Name Change

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Under the laws of the State of Virginia, it is legal and proper for an adult individual to adopt any name that he or she chooses, so long as there is no fraudulent purpose intended by the name selection. It is not necessary to have a one’s name formally changed by formal court order to use the name.

However, most governmental agencies (e.g.., DMV, SSA, IRS) and most banks will require formal documentation in the form of a Name Change Order from a court before they will change their records.

Name Change Special Circumstances

We know of several cases which illustrate the above principle. In each case, the birth mother and step-father really wanted the step-father to adopt the child, but adoption was put on hold “for the time being” because it was perceived as too expensive. They pursued a simple name change instead. The need for the adoption was then forgotten because the child had the step-father’s last name. Everybody assumed the child was his, so there is no need to adopt, right? Wrong! The mother and step-father subsequently divorced. The children of the marriage retained military dependent’s benefits through the husband’s branch of military service. The “parents” erroneously believed the benefits would include coverage for the step-child. Shortly after the divorce, the step-father was killed in an automobile accident. The child was still a minor. However, upon application for survivors benefits, the child was denied them. He was not the child of the deceased. The child had no rights to any benefits from his ex-stepfather. Indeed the child did not even have a right to a share of his ex-stepfather’s estate, or any insurance policies made payable to “my children.” If the child had became (or in the future becomes) seriously ill, there is no medical insurance coverage. The mother cannot afford it, and the military would deny it. Indeed, the child had no rights to any benefits flowing through the step-father. The child was not his child in the eyes of the law. The tragedy is apparent, but nothing can be done about it.

Click HERE for the Virginia Section on Name Changes.

Considerations For Changing A Child’s Name

To change the name of a child in an “uncontested” fashion requires the consent of both parents, or the consent of one parents and no objection from the other parent after reasonable notice has been provided to him or her.

A child’s name can be changed over the objection of a parent in limited circumstances, and generally only if the name change is proven to be in the child’s best interest (as opposed to the desires of the custodial parent). Examples of cases where the name change was shown to be in the child’s best interests, and therefore was granted over the objection of the absent parent include: absent parent abused child; absent parent-committed notorious crimes that make retaining name potentially or actually embarrassing to the child; the child is of sufficient maturity to express desire for changed name; total abandonment of child over a long period of time.

NOTE: Changing the name of a child is not a substitute for an adoption. No rights accrue to a child just because his or her last name may have been changed to that of a step-father. Some people think that a name change is a cheap means to accomplish the same end. Nothing could be further from the truth. If an adoption is contemplated, it is better to do that without the intermediate step of a name change.

Fictitious Names For Businesses

Almost every name for a business is “fictitious,” meaning that the business name does not specifically identify the person or persons behind the organization. Whenever a business operates under a fictitious name, it is important that the business owner registers the fictitious name with the local government body. That way, a person seeking to do business with the company has the ability to determine with whom he is actually conducting his business. (A corporation trading under the exact name of the corporation is not using a fictitious name–even though it may be a made up name. It is still using its “real” name. A corporation is considered a real “person” if its organizers followed the proper procedures to incorporated the business. If the corporation adopts a trade name under which it will conduct its business that is not its corporate name, then the fictitious name rules will apply.)