By James Jennings
There are a lot of reasons to change a name. The most common reason I come across is because of divorce. If I had to guess I would say that about 1 in 10 women want to go back to their maiden names after a divorce. I can even recall changing the name of the husband in two cases. It’s rare that men take the last name of the wife but it does happen. Most of the time it’s because their wife is from a well-known family and there is a certain prestige that is attached to that name. But what about after the divorce? Let’s say you kept your married name and then decide later that you want to revert back to your maiden name. What about in situations where the children have a different last name than that of the parent that they live with? In my career I have assisted a lot of people change their name, the names of their child and the name of the entire family.
The easiest and most inexpensive way is part of the divorce. In fact it is free. You have the right according to state law Ariz.Rev.Stat. §25-325(C) to restore any name you have previously had. Keep in mind no one can make you go back to a former name. So for example a husband cannot demand his wife go back to her maiden name. It is purely voluntary.
Ariz.Rev.Stat. §25-325(C) states:
“On request by a party at any time before the signing of the decree of dissolution or annulment by the court, the court shall order that the party’s requested former name be restored.”
However, if you didn’t change your name as part of your divorce case or you just need to change your name or that of your kids it’s a little more complicated and that is what I am going to spend the majority of this article addressing.
Changing your name is a relatively simple procedure that can usually be done without a lawyer but it is highly recommended that you have a legal professional assist you. Discount Divorce and Bankruptcy has done hundreds of these types of cases and just about anyone can change his or her name, for any good reason.
The first thing we have to do is prepare a petition. The petition will establish the court’s jurisdiction in the case and state what you want to change your name to and why. The why is critical. If we do not state a valid reason then the case will crash and burn.
When the petition is filed with the court the court will want, what mobsters referrer to as their “taste”. (Taste: a percentage of the take. Tony gets a big taste from bookmaking or racketeering but only a little taste from medical fraud.)
In other words they will want to charge you a filing fee. Currently the filing fee in Maricopa County is $319. WOW! That hurts! The good news is the court has a deferral program so if you cannot afford the filing fee up front they have a system in place were you can pay later or even possible get it waived all together. If you have questions about the deferral program we are always happy to speak with you about it.
Once the petition is filed and the filing fee paid or deferred we will have to set up a hearing to get the name(s) change ordered by the court. Each county has its own procedure for setting a hearing on the name change. We will set that hearing up for you so you don’t have to hassle with it.
At the hearing the judge will order the name change if they are convinced you are not changing your name to commit fraud, evade the government, get out of financial obligation(s), or for some other nefarious shenanigans. Once the judge signs the order changing the name, you will need to get a certified copy of the order from the Clerk of the Court. The Clerk will charge $27 to issue you a certified copy. You can then contact Social Security, the Driver’s License Bureau, your bank, etc. to change your name in their records.
To amend your birth certificate, take or mail a certified copy of the Order to the Bureau of Vital Records, or its equivalent, in the state where you were born. Request that your birth certificate be changed to reflect your new name. There will be a fee for this (I know right, the government and their fees.) In Arizona these records are maintained by the counties. You should contact the county where you were born.
To change the name of your children is slightly more complicated still but we can assist you every step of the way. The procedure begins the same with the filing of the petition and setting up the hearing but you have to notify all interested parties of the children’s names being changed.
Typically, the children’s other parent will have to be notified of your application to change the children’s names because they are an interested party. If the other parent does not object, the simplest thing to do is have both parents sign the Petition. You can also have the other parent sign a consent to the name change. If the parent does not agree and sign a consent or the petition, then you must serve the petition upon him/her. If he/she does not object in writing or at the hearing, the court is likely to order the name change. If the other parent does object, the court is less likely to order the change, particularly if the other parent has maintained a relationship with the child. There may be other reasons the court will approve the name change even if the other parent objects.
If the other parent will not sign the consent, you will need to serve him/her with notice of the hearing on the name change. They can sign an acceptance of service, which says they received notice, or you may have him/her served by certified mail or a process server. If you serve them by certified mail, you must serve them at least 30 days before the hearing and they must have signed the return receipt for the certified mail. You will file the return receipt along with an Affidavit of Service by Certified Mail. Of course Discount Divorce and Bankruptcy will handle all this for you. After all that’s why you hired us.
If you do not know where the other parent is you may serve them by publication. First you must try to locate them. Contact any friends or family members, check their last employer, etc. If you still cannot find them you may serve them by publishing your Petition in a newspaper available to the general public in the county where they were last known to have lived and the county were you have filed. The publication must be ran once per week for four consecutive weeks. Discount Divorce and Bankruptcy will handle all the publication for you. We are really, really good at this.
There are many reasons for a name change and I have heard a lot of really good ones but I always liked what Jerry Spinelli, a contemporary American writer of children’s novels gave as a reason.
“I’m not my name. My name is something I wear, like a shirt. It gets worn. I outgrow it, I change it.”
That reason may or may not be a good one at a hearing before a judge deciding a name change case but it is a very creative reason nonetheless.
If you have any questions regarding a specific legal matter or legal strategy you should contact an attorney for legal advice. If you would like to get started on a family law or bankruptcy case call us today, 602-896-9020, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website at DiscountDivorcePro.com.