How do name changes work in New York on Long Island and New York City in divorces and otherwise?

A party to a divorce can change their last name back to a prior surname once the divorce is granted.  There will be language in the Judgment of Divorce which either specifies the last name that can be resumed or that in general they may start to use whatever their maiden name used to be.  That Judgment of Divorce can then be brought to the Department of Motor Vehicles, Social Security office and other important places, to have them issue a drivers license with the proper new name.  The Judgment of Divorce will reflect this regardless of the method utilized to get the divorce.  This means that if you go through divorce mediation, collaborative divorce, or the traditional adversarial model the same language about the name change should be in the Judgment of Divorce.  Your New York City or Long Island Divorce Lawyer that drafts the documents to submit to the Supreme Court as part of the divorce package should include the last name change language in the papers that are submitted to finalize the divorce.

People that want to change their first and/or last name or are not going through a divorce can apply to change their names as well.  On Long Island and other locations outside of New York City, such as Westchester and Rockland Counties, name change petitions are done in the Supreme Court.  In New York City they are done in the New York City Civil Court.  The application should be done in the County that the person applying for the name change lives in.  You do not necessarily need to have been born in New York to do your name change application here, it is however necessary that you are now a New York resident to file the case here. The filing fee to start the case in the Suffolk County or Nassau County Supreme Court is $210.00 while it costs $65.00 in a New York City Civil Court.

With the filing fee, you or your family law attorney can submit a name change petition and the order you would like the judge to sign granting the name change.  A birth certificate or other proof of birth needs to be submitted with the papers.  If the name change petition is approved, the Judge will require the notification of the name change to be published in a newspaper.  Name change applications are public record, but at times, a court might dispense with the publication requirement and seal the request for the name change if there are personal safety issues shown to the court.

Issues that the court will want to consider, and therefore need to be disclosed on the petition include but are not limited to:   (a) if the petitioner has criminal convictions or has been judicially determined as bankrupt ; (b) whether there are any judgments or liens against the applicant or cases pending to which the applicant is a party; (c) whether the applicant has spousal or child support obligations and if they are up to date.

The law states that an “infant” or child under eighteen can petition the court for a name change through his parents, general guardian, guardian of his person, or his “next friend.”  These same people are entitled to received notice of the application to change the name of the child if another party is making the application.  A court needs to find that there is no reasonable objection to the name change to grant it and, in the case of children, determine that the name change is in the best interests of the child.

People have a common law right to retain their old names or change them, provided it is not done with the intent to defraud.  Under the law, the state is not supposed to charge any fees to people who want to change their names on driver’s licenses or other identification to reflect their new names as a result of  a change in their marital status or by the granting of a name change application as outlined above.

This office is familiar with name change applications within and outside of marital cases.  Feel free to call to discuss your situation.  It would be our pleasure to speak with you about it.

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