Reasons Not to Grant a Legal Name Change

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

Reasons Not to Grant a Legal Name Change

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

If you don't like your first, middle, or last name, you can follow a legal name change process. The process and steps you must follow are state-specific, but all states require courts to approve the proposed new name. In most cases, courts approve name change applications. However, there are certain scenarios under which the court might not grant your name change request, including situations involving fraud, certain felony convictions, objections, minor children, and name changes that could result in confusion or harm.

Woman in beige suit using laptop and looking at credit card

1. Attempts to avoid financial obligations.

Trying to change your name in an attempt to get out of paying judgments, valid debts, or other financial obligations is fraudulent. Doing so generally results in the court denying your petition for a legal name change.

2. Certain criminal convictions.

State courts generally approve most petitions for legal name changes. However, courts may deny petitions filed by people who are incarcerated, people who are on parole, and people convicted of sex crimes. In some states, convicted criminals can legally change their names after obtaining approval from the state or after waiting for a certain period of time to request a name change.

3. Objections to the proposed new name.

State courts also consider objections to name change petitions. As part of the process of petitioning for a legal name change, applicants must notify the public of their intentions. If someone files a timely objection with the court, the judge considers the objection when determining how to rule on the name change request.

4. Changing a minor child's name.

When one parent wants to change a minor child's name but the other parent objects to the change, the court may deny the request. Judges make such decisions based on what is in the child's best interest, after considering all available information.

5. Avoiding confusion or harm.

Courts reviewing name change petitions may also deny them in situations where the new name could be confusing or cause harm. For example, attempting to change your name to the same name as a celebrity, requesting an offensive new name, or trying to use a title such as President, Governor, or Senator will likely result in the judge denying your application.

State-Specific Rules

Every U.S. state has enacted laws and procedures residents must follow when requesting legal name changes. These laws are not uniform, so applicants should understand their states' specific rules before beginning the name change process. The specific procedures an applicant must follow also differ from one state to the next. Because the court can deny a name change petition on procedural grounds if an applicant fails to meet their state's requirements, a person interested in making a legal name change may benefit from contacting a licensed attorney or working with a reputable legal services provider to help with the process.

If you don't like your current name, you can file a petition to change it to something that better suits you. Understanding the potential grounds courts use to deny name change applications can help you improve your chances of success.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.