“I don’t like your Christian name. I’d like you to change it.”
—Thomas Beecham, to his future wife
The name given to a person by his parents at birth is not necessarily the name that he has to keep for the rest of his life. The legal process to change a name in Arizona is relatively quick and easy. (This brings to mind an old Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue,” which humorously illustrates the importance of a name.)
If a person desires to change his name, he must file an application in the superior court in the county of his residence. In the application, he will set forth the reasons for the change of name and the name he wishes to adopt.
The parent or guardian of a minor (under age 18) may file an application for change of the name of the minor. The application will be filed in the county of the minor’s residence.
A person who files an application for change of name must indicate, under penalty of perjury:
- if he has been convicted of a felony
- if felony charges are pending against him for certain criminal offenses involving theft, forgery, fraud, perjury, or any other offense involving false statements
- if he is knowingly changing the person’s name to that of another person for the purpose of committing any criminal offense previously enumerated
- he is making the application solely for the best interest of the person; and
- he acknowledges that the change of name will not release the person from any prior obligations or harm any property rights or actions in the original name.
In some cases, the court may order that notice of the name change application be given by publication or by service upon any party interested in the proceeding. In the case of divorced parents, notice of an application to change the name of a minor must be given to the noncustodial parent, whose name the child may no longer have if the application is granted.
Upon the filing of the application, the court will set the case for a hearing. The person seeking a name change must attend the hearing and explain to the judge his reasons for wanting to change the name. The court may enter an order that the adopted name of the party be substituted for the original name. In the case of a minor, the court will consider the best interests of the child in determining whether to enter an order changing the name of the child. If the minor is 14 years of age or older, he must sign a notarized consent or attend the hearing.
In every case, the court will consider the criteria in the application in determining whether to grant a request for change of name. A crime victim or a prosecutor has the right to contest any legal name change at any time before entry of the order changing the name, or up to one year later.
The change of name does not release the person from any obligation which he incurred under his original name, nor does it affect any property rights that he acquired in his original name.
There are two other ways to change a person’s name. First, in an adoption proceeding, the court will give the adopted child the name of his adoptive parents. The state registrar will then issue a new certificate of birth for the adopted child. Second, in the case of a divorce, annulment or legal separation, the domestic relations court may restore to the wife the use of her former name if she requests it. In those cases, the decree will contain a provision for the change of name.
The above article is an excerpt from Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, 2nd Edition (Fenestra Books, 2012), by Donald A. Loose, republished with the author’s permission.
Disclaimer: Laws change constantly. Specific legal advice should be obtained regarding any legal matter. The information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created.
Donald A. Loose is an Arizona attorney, and the author of Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, and Estate Planning in Arizona: What You Need to Know. Mr. Loose is a regular guest on radio shows featuring local newsmaker interviews. He may be contacted at email@example.com.