Legal name change is a subject that is very dear to me. The first case I ever argued before a judge was a name change. I was fresh out of law school and waiting for the results of the South Carolina Bar Exam. I intended to open my own law practice as soon as I passed the Exam and was sworn into the Bar, which I hoped would happen in November. I was engaged to be married the following August; it was a year full of new beginnings and a bright future. A divorcee, I had taken my first husband’s name when we married primarily because he wanted me to, and when I resumed my maiden name after the divorce I decided that I would never again take a spouse’s name. My fiancé has a son though, a child who would call me to come over for “family hugs” with him and his dad, before he got too big for hugs to be cool anymore. Something about the bond that I have with my future stepson, and the prospect of being a stepmother, compelled me to want to share a name with my new family.
I struggled with how I was going to juggle creating an identity for a law firm at a time when my personal identity was likely to be changing within the next year. Always practical, I didn’t want to have to reincorporate under a new name, have a new logo designed, and order new business cards after the wedding. And I was concerned about losing the reputation I had established for myself professionally under my maiden name if I were to change my name at a later date. So I decided to ask the court to allow me to take my future husband’s name immediately, so that I could “develop a continuous professional identity.”
While a woman taking her husband’s name is a common reason for a name change, one need not be a bride to wish to take their new spouse's name. Rumor has it that when my own parents married, they flipped a coin to decide whether they would take my father’s name, or my mother’s (suspiciously, my dad’s side of the coin won). Just a few months ago, a Greenville man encountered complications with the DMV
when he attempted to take his new wife’s name, although he did prevail in the end
, with DMV stating that the denial of his request was in error, and that DMV policy since 2006 was to allow either husband or wife to keep their pre-married name, take their spouse’s name, or take any combination of the two.
Nor is marriage the only reason a person might change their name. Perhaps you are known by a nickname, or have always spelled your name differently than it is listed on your birth certificate, and want a legal name change to ensure that the name you are known by matches your legal identity. If you carry the surname of an absentee parent that you no longer wish to be identified with, a legal name change could be a good option for you to disassociate yourself. Or a parent may wish to petition to court for a name change for their minor child, often because the child’s legal name is not the name commonly used, or in the case of a step-parent adoption. A name change is a very personal thing, and although there are no guarantees that the court will ever grant a name change, any reason that is not intended for illegal or fraudulent purposes is a good reason.
My own name change has presented some complications. Many people have, quite understandably, assumed that my fiancé and I have already married, a misconception that I am quick to set straight since South Carolina is one of the few states that recognizes common law marriage (another post for another day). I thought I would wait until after the wedding to announce my new name to my extended family, forgetting that some of my aunts and uncles were friends with me on Facebook and would see my new name when I linked my personal page to my firm page, leading to a concerned email from my uncle and a confused phone call from my grandfather. My father has called my actions “weird”, and I don’t entirely disagree with him. I think though that my personal experience allows me to better understand that my potential clients may have their own unique reasons for seeking a legal name change.
I have two passions in life: the practice of law, and playing roller derby. As an attorney, the reputation of my chosen career precedes me, unflattering a picture though it may paint. If you are unfamiliar with the sport of roller derby however, Mainland Misfit Roller Derby
has a good explanation of the game.
As a lawyer, I listen closely to my client’s story, research all possible outcomes of every potential cause of action, and proceed measuredly along a carefully chosen path. Clients may come to me because their marriage has become unsustainable, and I will help them get their fair share of the marital estate, or reach a working custody agreement that is in the best interest of the child. They realize that they don’t have a plan in place for if they should become incapacitated or pass away, and I work with them to create an estate plan for them that ensures that their wishes will continue to be honored in the event that they can no longer advocate for themselves. Or a loved one has passed away, and they need me to guide them through the process of settling the estate.
As a rollergirl, I am seen as less cerebral, more physical, maybe even visceral. I am often asked if roller derby is a real sport or if the hits are staged like in wrestling. I usually play as a blocker, the “muscle” of the team. I hammer holes into the other team’s pack so that my team’s jammer can skate through and score points, while simulaneously targeting the other team's jammer and body checking her to the ground. From a spectator's perspective, I'm just skating fast and hitting hard, hardly the image of scholarly devotion.
The two arenas are not necessarily as diametrically opposed as they may at first glance seem however. The South Carolina Bar put on an entire Continuing Legal Education (CLE) about the connection between the two, entitled "Layin' Down the Law: What Roller Derby can Teach Lawyers about Civil Procedure"
. As a player and a lawyer, I have made my own observations about what roller derby teaches us about the law.
My goal is to work with my clients to move through the difficult times in their lives, and empower them to rebuild better than ever. In writing this blog, I hope to help my readers identify where and how they can take control of their lives, primarily in the areas of family law, estate planning, and estate probate. My posts will be largely informed by my legal background, but don’t be surprised if from time to time tips from the track sneak their way into my perspective.
A.R. Brown Law Firm, LLC - 1327 Ashley River Road, Building C, Suite 100, Charleston, SC 29407 - TEL. (843) 259-2195 - FAX (877) 591-9503
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