New Jersey Name Change Attorneys

It is well settled that an adult can change his or her name at will and without judicial approval simply by using the desired name in ordinary life, as long as the adoptive name is not used for criminal or fraudulent purposes.  Cimiluca v. Cimiluca, 245 N.J. Super. 149, 151 (App. Div. 1990).  However, there are circumstances where a judgment or court order is required for a change of name. (i.e. for notification purposes, public recordation, etc.). There are mechanisms in place governing name changes. See N.J.S.A. 2A:52-1; N.J.S.A. 2A:34-1 and New Jersey Rules of Court R. 4:72.

In the context of a Divorce or Dissolution of a Civil Union, New Jersey Law (N.J.S.A. 2A:34-1) provides that either spouse (or partner in a civil union) may resume use of a previous name or any other surname.  There is no time limit set forth in the statute. A court is authorized to grant the name change upon or after Judgment is entered.  An initial request for a name change is routinely made in the Divorce Complaint/Counterclaim or Complaint/Counterclaim for Dissolution of a Civil Union.  The pleadings may also be amended to include a request for a change of name.  If the pleadings are not amended, a written or oral application for a name change may be made at the final hearing, at which time the judge will take testimony with regard to the following:

  1. Occupation;
  2. Judgments, bankruptcy or insolvency proceedings;
  3. Suits pending in either present or desired names;
  4. Criminal convictions or pending criminal actions at the time of the application for the change of name;
  5. Previous applications for name change and the results of same;
  6. The reasons for the request;
  7. Whether there is intent to avoid creditors or criminal prosecution or other fraudulent purposes.

The Judge may also require the applicant to inform all creditors and credit card issuers of the change in name.

A change of name for a minor may not be made in the Judgment of Divorce or Dissolution of a Civil Union. The requirements governing a name change for a minor are set forth in New Jersey Court Rules and Statutory Law (R. 4:72 and N.J.S.A. 2A:52-1 et al.).  A complaint must be filed in the Superior Court, Law Division, unless the minor or party in interest is involved in a pending family matter or one that has been concluded within three years of filing the complaint for a change of name.  Under those circumstances, the complaint must be filed in the Family Part.

Upon filing of the complaint, a court will enter an order scheduling a hearing. Notice of the application for the child’s name change will be published once in a newspaper of general circulation in the county of the plaintiff’s residence and at least two weeks before the scheduled hearing. In the case of a minor plaintiff requesting a name change, notice must be served by registered or certified mail return receipt requested, upon a non-party parent at that parent’s last known address.  This requirement is necessary to protect the child and non- custodial parent. It is not unusual for there to be a situation where the child of divorced parents or that child’s mother desires that the child adopt the stepfather’s surname.  Ordinarily, if there is no objection by the father, the application will be granted. However, if the father objects, the name change will ordinarily not be granted, especially if the father has maintained a relationship with the child.

A former spouse or partner in a civil union seeking a change of name post judgment or any other individual may institute an action in Superior Court, Law Division, for authority to assume another name by filing a verified complaint setting forth plaintiff’s date of birth and the specific reasons for the request.  An affidavit must be attached to the complaint setting forth the following:

  1. That the application is not made with the intent to avoid creditors or to obstruct criminal prosecution or for other fraudulent purposes;
  2. Whether the applicant has been convicted of a crime and, if so, the nature of the crime and the sentenced imposed;
  3. Whether any criminal charges are pending against the applicant and, if so, the details regarding the charges as is reasonably necessary to enable the       Division of Criminal Justice or appropriate county prosecutor to identify the matter; and
  4. If criminal charges are pending, a copy of the complaint must be served at least 20 days prior to the hearing, upon the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice and upon the appropriate county prosecutor.

The purpose of the pleading requirement respecting criminal convictions/charges is to assist law enforcement agencies in keeping track of persons convicted of a crime or against whom charges are pending.

Upon filing the complaint, the court will enter an order fixing a date for a hearing.  Notice of the application for a name change must be published once in a newspaper of general circulation in the county of plaintiff’s residence and two weeks before the hearing. The publication requirement may be dispensed with if the applicant demonstrates potential personal danger.  In that case, the record of the name change proceedings may be sealed.

At the hearing, a judgment authorizing the name change will be entered if the court is satisfied that all of the statutory requirements have been met and no reasonable objection to the name change has been made.  The judgment authorizing the name change must be published in the newspaper where plaintiff resides. Thereafter, the judgment must be filed with the Department of Treasury.  If the plaintiff has been convicted of a crime, or if criminal charges are pending, a copy of the judgment will be mailed by the court clerk to the State Bureau of Identification.

Given the complexities involved with Name Changes in New Jersey, we advise you to contact one of our experienced family law attorneys at 973-627-7300 at Einhorn Harris today. We handle names changes and family law issues throughout New Jersey.