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Name Change

 

Pro Bono Attorneys Deskbook

Name Change

 

 

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: 

  1. As part of another proceeding;

  2. By common law; and

  3. 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.

 

Common law: 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).

 

Separate legal 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 sections 527.270 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.

 

The verified petition must include the following:

  1. The present name of petitioner and the name desired;

  2. The reason for such desired change;

  3. That the petitioner is a resident of the county in which the change of name is sought;

  4. The date and place of birth of petitioner and petitioner's father's name and mother's maiden name;

  5. 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;

  6. If petitioner's name has previously been changed, when and where and by what court;

  7. 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

  8. That the change of name will not be detrimental to any other person.

Minors:  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 petition for next friend, consent of next friend, and order for appointing the next friend.)

 

Parental consent: 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 mail.

 

Order: 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.

 

Publication: 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 section 527.290.1, 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 costs.]

 

Publication is not required if the petitioner is the victim of a crime that is considered domestic violence under section 455.200, RSMo, is the victim of child abuse as defined in section 210.110, RSMo, or is the victim of abuse by a family or household member as defined in section 455.010, RSMo.

 

Proof of publication: After 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.

 

Birth 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, 2009