The Name Game: Legally Modifying Your Moniker

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November 1, 2011

Perhaps you have gone through a divorce and wish to go back to your maiden name. Or you’re a free spirit looking for a serious redesign in the appellation department. Maybe you’re a mercurial professional athlete adamant about placing yourself into the limelight as often as possible. Whatever the reason, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Whether you’re a recent divorcée, an open mind, or former Oregon State wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, more and more individuals are undergoing legal name changes.

In the past few years, the overall number of name changes has been on the rise. The BBC reported that the number of September name changes in the UK this year increased by nearly 30 percent as compared to September 2010. A decade ago, approximately 5,000 people had their names legally changed; that same report states that by the end of this year, nearly 60,000 individuals will have their names altered in some fashion.

The main statute that guides the name changing process in Oregon is Oregon Revised Statutes 33.410. Under this rule, anyone may apply to have his or her name changed in the county in which they live. The name change will be granted, provided the court finds that doing so is in line with public interest.

A supporting statute, Oregon Revised Statutes 33.420(1), requires anyone applying for a change of name to give public notice of the application. At a court hearing, which the potential name-changer attends, an opportunity is given to any person to show cause as to why the change should not be granted. The judge will also want to know the reason behind the change of name request.

Assuming the judge grants the request, all that is left is filling out and posting a notice of the name change. Fourteen days later, if the proper documentation is provided showing the notice was posted, you’ll receive a certificate of the change of name. With just a little paperwork and some legal guidance, you can be well on your way to a new life with a new name.