Can I change my name?
Once in a while, you might think about changing your name. Some parents have saddled their kids with terrible, embarrassing names. For any number of reasons, a different first, middle, or last name might seem like a good idea.
Before state laws were passed regarding name changes, any person, including a minor, could change his or her name simply by using the new name. Today, in most states you must be eighteen to obtain a legal name change. Other states allow underage persons to apply if parental consent is given.
You can apply to your local court—it may be the family, juvenile, or probate court, depending on your state. The judge will consider your reasons for seeking a name change. If you′re doing it to avoid paying bills, for example, your request will be denied. As long as you′re not breaking the law or attempting to hide something, the name change will be allowed. The court will issue an order indicating the new name, with a copy to you.
Other opportunities to change your name occur when you get married or adopted. Marriage often results in a change of last name for the bride. However, she may choose to keep her maiden name, or use both names—her husband′s with her maiden name, sometimes in a hyphenated form. Your marriage license and/or certificate will reflect any name changes.
When you′re adopted, you have the opportunity to obtain an entirely new name—first, middle, and last. Your adoptive parents will decide on the names for you, but if you′re a teenager, you′ll most likely have a say. At the final adoption hearing, the judge will go over your new name with you. That′s the time to speak up. If you don′t agree or you want something different, tell your parents first. Once the adoption is granted, a new birth certificate will be issued stating your new legal name.
Recent court cases show that there are a number of other circumstances for changing your name. A change of last name may be appropriate where a parent′s misconduct (criminal acts, for example) places a child at risk. A child may be allowed to add his or her stepparent′s last name to his or her name, to reinforce a new identity and relieve anxieties.
Sometimes the courts have ruled against name changes for teens. In a 1992 Pennsylvania case, a mother′s attempt to change her son′s last name following a bitter divorce was denied. The name change wasn′t considered to be in the boy′s best interests.
If you legally change your name while you′re a teenager, either you and/or your parents need to notify all parties who have you officially listed under your old name. Provide a copy of the court order changing your name to your school, doctor, bank, insurance company, and employer. You′ll also need to get a new driver′s license and credit cards if they were issued in your previous name. Changing your name carries with it an obligation to avoid confusion by letting the appropriate people know your new name.
See here for the story of a 19-year old girl who took her cause regarding animals seriously.
On the lighter side, in July, 2008, a New Zealand family court judge took legal custody of a 9-year-old girl because he was tired of the bizarre names parents were giving their children. He entered an order changing her name which was “Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii” to an undisclosed name to protect her privacy. Other names blocked by the country’s registration officials included “Fish and Chips,” “Yeah Detroit,” and “Sex Fruit.”
24-year-old Daniel Michael Miller II, an Ohio rapper and musician changed his name in 2008 to “The” Dan Miller Experience. After appearing in court and explaining why he wanted to do this and that he was serious, the court granted his request. You’re reading this right – his first name is “The” Dan, with the quotes as you see them!
And in the summer of 2007, a New Zealand couple named their newborn son “Superman.” This wasn’t their first choice, however. When they saw the ultrasound scan and realized their baby was for real, they wanted to name him “4Real.” But the name was rejected by the government registry, so they agreed on Superman for the record books but call him 4Real.
Talk about fun? When Courtney Blair Schwebel was a teenager he was picked on because of his name. At 15 he started to think about changing it and finally did in his early twenties. Living in Texas at the time, he officially changed his name to one word – Fun. He did the same as he moved around – in Louisiana and then again in Arizona in 2005. Fun stated that “It helps me cheer up and gives me something to look forward to. . . .people are very happy to see me.”
There is the Chinese couple who named their baby “@” – the e-mail ‘at’ symbol. They explained that the letters a and t when translated into Chinese mean “love him.” And in June, 2008, 57-year-old Steve Kreuscher, a school bus driver and artist in Illinois officially changed his name to “In God We Trust.”
Douglas Allen Smith, Jr. of Eugene, Oregon, changed his name in December, 2010 to Captain Awesome. Before the court granted his request for the name change, he had to swear that he wasn’t doing it for fraudulent reasons. The 27-year-old, unemployed cabinet installer explained that he was inspired by the TV show “Chuck” and the character Dr. Devon Woodcomb. Smith was also granted permission to sign his name as a right arrow, a smiley face and a left arrow. His bank, however, refused to accept the signature because it could be easily forged, but the Department of Motor Vehicles accepted it. You can see the signature here.
Gary Mathews loved the 1980s TV series “Here’s Boomer,” about a dog that rescued people. He asked a Pennsylvania court for permission to legally change his name to “Boomer the Dog.” In August, 2010, the court denied his request stating that it could lead to confusion in the marketplace, business records and in public documents.
And finally, in 2001, a New York couple attempted to sell the naming rights to their soon-to-be-born son. They posted the sale on eBay and Yahoo auctions attempting to raise $500,000 for their son’s college education and a new house. Hopes were for a corporation to buy the rights, so the child could have been called anything from Heinz to Coke, or Microsoft to Kraft. No bids or sale has been reported.