Changing one’s legal name is a personal and often significant decision. From altering a first name to better reflect one’s identity to modifying a surname after marriage, the reasons for changing a name are varied and personal. In some cases, a name change may be necessary to distance oneself from a controversial or damaging association, such as in Germany where it is illegal to name a child “Adolf” or have the surname “Hitler.”
In other cases, a name change may be a symbolic gesture towards a new chapter in one’s life. Regardless of the reason, the process of legally changing a name can be complex and requires a thorough understanding of the relevant laws and regulations.
What is the process to legally change a name?
According to the State Government of Georgia, “to legally change your name, you must first submit a petition to your local Superior Court. When you request to change your name, you are required to publicize your petition and wait at least 30 days before a hearing” (Georgia Gov).
This petition entails your current name, the new name you wish to adopt, and the reason why you want to change your name. You must also provide a set of fingerprints and pay a fee.
To specify, here are the sequential steps one must take if they wish to change their name legally:
- Pre-Planning and Preparations
Before even submitting a position or filing any sort of paperwork, it is essential to select a new name. Once you are sure that this is the name you wish to adopt, then begin completing the necessary paperwork. In this paperwork, you may be asked to describe the reason for this name change. Ensure that you print your new name clearly on all documents and requested petitions. It is suggested that you consult a lawyer/acquire legal assistance before officially submitting the petition.
- With these Documents
Once you have completed all the documents and petition to change your name, also collect proof of your identity. This can be a valid Georgia driver’s license or passport. According to the State Government of Georgia, here are the required forms for your petition:
- Petition to Change Name
- Verification Form
- Notice of Petition
Moreover, these forms may vary and can be provided by the Clerk’s Office of the Superior Court. You must also provide the necessary fees when submitting the paperwork.
- Submitting The Petition
Once you have gone over all the completed information thoroughly, it is time to submit your petition! File the petition to the Clerk’s Office of the Superior Court. Please note that some of the forms in the petition may need to be notarized beforehand by the Notary Public. Once the petition is filed, you will receive a court case number. It is important that you keep this number safe.
- Public Notice
Upon submitting your name change petition, you must publish a notice of your request. This notice must be published in a designated newspaper once a week for four consecutive weeks. To have the notice published, you must submit a notice form and payment to the Superior Court. Retain a copy of the Publisher’s Affidavit as evidence that the notice was published.
- Attending a Hearing
After filing a name change petition in Georgia, there is a mandatory waiting period of 30 days. Once this waiting period, along with the required publication period, has passed, you will be scheduled for a final hearing at the Superior Court. It is essential to complete and sign all the necessary paperwork for the hearing, ensuring that any required forms are notarized. It is advisable to retain copies of these forms for your personal records.
On the day of your court appearance, it is crucial to arrive early and proceed to the assigned courtroom. Remember to bring all the required forms and documents with you. Failing to attend the hearing may lead to the dismissal of your case. During the comprehensive hearing, the judge will carefully assess your situation and reach a decision. If your request is approved, you will be provided with a certified copy of the final order, which you should keep for your records.
- Final Steps
Ensure that you retain a duplicate of the certified final order or decree as a vital record for your personal archives. Proceed with updating your name on various forms of government identification, including your Georgia driver’s license, Social Security card, and U.S. passport, as well as any other significant documents that necessitate the reflection of your revised name.
So with this lengthy process, why might people wish to change their names?
People may opt to change their name for various reasons, such as marriage, divorce, challenging gender norms, or simply the desire to disassociate themselves from a previous identity. However, it is important to approach the process of changing one’s name with a realistic understanding that success and favorable outcomes are not guaranteed.
In certain circumstances, a name change request may be denied. The probability of achieving a successful legal name change hinges upon a combination of personal circumstances and the perception of the new name by others. While extensive research suggests that changing one’s name can have a positive influence on professional and personal aspects of life, it is essential to acknowledge that there are also studies indicating a more limited, if any, effect resulting from a name change.
The impact of a name change can vary widely based on individual circumstances. Factors such as the individual’s social and professional networks, cultural context, and personal motivations all play a role in shaping the outcomes of a name change. Additionally, the reception of the new name by others, including friends, family, colleagues, and society at large, can significantly influence the overall experience and potential benefits of the name change.
Before proceeding with a name change, careful consideration of the potential implications is advised. It is crucial to reflect on personal goals, motivations, and the specific context in which the name change will occur. Seeking legal counsel and understanding the legal requirements and procedures for changing one’s name in the relevant jurisdiction can also contribute to a smoother transition and increase the chances of a successful outcome.
Ultimately, changing one’s name is a deeply personal decision that should be made after thorough thought and evaluation. While it is natural to desire a fresh start or a sense of identity that better aligns with one’s values and aspirations, it is important to recognize that the process and outcome of a name change can be complex and may vary from person to person.
Here are some of the most common reasons for why a name change request may be denied:
- Intent to defraud: If the Court has viable reason to believe that one is changing their name with the intent to defraud someone or for other fraudulent purposes, the request may be denied.
- Criminal record: If someone has a criminal record, especially one that entails identity theft or fraud, the request may be denied. This is because the Court may view the request as an attempt to escape detection or even obsession with another identity.
- Potential Harm: The Court reserves the right to deny a name request if it may cause potential harm to the person who changes said name. According to the Code of Civil Procedure 1278.5: “If both parents do not join in consent, the court may deny the petition in whole or in part if it finds that any portion of the proposed name change is not in best interest of the child (Justia US Law, Georgia Code Procedures).”
However, the state of Georgia officially has no restriction on name changes. While some of these reasons may deny a name change request, it is not guaranteed.
The Court also reserves the right to appeal or even reverse a name change request. One prime example of this was in 2017 when The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed a denial of two name change petitions from the Columbia County Superior Court. The Petitioners? Two transgender people sought to change their names to reflect their gender identity. Originally, the trial ruled that this was an attempt of fraud against the state due to certain points on their criminal record. They believed the men had the intention to change their name for identity theft. Later, it was found that this ruling was an abuse of discretion and the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and granted the name changes. This case is known as Feldhaus v. The Columbia County Superior Court
A name is something that is with you your entire life. It is an incredible and important part of identity and being able to change your name should reflect that.
“Apply for a Name Change.” Georgia.gov, Georgia.gov, https://georgia.gov/apply-name-change.
Hodson, Sandy “Appellate court reverses judge in transgender name change cases,” The Augusta Chronicle. Jan. 20, 2017
Official Case Details: