Changing Your Name in the Probate Court

There are a variety of reasons that an adult person might wish to change his or her name. If a name change is sought at the time of a divorce decree, the Family Court judge has the jurisdiction to order the change. At other times, however, you must file an application with the Probate Court in the town in which you reside. It's important to understand that requesting a change of name must be for valid reasons. In other words, you can't request a name change in order to deceive, defraud or mislead anyone. Let me illustrate: I once received a call from a man who explained that he wanted to change his name because he had outstanding arrest warrants in three states. He had moved to Connecticut a year or so before, met a wonderful woman whom he promptly married, and assured me that he wanted to start his life over with a clean slate. Oops, no name change for that guy. While I certainly appreciated his desire to start over, name changes are not granted in order to help someone outrun the law. I had an client who changed her last name to that of her stepfather because, she explained, her own father had abandoned her as a child and never looked back while her stepfather had 'been there' for her throughout her life. Now that's a valid reason. No outstanding arrest warrants, just honoring the man who stepped in when her own father bowed out. Another woman called my office requesting help with a name change. She told me that her ex-husband had intentionally ruined her credit during their contentious divorce and as a result, she was getting regular phone calls from collection agencies. She couldn't take it any more, she insisted. I hated to tell her that courts don't grant name changes for people wishing to sidestep creditors – even if they are tired of those annoyingly persistent collection agents. In Connecticut, the fee for filing an application for an adult name change is a mere $150. You'll need a certified long form birth certificate (it will not be returned to you, so don't send the only one you have). You'll also have to complete a sworn affidavit stating that "[t]he purpose of the change of name is not to deceive, defraud, or mislead any person or governmental agency, nor to avoid the legal consequences of a criminal conviction." I did have a man with a criminal past who, against my advice, did file for a name change. The judge later told me that the man had a 'record' a mile long and when asked about it, he simply shrugged it off as youthful misadventure. The judge denied the application. I had a client who came to me for assistance in filing her name change. She had been raised in the foster care system and had used the first name she had been given by the state agency as a child (to protect her privacy). When she applied for a job that required security clearance, she was asked why she used an alias. She was embarrassed to admit that she never knew she had been given a different first name at birth. It was a legitimate reason to change her name, given that she was engaged to be married in a few months. Finally, another guy successfully changed his very common name to a more interesting name that was some type of hybrid cross of various martial art forms. Unfortunately, he later got in trouble with the law and will never be able to change his name back. Moral: think before choosing a new name. You might be stuck with it for life. For assistance with Probate name changes, you should contact a licensed attorney. ———— Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on the blog do not constitute legal advice. I will not respond to any specific legal questions in the comments section of this blog. Read my entire disclaimer. copyright 2011 Irene C. Olszewski

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