I’ll bet a majority of all people in the United States have thought “when should I change my name legally?” at some point in time. I did. Did you? Ask some of your friends and relatives and see if many or most of them have. You might know someone who’s done it, but not even know what their name was at birth. Your ancestors did.
As a general rule, there are “times of life” when Legal Name Change is more likely. There are times when a person is undergoing substantial personal change, a metamorphosis of sorts. These times of great change can occur at many different junctures, but almost always happen before a person turns 40 years old. Lot’s of fanciful notions, and some sober ones occur in people’s teenage and preteen years. But serious thoughts of Name Change take place more often for people in their 20s and 30s. Many people Change Names in their 40s or older, but the bulk of everyone’s major life changes occur before 40 years of age. Life Changes often bring Name Changes. Lots of times, and maybe for many years early in life, people use a name other than the one they were born with and then want to make their “taken” name their Legal Name.
For instance, when a person is moving from adolescence into adulthood, we all undergo very big life changes in our outlook and in the way we look at the circumstances and conditions that surround us-first working experiences, maybe college years, work and career beginnings. You start to see a future for yourself that is worth working toward. In that moment, you may not think the name on your birth certificate sounds or feels like the name of the person you see moving in to the future you want for yourself. You may not even be known anymore by your birth certificate name. That’s the kind of time people may choose to take legal steps to secure a name for themselves that is truly theirs. A name to support and compliment their lives to come.
Marriage and Divorce are two other times of great personal change. Of course marriage is often equated to Name Change because there’s a great tradition of women leaving their family name and taking their husband’s family name after marriage. Many same-sex marriages now involve one partner or both changing last names-through civil ceremony in states allowing same-sex marriage and through court ordered Name Change Petition elsewhere. And, in cases of divorce, many retake their own family name in that transition. These are all big life changes and Name Changes regularly happen then too.
At any age where major life changes are occurring (fresh starts, in a new place, after events of huge significance, embarking on or changing a career path, etc.), a person is most likely to consider changing their name. Of all the Name Change stories I’ve heard, known or read about, there are two things that seem to always be true:
- Changing Names does not change the person or the person’s life. The person makes those changes happen, not the name.
- When a person changes names, that person is or has been taking their life in a changed direction…the person is in a “stepping off” moment. They are Planting a Flag, leaving some things behind and formally putting their personal signature on their lives now and going forward.
A person’s name can be their single most significant identifier. When people who know you see or hear your name, a thousand pieces of data immediately come into their minds about the person they think you are. Even people who have never met or heard anything about you will form some sort of picture of you (however right or wrong it may be) based on their own past associations of other people with your name or something like it. It’s no surprise then that many people take a name for themselves over one they were given at birth.
For those who take the extra steps of Legally Changing Names, aren’t they taking responsibility for that part of shaping their own life? Not everyone loves, likes or grows into the name they were born with. Not every birth name helps you live your life they way you see it. Shouldn’t we all Be The One You Want To Be?
Plant Your Flag!