New Jersey allows a person to change his/her name by filling out a form and returning it to the county Superior Court. A name change form costs $250. While that seems simple, there are actually several other critical steps involved and a hearing with a judge is required. There are instances when a judge may rule that a person is not permitted to change his/her name. It may be worth it to consult with an attorney before attempting to change one’s name in New Jersey.
How to Change Your Name in NJ
- Fill out the forms. There are two important sets of documents that a person must complete to change their names in NJ. The first is the New Jersey Name Change Packet, which includes forms to indicate what name one wishes to go by and to order a hearing before a judge. One must also fill out the Civil Case Information Statement. If one hires an attorney, he/she will complete these forms.
- Make copies. A person should keep one copy for his/her own records and include an additional copy along with the original documents which will be sent to the court.
- File the forms. The forms should be sent to the Superior Court of the county in which the person lives. This can be done by mail or in person. Be sure to include a check or money order for $250 made out to “Treasurer, State of New Jersey,” as well as a self-addressed stamped envelope for the court to return the forms to you.
- Wait for a response. Once the court reviews the documents, it will return a copy of the Verified Complaint and Order Fixing Date of Hearing forms. The latter will indicate the hearing date and relevant docket number. Take note of the docket number! This is needed for the court to know which case relates to which person.
- Publish a notice in the newspaper. The Order Fixing Date of Hearing must be published in the newspaper no less than two weeks before the hearing. The returned documents will indicate which newspaper the notice must be published in. Once the notice is published, the newspaper will send an affidavit of publication. A copy should be made for record keeping and the original sent to the court.
- Notify required persons. Those with pending criminal charges in New Jersey must notify the law enforcement agency that is prosecuting the case of one’s intent to change one’s name. This must be done at least 20 days before the hearing.
- Attend the court hearing. When attending court, be sure to dress appropriately and be polite and respectful to everyone in the courthouse. In addition, bring copies of all documents in order to accurately answer questions the judge may have. Here is where having an attorney can be the most helpful. An attorney can handle some of the questions the judge may ask and issue responses that are likely to persuade the judge to make a favorable ruling.
- Publish the final judgment. The judge will rule whether or not the name change will be allowed, and a final judgement will be sent in the mail. This will also need to be published in the newspaper within 20 days. Once again, the newspaper will send an affidavit of publication, which must be sent to the court.
- Notify other government agencies. There are four agencies one must notify once a name change has been granted in NJ: The Social Security Administration (SSA), the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC), the NJ Treasury Department, and the Registrar of Vital Statistics or Department of Health in the capital of the state in which one was born. To do this, a person must order two certified copies of the final judgment (with raised seals) from the court. The SSA and MVC must be notified in person. For SSA, the final judgment and current social security card must be brought. Drivers must notify the MVC of a name change within two weeks by bringing a certified copy of the final judgment and one’s current driver’s license (with the old name) to the MVC. The Treasury Department can be notified by mail. One must send a copy of the certified final judgement and a check for $50 within 45 days of the ruling. The other copy of the certified final judgement should be mailed to the Registrar of Vital Statistics or Department of Health.
Can I File to Change the Name of a Child?
Yes. The process is similar to that of changing one’s own name. However, one will have to fill out paperwork specific to minors. In addition, if the other parent objects, that could result in a hearing and subsequent denial, depending on the circumstances. A parent who expects that the other parent will object to the name change should strongly consider hiring an attorney to plead one’s case and improve the odds of success.
Name Changes Involving Marriage or Divorce
A person who is changing their surname as a result of a new marriage or the dissolution of a marriage can do so without following the steps above. Upon getting married, a person can simply request a name change along with the marriage certificate. After a divorce, a request for a name change can be made verbally to the judge upon final judgement of the divorce.
What Factors Will a Judge Consider in a Name Change Case?
Judges reviewing a request for a name change will consider the following factors:
- Occupation of the filer.
- Any judgments, bankruptcy or insolvency proceedings.
- Lawsuits that may be pending in the present and desired names (in order to avoid confusion).
- Criminal record or pending criminal charges.
- Any previous attempt to change one’s name (and the results).
- The stated reasons for the name change.
- Any possible fraudulent intent.
Why Might a Person Be Denied a Name Change?
There are three main reasons for a name change denial in New Jersey:
- The judge saw reason to believe the name change may have fraudulent intent (e.g. avoiding creditors or criminal prosecution).
- A paperwork or procedural error. This might include failing to publish the notice in the newspaper or other mistakes on the original forms.
- Due to the applicant’s criminal history, the judge determines it is not in the public’s interest to allow the name to be changed.
What Can I Do if My Name Change Request is Denied?
This will depend on the reason for the denial. A person denied for procedural reasons can simply file the request again, this time aiming to correct the mistake. However, someone who was denied due to concerns regarding fraud or criminal convictions can file an appeal. If an attorney was not hired for the original filing, it is urgent to have one for the appeal.
Do I Need an Attorney to Change My Name in New Jersey?
A name change in New Jersey may seem like a simple matter, but the paperwork is very involved and there are many steps that a person could overlook, which would result in a denial. Moreover, a person with complicated circumstances (i.e. debt or pending lawsuit) or a criminal history would be well advised to get the help of an experienced attorney.
An attorney can examine the situation to determine how best to present the case for the name change. Attorneys have a lot of experience speaking with judges and the right attorney will know what to say (and not say) that will have the best chance of getting a favorable ruling. Moreover, by hiring an attorney, the applicant will minimize the amount of work involved; the attorney can take care of copying, filing, and notifying newspapers as well as some of the agencies involved.
If you live in New Jersey and would like to legally change your name, contact the lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm. Our attorneys have many years’ experience helping people with a name change and other complicated legal matters. Email the Rosenblum Law Firm or call 888-815-3649 today for a free consultation about your case.