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[Legal Advice On] Name Changes

Premier kakosPremier kakos Registered User, ClubPA regular
edited October 2008 in Help / Advice Forum
So, first off, I am putting a call out to all you lawyers. If you're not a lawyer, you're welcome, of course. However, so I know which advice is coming from who, please state if you're a lawyer or not. For all you lawyers who respond, I understand that you make no guarantees to the veracity of the legal advice you give me and such. Did I cover everything?

Okay, on with the question. So, I changed my name. To be specific, I changed it at will. I told my friends, my family, my co-workers to start addressing me by my new name and all that jazz. As I understand it, legal precedence says that at will name changes are a Constitutional right and that they have all the same legal weight as a court-decreed name change. Furthermore, under the 14th Amendment, a state cannot abridge that right. I did a little bit of research and I found that one of the key cases in this field is In re McUlta, 189 F. 250 (1911).

So, I want to get my driver's license changed. I write up an affidavit saying that I am changing my name, I understand that I am still responsible for any responsibilities tied to my former name, I am not changing my name out of frivolity, fraudulent intent, or any other illegal purpose, and it is not obscene. I get it signed and notarized and head over to the DMV. I ask to change the name on my license and they say they /need/ a official court document stating that I have changed my name.

So, here is my question... or questions. First off, is my understanding of the law correct? Second, if it is correct, what can I do from here? Or, if it isn't correct, why isn't it correct? Thanks.

Premier kakos on
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Posts

  • RUNN1NGMANRUNN1NGMAN Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    You have the right to change your name at will, but you may also need to satisfy applicable statutory regulations relating to name changes.

    As a related example, you have the right to free assembly, but that doesn't mean the man can't shut you down if you don't satisfy requirements the government may have for getting a parade permit when you decide to celebrate Premier Katos Day.

  • mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    RUNN1NGMAN wrote: »
    You have the right to change your name at will, but you may also need to satisfy applicable statutory regulations relating to name changes.

    As a related example, you have the right to free assembly, but that doesn't mean the man can't shut you down if you don't satisfy requirements the government may have for getting a parade permit when you decide to celebrate Premier Katos Day.

    I am not a lawyer, but I have done an at-will name change.

    This. You do not need some specific reason to change your name, but that still doesn't mean you don't have to go through a relatively short and painless legal process to do so. Marriage is a legal right as well, but you still have to file for a certificate and pay a nominal fee.


    As an example of the requirements you might face, I'll tell you what this involved in the state of Montana. Basically I had to go to the courthouse, talk to the clerk, and set a court date for one month in the future [EDIT: and pay a small filing fee, I think]. Then I had to "advertise" my intent to change name in a public forum, the easiest being a simple ad in the newspaper (well, not an "ad" so much as an announcement in the legal section that runs once a week). The cost of this varies...some papers charge as little as like $20, others run you more like $100. The requirement is that this ad run for a period of one month, though it doesn't say how often IIRC...this is why some cost less, because some papers only run the section like every other week or something.

    Anyway, the purpose of this is so that anybody with some kind of valid legal reason can oppose your name change. I have no idea what would qualify as such a reason. [EDIT: I think this requirement in particular was pretty silly, and probably largely historical]

    Then, a month later, you go in front of a judge, and swear that you're not wanting to do this for the purposes of fraud or whatever. He then signs it, and you go on about your day. Done.

    Note that there are some specific exceptions for the advertising requirements, such as people with ex-spouses who have been documented as abusive (to protect their privacy).


    Anyway, the whole point of this is to show that while you have the right to do this, that doesn't mean you get to simply nod your head Barbara Eden style and it's done. It just means that they can't make it prohibitively difficult and that they can't discriminate against any individual who wants to do so...they can still require a specific legal process to do it.


    EDIT: Oh, and be prepared for a world of pain-in-the-ass. The DMV was easy, but at least in my case getting the IRS and the SSA on the same page (and the right one) was a real pain. I was also in the military, and nobody even knew how to deal with that shit (changes due to marriage are handled in a specific manner, changes due to decree are different). Still, all you really have to do is sit down and make a list of who you really need to inform and deal with, and go through it, and you'll be good to go. If possible, try and keep some form of government-issued ID in your old name for a little while as well, just in case...though having two DL's is generally a no-no. And keep a (certified) copy of your decree handy as well, like in your glove box.

  • Premier kakosPremier kakos Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited October 2008
    Well, one of the reasons I want to avoid the whole official legal process in Colorado is that part of said process is a required fingerprinting and FBI background check, which is, well, fucked up.

    And, as far as the case law I've read says, it is as easy as nodding your head Barbara Eden style. As long as you are not doing it for fraudulent purposes, legal precedence seems to indicate that you can nod your head and that new name is as valid and legal as any other name and that the state cannot require any official court documentation as part of its process.

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  • mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Well, one of the reasons I want to avoid the whole official legal process in Colorado is that part of said process is a required fingerprinting and FBI background check, which is, well, fucked up.

    Indeed it is.
    And, as far as the case law I've read says, it is as easy as nodding your head Barbara Eden style. As long as you are not doing it for fraudulent purposes, legal precedence seems to indicate that you can nod your head and that new name is as valid and legal as any other name and that the state cannot require any official court documentation as part of its process.

    Sorry, I suppose I should have looked that up before replying. It does appear to back up what you're saying. However, it's entirely possible that this isn't the only case on the subject. Also, it's possible (I haven't read the entire case, just the bit at wikipedia) that this case only deals with entering into contracts and such, in the context of fraud...it may not deal with requirements by government agencies (such as the DMV).

    Anything beyond that I suppose I will leave to any lawyers or law students kicking around here. Sorry to go off half-cocked like that. I'll say that it will be surprising to me if these requirements are illegal, as you'd think they'd have been overturned by now...additionally, I'll add that even if they are illegal, that means that you'll likely have to consult a local lawyer and go through the process of getting them reversed.

    Which, if at all possible, you should do...because those requirements in CO seem absolutely unreasonable.

  • KazhiimKazhiim __BANNED USERS
    edited October 2008
    Well, one of the reasons I want to avoid the whole official legal process in Colorado is that part of said process is a required fingerprinting and FBI background check, which is, well, fucked up.

    Really? I don't think it's entirely unreasonable for the federal govt. to keep track of who's changed their name. Aliases and all that.

    But this isn't D&D, so. I'm not a lawyer, but being required to inform the government that you're changing your name (and getting a court document to put it to paper) doesn't necessarily infringe upon your right to change your name. You can still do it.

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  • DjiemDjiem Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Just out of curiosity, if you don't mind telling, why did you change your name? You didn't like the old one?

  • Premier kakosPremier kakos Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited October 2008
    Djiem wrote: »
    Just out of curiosity, if you don't mind telling, why did you change your name? You didn't like the old one?

    I didn't like it and it was far too common and I get very annoyed when I hear my name spoken but the speaker isn't referring to me. Also, I seem to have had the freaky luck of always ending up in situations in which there are at least three people with the same name.

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  • Premier kakosPremier kakos Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited October 2008
    I've been doing a bit more research.
    The common law privilege of name changing, however, has never been taken away and except as legislatures have deemed it expedient to provide for protection to certain classes, it still prevails. Most states provide a specific method of changing one's name. These statutes have been held to be permissive only and not exclusive, merely furnishing an additional method of doing what common law has always allowed.

    DMV, I will get you!!

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  • kaliyamakaliyama Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    The short answer from a lawyer's perspective: You may be right, but you'd have to litigate it. It's not worth your time to litigate it, so go do what Colorado wants you to. Waving an old federal appellate court case in the DMV's face is going to get you laughed at. Unless you're independently wealthy and bored, grinding this particular axe is a colossal waste of time, energy and brainpower.

    The long answer: Unless you can find someone with time and money on their hands (maybe a libertarian/right-wing nonprofit group like the Pacific Legal Foundation) to run this for you as a test case, you'd be spending tens of thousands, if not hundred of dollars to avoid spending a fraction of that on a name change.

    You may or may not be right from a constitutional standpoint. The modern administrative state certainly can burden our our constitutional rights with regulation, the extent of which depends on the importance of the right and the intrusiveness of the regulation. The issue is not, strictly speaking, whether you're able to change your name in the common law fashion. The question is whether the DMV can require you change your name a certain way before they issue you a driver's license. Driving isn't a constitutional right, but it is so essential to modern life that a court may view, as you surely do, that a name change that doesn't let you get identification and a license is no name change at all.

    I know nothing about how the tenth circuit (which CO is in) interprets relevant federal law, though your research (wikipedia) shows that the relevant appellate theory is elsewhere. The Supreme Court case cited is not on point.

    McNulta was about whether someone could change their name in good faith and enter into contracts or do business under that name, and later enforce those contracts in court, be sued under that name, etc. etc. In that sense, a name is only a referent to you, the individual. Any other result would be silly.

    In the intervening century, a lot has changed, and don't expect a court to adhere to century-old case law. In modern reality, records and the concept of identity has taken on increased importance (e.g., protecting people from identify theft, illegal immigrants, crime and terrorism). Courts will likely respect the serious economic, political and social necessity for the government and other people to be able to identify a person in spite of name changes.

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  • deadonthestreetdeadonthestreet Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    You have to advertise it so that guy you owe money to knows where to find you.

  • mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    You have to advertise it so that guy you owe money to knows where to find you.

    Well yeah, that too.

    But the idea that advertising in the West Podunk Gazette for a couple weeks is going to help Citibank find me when I stop paying my credit cards is a bit absurd. That's why I say it's gotta be largely for "historic" reasons...because it's entirely anachronistic.

  • HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    mcdermott wrote: »
    You have to advertise it so that guy you owe money to knows where to find you.

    Well yeah, that too.

    But the idea that advertising in the West Podunk Gazette for a couple weeks is going to help Citibank find me when I stop paying my credit cards is a bit absurd. That's why I say it's gotta be largely for "historic" reasons...because it's entirely anachronistic.

    I think it's a technicality to protect you from claims after the fact. Somewhat historic, perhaps, but it does serve a real purpose, you can't be hauled back into court on the matter down the road unless you actually did commit fraud. Estate ads and I think bankruptcy notices (at least in some states) go in the same section. Those won't help Citibank any more than the name change ad, but once the time limit expires, Citibank is SOL and the bankrupt debtor or heirs are protected from any creditor who didn't act in time.

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