When it comes to changing your name, many people only think about it when it comes to marriage and divorce. Much to the disbelief of many and absent a handful of exceptions, individuals are pretty open to changing their name simply if they want to.
So why in the world would someone want to change their name?
When a couple marry, it isn’t uncommon for one of the spouses to assume the last name of the other spouse. For instance, prior to the marriage, the couple’s names were Iris Rivera and Carlyle Rogers. Upon marriage, Iris wished to change her last name to that of her spouse, thus Iris Rogers. Changing names after marriage is most common.
The equal and opposite effect is when couples divorce. Due to the nature of divorce usually being a result of conflict and desire to be away from the other spouse, the spouse who assumed the last name of their other spouse often seeks to escape the attachment. Thus, desiring to regain their previous last name.
Another growing area for name changing is when individuals change their gender
In these situations, the individual may want to change their first name only. For instance, Victor Rivera has always seen himself as female and has made the decision to change his gender. So, how should he legally change his name? He may choose to retain some similarity (from Victor Rivera to Victoria Rivera) or may wish to change it completely (from Victor Rivera to Sylvia Molina).
Maybe an individual had an early life that they wish to leave behind. For instance, they were picked on, pushed around, laughed at, or experienced things that they wish to lock away in the past. To help them transition to a better frame of mind, they decide to eliminate as much as possible in their past…including their name. In this situation, though, it is important to note that the intent isn’t to escape unlawful behaviors.
Another reason that is unfortunate, but not uncommon, is changing a name to escape being stalked, assaulted, harassed, or being a victim of domestic violence. In many cases, the change can be instrumental in providing a safer life for the individual.
Some other common reasons individuals may want to change their name include:
- Having a more “prominent” sounding name for professional or career reasons
- Reflecting your beliefs, values, religion and other personally driven reasons
- To honor the memory of someone important to you
- Being in a state witness program
It’s important to understand that there are reasons a name change can be denied. These reasons are often associated with preventing individuals to escape their criminal history, selecting a name that is discriminatory or inappropriate, or to engage in identity theft.
States have their own laws how to legally change your name. Some require Court Orders, while others many simply accept the change by virtue of usage. Depending upon the reason for the change, it may be a bit easier (for instance, when changing it due to marriage or divorce) and other times not as easy (individuals with criminal pasts, debts, etc.). Ultimately, though, Court Orders may be the best path to reduce issues with such matters as social security, birth certificates, passports and taxes.
If you do seek to change your name (and are successful), it is also very important to ensure that you follow up with anything that you are legally or historically attached to (unless leaving it all behind) such as former employers, your passport, bank accounts, pensions, investments, wills, trusts, utilities, insurance carriers, leases and anything else that you are attached to.