Middle names can be particularly annoying and inappropriate. Maybe that middle slot is where parents tuck the ancestor's name they dislike but feel obligated to attach to their child. Or maybe the name is perfectly acceptable, but the bearer simply doesn't like it. In any event, if an individual wants to get rid of her middle name, legally and forever, it's entirely possible in all states.
Changing a Middle Name
It may seem like overkill to change a middle name. After all, an adult who hates his middle name can simply stop using it altogether, or just use the middle initial (e.g. John F. Kennedy). However, middle names can keep popping up, particularly if a person's passport lists a full middle name. That individual will have to list a full middle name on airline ticket reservations as well.
If an adult despises his middle name, it just makes sense to drop it legally. While this procedure requires court action, he can fill out the paperwork himself without hiring an attorney in most cases. As long as the person is not changing his name to defraud creditors or escape law enforcement, there shouldn't be any opposition at the hearing.
Court Papers for Name Change
To legally change any part of the name on a birth certificate, an individual must follow the laws and procedures in her state. In most states, this requires the person to file a petition for name change with the court in the county where she lives.
Every state will have slightly different requirements and procedures. In California, the documents are court forms:
- Petition for Change of Name.
- Attachment to Petition.
- Order to Show Cause for Change of Name.
- Decree Changing Name.
- Civil Cover Sheet.
Procedure for Name Change in California
The first step an individual must take in order to legally get rid of a middle name is to fill out these documents. Set out in the petition that the name change is simply to eliminate a middle name. Instructions for filling out the petition and other documents are found on the forms, but in many counties, the court's family law facilitator or self-help center will review the paperwork to make sure it is complete.
California requires that the petitioner file his papers with the court, obtain a hearing date and publish the Order to Show Cause in a newspaper of general circulation once a week for four weeks. After that, the court may require the petitioner to appear at a hearing and answer any questions the judge may have.
While each jurisdiction will have its own forms and rules, the California procedure is fairly typical. A person seeking to eliminate a middle name in most states must fill out the forms, file them, publish notice and appear at a hearing.
Order Changing a Name
When the judge approves an individual's request for a name change, the court issues an order or decree changing the name. The petitioner can use a certified copy of this form to modify all her documents, such as her birth certificate, passport, driver's license, Social Security card and any other government-issued identification.
Problems That Can Arise
In most cases, an adult taking action to change a name will not have any problems getting the papers through the court. Courts deny these petitions only if they feel that the petitioner is changing a name in order to defraud creditors or hide from law enforcement. However, these issues are not likely to be important when the name change at issue is eliminating a middle name.
The filing fee can seem very high, but in most states, a person with a low income can get a fee waiver to avoid that expense. There is also some expense involved in publishing the Order to Show Cause.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.