Can you change your legal name? And if so, how would you go about it?
As usual, very little in the way of specifics
I contacted the person to find out some facts
Because you have to have been a bona fide resident of your county for six months before you could start this process
Without the residency facts and other facts, I could only give a general answer
Before we get to whatever facts you got from the questioner, what's the general answer?
Little side trip here - you can go by any name you want if it's not done to decide others
But most people want to do it legally so they can get a new driver's license, social security card, that king of thing
We're not talking about "informal" name changes here
First thing that viewers should know is that, if you're going through a divorce, you can revert back to your pre-married name in the divorce paperwork
These name changes cases almost all refer to last names, not Christian names, by the way
No extra legal expense doing it in divorce paperwork
Does that happen a lot?
I would say in about half of the divorces I've handled, it does
Cheap and easy
If that's the case, why wouldn't a divorcing woman choose that route?
Typical reason is if there are children involved
Often, she doesn't want to have a different last name from her children
Can cause confusion for them, mostly
Schools, governmental authorities are pretty used to two-household situations for many students, so it tends to be mostly not to upset the children
Or sometimes, very amicable divorce, so she keeps the married name
You also mentioned that a woman changing her name in the divorce paperwork is the first thing that viewers should know. So, there's obviously more, especially if she chooses not to, or it's not a divorce situation?
ND has a specific statute as to how to do this through separate court action2
Can be, and usually is, simple and relatively inexpensive
Often just three legal documents
What is the process there?
Okay, let's start with the woman who sent in this question
As I said, I contacted her to get the facts
She's been here six months, and appears to fit the statutory requirements
This statute lays out what has to be done?
If you are an adult, your attorney would follow the statute in preparing the paperwork, and typically there's no problem
In fact, there are very few North Dakota Supreme Court cases law with fights about name changes, for two reasons
First, assuming you can meet the statutory requirements and the criminal background check, if you're a grownup, there is usually no one with standing to object to your changing your name
Second, our judges have a very great degree of discretion in these cases
If the statutory requirement "that there exists proper and reasonable cause for changing the name is met, the petition will usually be granted
So, before you get into the nuts and bolts of the process itself, how is "proper and reasonable cause" usually interpreted by the judge?
There again, the statute kind of tells us what would NOT be proper and reasonable
If the court should determine that the petition is made to defraud or mislead is the first one, and usually the major one
If the criminal background check or any other evidence indicates that this person is trying to evade their creditors - people to whom they owe money - the petition could be denied
But money judgments against this person wouldn't show up as crimes, would they?
No, I wouldn't expect so
But the attorney is expected to question the client pretty closely on that point
And the statute itself requires publication of a notice of the petition in the newspaper
Creditors, I think, routinely check for that kind of publication
What are the other things that might be found not to be "proper and reasonable?"
The other three things the judge is to determine are: * Whether the petition is made in good faith * Whether it would cause injury to an individual * Whether it would compromise public safety
The "good faith" part kind of ties in whether the petition might "defraud or mislead"
That usually pertains to creditors
But could run to a number of other things, I suppose, like a parent who has taken a child and kind of gone into hiding in another state
If she changes her last name, and the other parent doesn't know, he or she could have some trouble tracking their child down
Does that happen a lot?
Not in my practice, I guess
But you can see where people might try that; I'm sure some have done so
What are the odds that a dad in Florida would see a notice in a Bismarck paper that his wife or ex-wife is looking to change her last name, after all?
What is the actual process?
The client comes in, gives us the facts, including her reasons for wanting to do this
Often it's just something like, "This wasn't a friendly divorce, my ex has a new wife, and I just want my own name back"
We prepare a petition, signed under oath before a notary, asking for the name change and giving the reasons
Then two things happen next
What two things?
The court has to determine whether this petitioner has a criminal history either here or in any other state
Usually they just automatically order a criminal history records check
The petitioner has to pay for that check, by the way
Who does that records check?
North Dakota's Bureau of Criminal Investigation
The client gives two sets of fingerprints, anything else BCI may ask her to do, and a statement as to whether she's ever been convicted of a crime
And if that comes back clean, what's the second thing you mentioned?
You publish notice of the petition in the newspaper in all cases
Exception if the court finds that the petitioner has been a victim of domestic violence - no publication there, to protect her
Only one publication
30 days after publication, if nobody files an objection and seeks a hearing, the court issues an order for the name change
What if there IS a criminal history?
An order changing her name could still be found to be proper
But the court then reports the name change to BCI
That way, it will show up if any other state is looking for a specific suspect in a case
There are a couple of interesting Supreme Court cases, including one where a man tried to change his name to the number "1069"
Sunday, March 9 2014 8:57 AM EDT2014-03-09 12:57:59 GMT
The Class B Boys season wrapped up the state tournament tonight in Grand Forks. Fargo Oak Groves defeated Rugby 68 to 58 in overtime fashion. North Star defeated the Lions from Linton-HMB 60 to 49 in the
The Class B Boys season wrapped up the state tournament tonight in Grand Forks.
Sunday, March 9 2014 8:54 AM EDT2014-03-09 12:54:06 GMT
The Century Patriots took home 1st place overall in the Swim and Dive State event finishing with 349 points. Followed by Minot with 323 points. North Fargo took home 3rd place overall at 297 points. West
The Century Patriots took home 1st place overall in the Swim and Dive State event finishing with 349 points.
Sunday, March 9 2014 8:50 AM EDT2014-03-09 12:50:18 GMT
The West Region Class A boys and girls basketball season concluded play today, and the state qualifiers are set. On the girls side Bismarck High won the tournament with a 64 to 61 win over Century. Both
The West Region Class A boys and girls basketball season concluded play today, and the state qualifiers are set.
Sunday, March 9 2014 8:48 AM EDT2014-03-09 12:48:30 GMT
Chair-lifts were packed and tube runs were full, as hundreds of families enjoyed a day at the Bottineau Winter Park. But Saturday was no ordinary day in the Turtle Mountains. It's was the grand opening
Saturday was no ordinary day in the Turtle Mountains. It's was the grand opening of Annie's House, a new ski-lodge and adaptive center.