Legal Name Change in Arkansas

By Holly Cameron

Many people change their names when they marry or divorce; others consider a name change for more personal reasons: a name is difficult to pronounce, is open to misinterpretation or does not fit the person's personality. In Arkansas, you can legally change your name provided that you show “good reasons.” Name changes for the purposes of avoiding debt enforcement or criminal sanctions are not permitted.

Marriage

After marriage, many individuals change their surname to that of their spouse. Since this is a matter of choice, the name change does not occur automatically. If you want to change your name after marriage, you must notify appropriate authorities such as the Social Security Administration and the IRS and supply them with a copy of your marriage certificate. Once you have your new Social Security card, you can contact your bank, insurance company and utility suppliers to request that they change your name on their records. You don't need to file any legal documents to change your name after marriage.

Divorce

When a couple divorces in Arkansas, the court may restore the wife to the name that she was known by prior to the marriage, pursuant to Section 9-12-318 of the Arkansas Code. It is up to each individual to notify organizations such as the IRS, banks and insurance companies to request a change of name. Usually, these organizations require a copy of the official decree of divorce or a copy of the new Social Security card before they will honor the change of name.

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Other Situations

Other situations in which a name change is sought are governed by the legal procedure as set out in the Arkansas Code. According to Section 9-2-101, any person may apply to his local circuit court for a legal name change. Application should be by petition in writing and set out the reasons for the desired name change. There is no statutory form for the petition but the county clerk will provide information on completing the legal formalities. After the circuit court has granted the name change, the individual will be known and designated by the new name in all situations. An exception applies to any person who is under the supervision of the Department of Correction: in these circumstances, according to Section 9-2-101, although the person may change his name for day-to-day matters, the Arkansas courts continue to designate such a person by his original name.

Changing the Name of a Minor

Changing the name of a minor child does not affect the legal responsibilities of either parent, and both parents or legal guardians must agree to changing the name of a child. In most cases, the court will convene a hearing to discuss the reasons for the name change and to consider whether the change is in the best interests of the child. As with other name changes, the petition must set out the reasons for the desired name change.

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References

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