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Weighing the benefits and drawbacks of a legal name change

There are many different reasons why someone in New York might want to change their name. Perhaps you received a family name, and you find it both unoriginal and embarrassing. Maybe your parents chose something so unique that no one can spell it or pronounce it.

In some cases, you might just dislike your name or feel like a new name fits you better. Some people even change their names to avoid someone who has been stalking or harassing them. Regardless of why you are considering changing your name, it's important to carefully consider both of the benefits and costs associated with a legal name change.

There are some potential drawbacks to changing your name

Unless you are getting married or divorced, changing your name will not be free. If you are about to marry someone, you have the option of taking their last name, hyphenating a combination of your last names or creating a new last name to share. If you get divorced, you will also have the option of legally changing your last name at that time.

Otherwise, you can expect to pay a court fee, typically $275, for the legal process of changing your name. You will also need to file a petition, provide information about previous bankruptcies or criminal convictions, all of which can be quite time-consuming. You will also need to wait for a hearing in front of a judge.

The potential cost is not the only negative consequence of changing your name. People that you know may struggle to locate you under your new name. If you have had any sort of public exposure, such as published writings or other achievements, it may be difficult to adjust the name associated with those previous achievements. You may also have issues if you have a professional license or have completed an educational program under your original name.

There are many benefits to a name change

Legally changing your name does offer quite a few potential benefits. First of all, it can give you a fresh start. Whether you want to put a difficult past behind you, escape the attentions of a stalker or start fresh during a new phase in your life, a legal name change can be very empowering.

If you have historically made mistakes that were well-known or perhaps even published in newspapers or online, a new name can help ensure that social acquaintances and potential employers will not find those embarrassing stories when researching you. For people who have changed career pursuits or undergone gender transition, a new name can be a great way to delineate their life before that change and their life after it.

Make sure you familiarize yourself with all of New York's requirements for a legal name, including the fact that you cannot use a numeral, obscene words or a symbol as your name. Once you do change your name, make sure that everyone, from your landlord and bank to your friends and family, know your new legal name.

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