Pro Bono Attorneys Deskbook
This chapter primary focuses on effectuating a name change via an
independent legal action; however, it is important to briefly touch on
various ways of acquiring a name change. Name changes may be effectuated
in three basic ways:
As part of another proceeding;
By common law; and
By a separate legal action.
Part of another
proceeding: Many legal
proceedings such as dissolutions of marriage, adoptions and foreign
recognitions of adoption incorporate a change of name along with the
underlying action. Usually, this change of name is pled in the original
pleadings and placed in the final judgment. Individuals may then take a
certified copy of the judgment to whichever authority needed in order to
have his or her name changed on the desired document.
In addition, a person may change his or her name via common law by the
common usage of the desired new name. Although case law does allow for
this, in actuality changing a name by common usage is vague and not
recommended. See as an example Neal v. Neal, 941 S.W.2d 501 (Mo. banc 1997).
actions: The third means by
which a person may change his or her name is through a separate legal
action, which is governed by the
Missouri Rules of
Civil Procedure 95 (which contains Rules 95.01 through 95.05) and
through 527.290, Missouri Revised Statutes. This action is initiated
by filing a
verified petition in the
circuit court of the county of petitionerís residence. (As always, it is
beneficial to check local rules. For instance, some counties have the
associate circuit judge actually hear or determine the matter.) A
family may file a joint petition, which should be less costly than if
each member where to file separately.
must include the following:
The present name of petitioner and the name
The reason for such desired change;
That the petitioner is a resident of the county
in which the change of name is sought;
The date and place of birth of petitioner and
petitioner's father's name and mother's maiden name;
If petitioner is married, the name of
petitioner's spouse, and if petitioner has children, the names and
ages of each and their place(s) of residence;
If petitioner's name has previously been
changed, when and where and by what court;
Whether any action for money is pending against
petitioner and, if so, the style of the case and the court in which
it is pending; and
That the change of name will not be detrimental
to any other person.
When a minor seeks to change his or her name, the basic proceedings are
the same. However, a few additional requirements must be satisfied.
First, the petition is filed by the minorís
next friend or guardian as provided in
Missouri Rule of Civil Procedure
52.02. (As such, the practitioner will need to file a
for next friend,
consent of next friend, and order for appointing the next friend.)
Additionally, written consent of each known parent (father
and/or mother) must be filed with the court.
If the applicable written consent is not filed
with the court, then at least thirty (30) days before the hearing a copy
of the petition with a notice of hearing must be served by registered or
certified mail to the last known address of the nonconsenting parent.
Proof of service is obtained by the certificate of the clerk that he or
she mailed a copy of the petition and notice by registered or certified
Next, an order for name change must be obtained by the court. Many jurisdictions allow
for an order to be entered via mail without a hearing if there is no
opposition to the change of name.
MO Rule 95.04 states that the
court enters the order if it finds that the change would be proper and
not detrimental to the interests of any other person.
Once an order has been obtained, the practitioner must then publish the
order for name change once a week
for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the
county where the change of name was granted within twenty (20) days
after the order of the court is made.
If no such newspaper exists, then it should be published in a newspaper
designated by the court. Note, however, that
RSMo, states that the order is to be published in any
adjacent county, or if not possible then published in the city of St.
Louis or at the seat of government. [The practitioner may also obtain a
signed order of publication to publish in the newspaper instead of publishing
the Judgment, which is shorter than the judgment, and therefore; reduces
Publication is not
required if the petitioner is the victim of a crime that is considered
domestic violence under
RSMo, is the victim of child
abuse as defined in
RSMo, or is the victim of abuse by
a family or household member as defined in
publication, a practitioner must then file the proof of publication with
the court within ten (10) days after the date of last publication. He or
she should then obtain a certified copy of the order or Judgment.
Typically, the client would then take the certified copy of the judgment
to the DMV, social security office, or wherever to change his or her
name on the applicable documents.
Certificate: In order for a personís birth certificate to be changed (which is
unnecessary if an individual is returning to her maiden name), a
certified copy of the judgment should be sent to the department of
health in the state where the person was born along with the appropriate
fee. (Currently in Missouri the cost is $15.00 to amend the birth
certificate and $15.00 for each certified copy of the amended birth
certificate.) For Missouri, the certified copy of the judgment along
with a cover letter stating the individualís birth date and the return
address should be sent to:
Department of Health & Senior Services
Attn: Amendment Unit
P.O. Box 570
Jefferson City, MO 65102
As a side note, if
the client was not born in Missouri, the practitioner should contact the
state of birth at the onset in case the birth state requires additional
specific language to be included in the Order or Judgment that is not
required in Missouri.
Appreciation to Camille Fletcher of
Branson for developing this chapter.
Revised August 20,