why the change is in the best interest of the child. Missouri law recognizes that neither parent has an absolute right to have the child carry that parent’s surname, and it is not presumed that it is in the child’s best interest to have the father’s last name. Additionally, the court requires notice to each parent under Rule 95.03.

Paternity

Section 210.841 RSMo of the Missouri Uniform Parentage Act authorizes a court to change a child’s name as part of a judgment of paternity. Such request should be made in the petition and presented to the court at hearing. If an adoption is granted the request to change the child’s name to match that of the adoptive parent(s) is routinely granted.

Additional Steps

In the event you are granted a name change under any of the procedures discussed herein there are additional steps to be taken after receiving such court order. You should notify the Social Security Office of the changed name. You also should request a new driver’s license and update any bank or financial accounts to reflect the change. If you also desire to have a birth certificate changed such request should be included in the relevant court order and a copy of the order will need to be provided to the state registrar.

If you desire to seek a name change there are many options available. Please do not hesitate to contact Cline, Braddock & Basinger for a free consultation to discuss your specific situation.

 

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