The most common instances where a person wants to change his/her name are during marriage or adoption. People also change their name to disassociate from something negative or infamous, or may simply wish to give themselves a name that is more useable. Obtaining a legal name change varies depending on the residence of the applicants. The process of name change is generally less cumbersome. In the United States, a legal name change can be obtained through a court order and any US citizen has the right to change his/her name through either common law or court procedure. A person may change his/her name at will and operate a business, write a book, or even sue someone under a different name. However, if a person change the name with a fraudulent intent to deceive people, legal action will be taken.
Every adult U.S. citizen has a constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment to change his/her name at will. As long as a person consistently uses the new name on all personal and business documents, the new name must be legally recognized by authorities. A person can change his/her name by filing of an application in civil court along with a nominal fee. The applicant should provide a valid and reasonable explanation for desiring a legal name change. The court can reject the application if it appears that the applicant has intent to perpetrate fraud by concealing his/her identity. For instance, it is illegal for a person to change his/her name to that of a celebrity, with the intent to impersonate that celebrity. Many institutions such as banks and insurance companies require a court order to change a customer’s name in their records.
Every state has a different procedure for obtaining a name change court order. While some states simply require acknowledgment that a person’s name is not being changed for purposes of fraud or other crimes, some other states refuse to issue a court order if a person’s new name appears to be unreasonably vulgar or frivolous.