Brief look at processes for name changes
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Summer is upon us. Although our days have felt like mid-summer days for months, summer hasn’t officially arrived, astronomically speaking.
Summer begins next week, on June 21, at 4:14 a.m. CDT. That day marks the longest day and shortest night of the year.
It is also Alabama’s runoff election day. Don’t forget to go cast your vote. It will be daylight when the polls open and daylight when the polls close! No one will have to vote in the dark.
Moving on to a little June trivia. Did you know June 5 was National Moonshine Day? I am not sure there is any other drink known by more names than moonshine. Some of those names are hootch, white whiskey, white lightning, firewater, mountain dew, skull pop, and my favorite: Bama Dew.
I’ve heard many stories over the years about moonshining in Coosa and the surrounding counties. As I have wandered Coosa County woods, I have happened upon some old moonshine-still sites. From stories I have heard, thank goodness they were OLD sites.
Now to some more serious information. Recently the Coosa County Probate Office has received many inquiries from people wanting to change their or their child’s name.
For adult name changes, the process isn’t very complicated. However, there are a few steps that must be taken by the person desiring to change his/her name.
First, the person needs to obtain the petition forms and documents requesting the name change from the judge of probate’s office.
Then the person must obtain a criminal history background and fingerprint check from either the Alabama Bureau of Investigation or the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The reason for this investigation is to show to the judge there are no illegal or prohibited reasons the person may be wishing to change their name.
Prohibited reasons could include pending criminal charges, a conviction of crimes involving moral turpitude, avoiding payment of debts, or to commit acts of fraud.
The petitioner (person desiring to change his/her name) must provide the court with the following:
- Certified copy of petitioner’s birth certificate,
- Petitioner’s valid/current government-issued picture identification e.g., driver’s license/non-driver’s photo identification,
- Copy of Final Divorce Decree if the name change is due to divorce,
- Petitioner’s proof of residency. NOTE: If the petitioner’s driver’s license shows an address outside Coosa County or the State of Alabama, two proofs of residency are required at the time of filing, e.g., utility bill, deed, or lease,
- Petitioner’ Social Security card,
- Completed Petition for Change of Name (may be completed in the probate office at the time of filing), and
- Payment of all filing and court related fees.
After all this is accomplished, the judge will hold a hearing, make a ruling and issue an order in the case.
For a minor’s name change, things are a little more difficult. In addition to all the items above, both parents must approve of the minor’s name change. Both parents must also appear at the hearing. This is especially true if the parents are divorced.
All signatures on the Petition and Declaration for Change of Name, Minor, must be notarized by a notary actually witnessing the signatures. Next, both parents must obtain a criminal history background and fingerprint check. The only exception to this process occurs when one or both parent(s) is/are deceased or parental rights have been terminated by an appropriate court.
Finally, a formal hearing is normally required. The judge may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) for the minor child depending upon the circumstances. If a GAL is appointed, the petitioner is required to pay the GAL fees in addition to the other court-related costs.
The petitioners must provide the court with the following:
- Certified copy of the minor child’s birth certificate. If the child was born in a foreign country and the birth certificate is in a foreign language, it must be translated into English by a certified translator.
- Parent(s)/petitioner’s valid/current government-issued identification (e.g., driver’s license/non-driver’s identification).
- Parent(s)/petitioner’s proof of residency. NOTE: If the petitioner’s driver’s license shows an address outside Coosa County or the State of Alabama, two proofs of residency are required at the time of filing, e.g., utility bill, deed, or lease.
- Social Security cards of natural parent(s) and of minor child.
- Both parents must be present in court unless the following documents are presented to the court:
- Certified copy of the Death Certificate if a parent is deceased.
- If father’s name is not listed on birth certificate, a certified copy of the court order or blood test stating he is the natural father.
- If the parental rights of the natural mother or natural father have been terminated, a certified copy of the court order terminating parental rights.
- If the minor is 14 years of age or older, consent to the name change by the minor child is required.
- Completed Petition and Declaration for Change of Name, Minor (may be completed in the probate office).
- Payment of all filing and court-related fees, including GAL fees if applicable.
There are many reasons why a person might wish to change his or her name or a child’s name. For an adult, just about any reason is cause for the change of name. However, for a minor child’s name to be changed, the court must be satisfied that the reason is valid and well intentioned.
This is a brief look at the name-change process. Every case is different.
As always, the information above is meant to inform and not to advise. No person should ever apply or interpret any law without the aid of an attorney who analyzes the facts. The facts of each case differ and often change the application of the law. Until next month, try to stay cool and stay safe!