Name Change – How and Why Can I Change My Name?

By Grayson Cannon

Phillips-Ingrum-Headshots-15_finalThe most common reason for a name change is women who want to return to a maiden name after divorcing. As long as the name change is requested before the grant of a final decree of divorce, this can usually be taken care of as part of the divorce decree without the necessity of filing a separate petition to change the name, at no extra cost to the divorcing party. If you are divorcing and contemplate returning to a maiden or prior name, or even changing your name completely, now is the time to take care of this. Waiting can cost you extra time and money. Any woman getting married may wish to note that there is no legal requirement that a married woman must assume her husband’s surname (see, Dunn v. Palermo, 522 S.W.2d 679 (Tenn. 1975) and a woman can simply choose not to change her name in the first place. However, if it has been changed with any official source such as Social Security or on your driver’s license, you will need a court order to change it back.
There are lots of other reasons why someone might desire a name change and unless it’s done as part of a divorce, the name change request will require filing a sworn petition with the appropriate court, paying a filing fee, and appearing in court to request that the name change be granted. Name changes are governed by Tennessee Code Annotated Section 29-8-101, which provides that anyone can apply to the circuit, probate or county court in the county in which they live to change their name or correct errors in birth certificates. However, although an adult can generally request to change their name for any reason including that they just don’t like the one they were given at birth, certain persons are prohibited from receiving a name change: persons convicted of first or second degree murder; convicted sexual offenders who are required to register, or any person who has an intent to defraud or mislead another. There is a presumption that a convicted felon requesting a name change does so to defraud or mislead, unless the person can satisfactorily prove by clear and convincing evidence that the petition is made in good faith and won’t injure another person or compromise public safety. The statute also prohibits the use of public funds to change the name of an inmate. However, that boy named Sue had legal grounds to change his name provided he wasn’t convicted of any of the above offenses. Had he gone through with his original plan to kill the father who gave him that name, he’d have been stuck with it forever!
What about name changes for minor children? These are tricky and require the cooperation of both parents. If you think you can change the name of your child because the other parent doesn’t visit or pay support or just isn’t involved, think again. It’s much more complicated than that and most courts won’t even consider a name change unless the rights of the other parent are protected. You must either obtain permission of the other parent, or serve legal process on the other parent notifying them of the proposed name change. If the father’s name does not appear on a child ‘s birth certificate, the mother must generally go through a legal proceeding to legitimate the child before requesting a name change, so that the father may be legally identified and given notice. Then, the child’s name can usually be changed as part of the legitimation case if the court determines the change is in the child’s best interest.
If you need help with a name change, give us a call. We can help make the process relatively painless.