Thousands of name-change applications are filed in New York State courts every year and are governed by New York Civil Rights Law §63. Absent reasonable objection, individual adults are free to change their name as they see fit by order of the court. To do so, the individual must successfully complete a name-change application and submit certain required documents. These include proof of one’s birth, together with any other such documents that is dependent upon one’s individual circumstances. A court’s discretion in denying a name change petition is extremely limited and can only do so if it determines that the proposed name change:
- will be a source of “instrumentality for fraud, evasion or interference with the rights of others; or
- will be of such a nature that it confuses or misleads the general public; or
- would cause a “startling result” (see In re Kastenbaum, 44 N.Y.S.2d 2).
To that end, it has been held by several New York courts that an application to change one’s name to that of a religious entity is likely to be denied.
One recent example of a court denying a name-change application comes out of the Richmond County Civil Court, where a 43-year-old, mother of five, petitioned the court to change her name from Nancy Evelina Torres to “JesusChrist Evilina Lucifer-Obama.”
Richmond County Civil Court Judge, Matthew P. Blum, upon applying New York Civil Rights Law §63 and subsequent case law, denied the petition. The court reasoned that the proposed names “JesusChrist” and “Lucifer” would both confuse and interfere with the rights of the general public by causing undue alarm and distress. By forcing the general public to acknowledge entities in which they may not believe or, alternatively, mocking their religion, Ms. Torres’ proposed name change was violative of Civil Rights Law §63:
By assuming the name ‘JesusChrist,’ is one expected to praise you? On the other hand by assuming the name ‘Lucifer,’ is one expected to avoid or reject you? Are you claiming to be the Son of God or Prince of Darkness? Are you forcing a non-believer in either of these entities to accept the existence of these entities?
Other courts have set similar precedent in denying the petitions of other individuals who sought to change their name to religious entities. In 2012, the Richmond County Civil Court denied a petitioner’s application to change his last name to “ChristlsKing” (Matter of Nawadiuko, (37 Misc. 1207(A)). Additionally, the Bronx County Civil Court in 2019 denied petitioner’s application to change his name to “Jesus God Satan Lugos” (In re Carrasquillo, 2019 NYLJ LEXIS 3083).
If you or someone you know is looking to change their name, the Law Office of Louis L. Sternberg is here to help.