Name Changes and Privacy – What You Need to Know

Newspaper-Publication-300x209If you’re an adult, you have the freedom to choose the name that you want to go by for yourself. You can even legally change that name according to the law if you choose to do so under most circumstances. As the parent of a child, you also have certain rights to make decisions for that youngster, including, perhaps, what they should be called. However, there are certain rules that need to be followed when it comes to things like name changes in New York and Nassau or Suffolk County Long Island. For instance, the public is entitled to know about any changes someone makes to their name, or the name of the child. That’s why the courts usually require the file for the request for a name change open and viewable to the public. Additionally, name change orders are also published in newspapers before they’re officially complete.

As I often tell my clients, changing your name, or the name of your child isn’t always as simple as just telling the court that you want a name to be altered. Usually, there’s a specific process to follow. For instance, a client will come to me and we draft a petition for a name change that can be submitted to the courts. If the court thinks that someone should be entitled to receive notice that a person’s name is changing, then they will make sure that the notice is delivered (such as a creditor or other parent of a minor child). If the court feels that all relevant parties have had the chance to make their objections heard, they’ll usually grant the name change without any further issue provided there is no reasonable objection to it.

What Happens in a Name Change Application?

Drafting a petition for the change of a name is relatively simple for a name change lawyer like myself. You’ll need to disclose some important information to the court for the process to begin. For instance, people need to explain whether they’ve ever been convicted of a crime as part of the application and highlight any other important details that need to be transferred into association with their new name. This could mean that you let the courts know if you have any civil judgments against you, or if you’ve ever been bankrupt, or owe support to a spouse or child. You’ll also need to disclose if any creditors might be adversely affected by your name change.

If your change of name, or the decision to change the name of a child doesn’t affect anyone negatively, the courts will usually grant your request. If nobody would be adversely effected and in the case of a minor both parents submit consents to the name change (and the child’s consent for a child above 14 years of age) without having to give anyone notice of the application. For an adult, the courts will need to consider whether the name change would be misleading or detrimental in any way – usually to creditors or perhaps the public who has the right to know about criminal convictions. If you’re hoping to change the name of a child, then like most things in family law, the courts will need to consider the best interests of the child. If both parents of the child don’t consent to the decision to change the child’s name, then the change can still be granted. However, this will only happen if the court agrees that changing the child’s name is in their best interests.

One common concern that people have when it comes to name change cases, is how they can maintain control over their privacy. Privacy has emerged as a very common issue for a lot of people in the courts today. Some individuals may decide that they don’t want their decision to change their name to be visible in the public records of New York and Long Island. In this case, you might ask for the file on your name change to be sealed. If you want the file on your name change to be sealed, then there is an additional application that must be made. If your application is successful, then the requirement to publish your name change in a newspaper will be waived. Usually safety issues would be the primary reason that sealing or a waiver of publication would be ordered by the court.

Keeping a Name Change Private

In some locations, like Nassau County for instance, applications to change a name, submitted by attorneys on behalf of their clients, can be completed almost entirely digitally, through a process called e-filing. To ensure that the filing is not visible before a judge can rule on the request to seal the file and wave the publication of the name in a newspaper, attorneys such as myself need to coordinate with the e-filing clerk. This basically means that we work with the person responsible for pushing the application through to ensure that the file isn’t visible online while it’s considered by the courts. Name change applications that aren’t done by e-filing at this time, such as those in Queens County and Suffolk County, require a different process and steps to try to ensure privacy while the request is being considered since these applications are filed in person at the court.

Usually, people will request for the record on their name change to be sealed if they’re worried that they’re in danger from someone who might be pursuing them, or an ex-partner. If this is the case, then it’s important to speak to your legal professional about how you can keep your identity safe. Speaking to a police officer might be useful too. For instance, some experts can give you advice on how you can keep your identity safe by using private browsing techniques online and protecting your social media status.

According to the laws of New York and Long Island, if your children’s safety, or your safety is in danger, then you can have your name change request information immediately sealed. This means that no-one will be able to find your information in any public records except certain specified individuals like your lawyer. While the court considers your request, your file will remain sealed, and you will not have to publish any information if the courts consider you or your child to be in danger. If the court finds that you’re not in danger, then you may still need to publish information on your name change in a newspaper and the court file can be a viewed by the public.

To learn more about changing your name or the name of your child, please contact my office today at (516) 333-6555, or contact us using our free online form.

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