Name Changes

Any adult in New York who is 18 or older can petition to change his or her name (first, middle or last) as long as it does not defraud or infringe on the rights of another person or entity (i.e., changing your name to avoid creditors, etc.). In order to formally and legally change one's name, you must petition the New York Supreme Court or Civil Court by providing extensive information, including a reasonable justification for the request. An original or certified copy of your birth certificate will also be required.

If no one objects to the change of name, the person need not appear in court and the entire process take approximately two or three months in total to complete. If the name change request is approved by the court, notification of the name change must be published one time inside of a month in the person's local newspaper (i.e., in Staten Island, it would be published in the Staten Island Advance) before the change becomes effective.

Once complete, the individual has the legal grounds to obtain a modified birth certificate, passport, Social Security card, driver's license and all other forms of identification to reflect the change.

Changing A Child's Name

In the case of a child, both parents generally must approve of the requested name change. If one parent does not agree, then a hearing must be scheduled for the court to determine if the change would be in the child's best interests. The parent seeking the change has the burden of proof, and the objecting parent may refute the request.

For example, if a mother wants to change the last name of her child to her maiden name and the father does not agree, then the father can object and the court will determine in a hearing if the change should be approved. However, a father who does not exercise his visitation rights, fails to pay support, or otherwise has not taken any interest in the child could risk losing the case at the hearing due to these factors.

Changing Your Name After A Divorce Or Adoption

A divorce judgment automatically gives you the right to resume any former surname or maiden name. In the same way, a final order of adoption allows the adoptive parents to change the child's name within the order itself. In both cases, separate petitions are not required.

Why Get Legal Help?

This process might seem straightforward, but New York has very specific reasons for when it allows individuals to change their names. Therefore, having experienced counsel from a reputable lawyer on your side can ensure the process goes smoothly and that any hiccups or objections are both anticipated and properly managed.

I am attorney Kurt T. Richards, and I have more than 25 years of experience helping clients throughout New York City with a variety of family law issues. Contact my firm in Staten Island today at 718-720-1000 to schedule your free consultation.