On Legal Name Changes


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Short university presentation (2005) on the reasons and validity of legal name changes in Ohio.

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On Legal Name Changes

  1. 1. Legal Name ChangesCelia EmmelhainzUndergraduate Presentation: English 326, Ohio Dominican UniversityIn Spring 2005. Revised academic article published in 2012 in Names.
  2. 2. Types of Name Changes Common Law  Person uses name informally, or others use it for them.  Valid and accepted by law if not for criminal activity or fraud.  May pose problems when the person needs proof of their identity. (Hook 89, Nuessel 15) Legal  People can also change names through the legal system, as in this presentation.  Reasons outlined do apply to common law changes as well.
  3. 3. Ohio Name Change Law The Ohio Revised code mandates that a name-change petition must be filed in the Probate Court of the county where the person lives; the person must give reasons for the change, and prove he or she has lived in that county for a year. Anyone under twenty-one must have a special hearing if they cannot obtain consent from both parents. The law also provides for a divorced wife to have back any name she had before the marriage. A legally changed name is added on to the existing name on the birth certificate; when a copy of the certificate is requested, a computer-generated proof is sent instead of the original copy. The Ohio Vital Statistics office requires proof that the probate court has approved the change (for anyone born after 1908) to add the attachment to the certificate. (Bander 74-75, “Legal Action”)
  4. 4. Reasons For a Name Change1. Already in common law use2. Inadvertent (translation, misspelling)3. Original is disliked, rude, funny, or hard4. Change in marriage status5. Break with past; new start6. Avoid discrimination7. Reveal new identity (racial, religious)(Hook 81-83, Fuller 48, Bander 17-18, Nuessell 15, 18)
  5. 5. How Names are Changed Transliteration Чаиковский  Tchaikovsky Subtracting Koeningsberger  Koening Substitution Cohen  Brunswick Simplifying Hjelmstrom  Helmstrom Translation Piccolo  Small Conversion Mueller  Miller(Hook 87-89, Smith online)
  6. 6. LimitationsLimitations on name changes include:  No titles (“sultan of sarcasm”)  In New York, no “trivial, capricious, or vainglorious reasons”  No names of the famous (“George W. Bush”)  No criminal or fraudulent intent (Nuessel 16-17, Bahrampour)
  7. 7. “Michael Dengler” or “1069”? In the 1970s, Michael Herbert Dengler tried to change his name to the numerals 1069.  Argues this represents his “relationship to nature, time, the universe, and essence” but petition was rejected in 5 courts of law. Some courts questioned pronunciation, while others questioned a sexual connotation. Numbers are another type of name that the courts frown upon. Courts permitted him to use the name in common law, but not legally. Who has the right to determine a person’s legal name?
  8. 8. Works Cited Bahrampour, Tara. “A Boy Named Yo, Etc.” New York Times. 25 Sep 2003 Lexis-Nexis, 31 Oct 2004. <www.lexis-nexis.com> Bander, Edward J. Change of Law and Law of Names. New York: Oceana Publications, 1973: 17-18, 74-75. Fuller, Mary M. “A Company is Known by the Name it Keeps.” Training and Development Journal. Oct. 1974: 48. Hook, J.N. All Those Wonderful Names: a potpourri of people, places, and things. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1983: 81-83, 87-89. “Legal Action – Name Change.” Ohio Department of Health. 1 Jul 2003. 30 Nov 2004. <http://www.odh.state.oh.us/VitStats/la_name.htm> Nuessel, Frank. The Study of Names: a guide to the principles and topics. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1992: 15-18. Smith, Elsdon C. “American Surnames.” geneaology.com, Elsdon C. Smith. American Surnames. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2003. 24 Nov. 2004 <http://www.genealogy.com/genealogy/bio/18_smith.html>
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