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How Do You Petition For A Name Change In Michigan?

| Jun 17, 2021 | Family Law |

 

There is a legal process in Michigan for anyone who wishes to change their name (or that of his or her minor child) provided that the proper statutory procedures are followed and the circuit court, in its discretion, finds there is a legitimate reason to do so.

 

PETITION TO CHANGE NAME OF AN ADULT

A person who has been a resident of their county in the State of Michigan for one year or more may file Form PC 51 – Petition To Change Name in the circuit court of that county “showing a sufficient reason for the proposed change and that the change is not sought with a fraudulent intent.”  MCL 711.1(1).  “If the individual who petitions for a name change has a criminal record, the individual is presumed to be seeking a name change with a fraudulent intent.”  Id.  “The burden of proof is on a petitioner who has a criminal record to rebut the presumption.”  Id.  At the time of filing, the court will set a time and date for the hearing.  There is a filing fee of $175.00, but that may be suspended or waived if the petitioner applies for and is granted a fee waiver.  The petition must state the full current name and the full proposed name of the subject of the petitioner.

“An individual who is 22 years of age or older and who petitions to have his or her name changed shall have 2 complete sets of his or her fingerprints taken at a local police agency.”  MCL 711.1(2).  “The fingerprints, along with a copy of the petition and the required processing fees, must be forwarded to the department of state police.”  Id.  “The department of state police shall compare those fingerprints with its records and shall forward a complete set of fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a comparison with the records available to that agency.”  Id.  “The department of state police shall report to the court in which the petition is filed the information contained in the department’s records with respect to any pending charges against the petitioner or a record of conviction of the petitioner and shall report to the court similar information obtained from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”  Id.

The petitioner must also publish notice in the local newspaper or legal publication regarding the name change petition.  MCL 711.1(1).  “A published notice of a proceeding to change a name shall include the name of the petitioner; the current name of the subject of the petitioner; the proposed name; and the time, date and place of the hearing.”  MCR 3.613(A).  This can be accomplished by filling out Form PC 50 – Publication Of Notice Of Hearing For Name Change and submitting it to the publisher with any required fees.  This must be published at least 28 days before the hearing.  However, the court may order for good cause that no publication of the proceeding take place and that the record of the proceeding be confidential.  “Good cause” includes, “but is not limited to, evidence that publication or availability of a record of the proceeding could place the petitioner or another individual in physical danger, such as evidence that the petitioner or another individual has been the victim of stalking or an assaultive crime.”  MCL 711.3(1).  “Evidence… of the possibility of physical danger must include the petitioner’s or the endangered individual’s sworn statement stating the reason for the fear of physical danger if the record is published or otherwise available.”  MCL 711.3(2).  “If evidence is offered of stalking or an assaultive crime, the court shall not require proof of an arrest or prosecution for that crime to reach a finding of good cause” that no publication take place and the record of the proceeding be confidential.  Id.  “In cases where the court orders that records are to be confidential and that no publication is to take place, records are to be maintained in a sealed envelope marked confidential and placed in a private file.”  MCR 3.613(E).  “Except as otherwise ordered by the court, only the original petitioner may gain access to confidential files, and no information relating to a confidential record, including whether the record exists, shall be accessible to the general public.”  Id.

Per the administrative order of the Supreme Court, name change petitions should be heard within 91 days of filing.  After hearing, the court may enter an order to change the name of the subject individual if it determines a sufficient reason was given and there is no fraudulent intent.  “If the petitioner is married, the court, in its order changing the name of the petitioner, may include the name of the spouse, if the spouse consents, and may include the names of minor children of the petitioner of whom the petitioner has legal custody.”  MCL 711.1(6).  “The written consent to the change of name of a child 14 years of age or older, signed by the child in the presence of the court, must be filed with the court before the court includes that child in its order.”  Id.  This written order will be on Form PC 52 – Order Following Hearing on Petition to Change Name.  “The court may permit an individual having the same name, or a similar name to that which the petitioner proposes to assume, to intervene in the proceeding for the purpose of showing fraudulent intent.”  MCL 711.1(4).  Once the individual receives the court order, he or she can bring it to the Michigan Secretary of State office to change the name on his or her operator’s license.  Likewise, he or she can bring the court order to their city or township clerk to complete paperwork changing the name on his or her voter registration.

“If the court enters an order to change the name of an individual who has a criminal record, the court shall forward the order to the central records division of the department of state police and to 1 or more of the following:”

  • “The department of corrections if the individual named in the order is in prison or on parole or has been imprisoned or released from parole in the immediately preceding 2 years.” MCL 711.1(3)(a).
  • “The sheriff of the county in which the individual named in the order was last convicted if the individual was incarcerated in a county jail or released from a county jail within the immediately preceding 2 years.” MCL 711.1(3)(b).
  • “The court that has jurisdiction over the individual named in the order if the individual named in the order is under the jurisdiction of the family division of the circuit court or has been discharged from the jurisdiction of that court within the immediately preceding 2 years.” MCL 711.1(3)(c).

False statements that are intentionally included on a name change petition constitutes perjury under MCL 750.422 that can result in a felony conviction punishable by up to 15 years in state prison.  MCL 711.1(8).

 

PETITION TO CHANGE NAME OF A MINOR

A person may file Form PC 51 – Petition To Change Name regarding a minor in the circuit court of the county in Michigan where the minor has resided for at least one year.  The petition must show “a sufficient reason for the proposed change and that the change is not sought with a fraudulent intent.”  MCL 711.1(1).  The petitioner may be the minor or the person of which the minor is the natural or adopted child of.  MCL 711.1(6).

Regarding the name change of a minor, the petition must be signed by BOTH the mother and father jointly.  MCL 711.1(5).  However, the signature of both parents is not required under the following circumstances:

  • If one parent is deceased, only the surviving parent must sign.
  • If both parents are deceased, the legal guardian(s) of the minor must sign.
  • If there is only one legal parent available (e.g. legal paternity not established to the other parent or a parent’s rights are terminated), than only the legal parent’s signature is required.
  • If either parent has been declared mentally incompetent, then the petition can be signed by the legal guardian of that parent.

In lieu of a signature from both parents, a minor’s name may be changed with the consent or signature of the custodial parent and upon notice to the non-custodial parent and after a hearing in ANY of the following circumstances:

  • If BOTH of the following occur:
    • “The other parent, having the ability to support or assist in supporting the child, has failed or neglected to provide regular and substantial support for the child or, if a support order has been entered, has failed to substantially comply with the order, for 2 years or more before the filing of the petition.” MCL 711.1(7)(a)(i).
    • “The other parent, having the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with the child, has regularly and substantially failed or neglected to do so for 2 years or more before the filing of the petition.” MCL 711.1(7)(a)(ii).
  • The other parent has been convicted of MCL 750.136b (child abuse), MCL 750.520b (criminal sexual conduct in the first degree), MCL 750.520c (criminal sexual conduct in the second degree), MCL 750.520d (criminal sexual conduct in the third degree), MCL 750.520e (criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree) or MCL 750.520g (assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct), and the child or a sibling of the child is a victim of the crime. MCL 711.1(7)(b).
  • The other parent has been convicted of MCL 750.316 (first degree murder) and MCL 750.317 (second degree murder). MCL 711.1(7)(c).

Notice to the non-custodial parent under MCL 711.1(7) can be provided as follows:

  • If the non-custodial parent’s address or whereabouts is known, that parent shall be served with a copy of the petition and a notice of hearing. MCR 3.613(C)(1).
  • “If the noncustodial parent’s address or whereabouts is not known and cannot be ascertained after diligent inquiry, that parent shall be served with a notice of hearing by publishing in a newspaper. The notice must be published one time at least 14 days before the date of the hearing, must include the name of the noncustodial parent and a statement that the result of the hearing may be to bar or affect the noncustodial parent’s interest in the matter, and that publication must be in the county where the court is located unless a different county is specified by statute, court rule, or order of the court. A single publication may be used to notify the general public and the noncustodial parent whose address cannot be ascertained if the notice contains the noncustodial parent’s name.” MCR 3.613(C)(2).

“The written consent to the change of name of a minor 14 years of age or older, signed by the minor in the presence of the court, must be filed with the court before an order changing the name of the minor is entered.”  MCL 711.1(5).   “A petition for a change of name by a minor need not be signed in the presence of a judge.”  MCR 3.613(B).  “However, the separate written consent that must be signed by a minor 14 years of age or older shall be signed in the presence of the judge.”  Id.  The minor 14 years or older can show written consent by signing Form PC 51b – Minor’s Consent to Change Name in the presence of a notary public.

“If the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express a preference, the court shall consult a minor under 14 years of age as to a change in his or her name, and the court shall consider the minor’s wishes.”  MCL 711.1(5); MCL 711.1(6).  “A child 7 years of age and under is presumed not of sufficient age to be consulted concerning a preference on change of name.”  MCR 3.613(D).

The petitioner must also publish notice in the local newspaper or legal publication regarding the minor’s name change petition.  MCL 711.1(1).  This can be accomplished by filling out Form PC 50 – Publication Of Notice Of Hearing For Name Change and submitting it to the publisher with any required fees.  This must be published at least 28 days before the hearing.  However, the court may order for good cause that no publication of the proceeding take place and that the record of the proceeding be confidential.  “Good cause” includes, “but is not limited to, evidence that publication or availability of a record of the proceeding could place the petitioner or another individual in physical danger, such as evidence that the petitioner or another individual has been the victim of stalking or an assaultive crime.”  MCL 711.3(1).  “Evidence… of the possibility of physical danger must include the petitioner’s or the endangered individual’s sworn statement stating the reason for the fear of physical danger if the record is published or otherwise available.”  MCL 711.3(2).  “If evidence is offered of stalking or an assaultive crime, the court shall not require proof of an arrest or prosecution for that crime to reach a finding of good cause” that no publication take place and the record of the proceeding be confidential.  Id.  “In cases where the court orders that records are to be confidential and that no publication is to take place, records are to be maintained in a sealed envelope marked confidential and placed in a private file.”  MCR 3.613(E).  “Except as otherwise ordered by the court, only the original petitioner may gain access to confidential files, and no information relating to a confidential record, including whether the record exists, shall be accessible to the general public.”  Id.

Per the administrative order of the Supreme Court, name change petitions should be heard within 91 days of filing.  After hearing, the court may enter an order to change the name of minor if it determines a sufficient reason was given, proper consent or notice has been given or provided to the custodial and non-custodial parents, and there is no fraudulent intent.  If there is a dispute between the minor and parents about the name change, the court can resolve these differences in accordance with the best interests of the minor child.  Garling v Spiering, 203 Mich App 1,4; 512 NW2d 12 (1993).  This written order will be on Form PC 52 – Order Following Hearing on Petition to Change Name.  The parent may take this order to the county clerk or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to apply for and receive an amended birth certificate.

 

EXCEPTION: NAME CHANGES PURSUANT TO MARRIAGE OR DIVORCE

The name change statute under MCL 711.1 does not abrogate or supersede other methods under Michigan law to change names, but rather “afford an additional method by which a name change may be effected as a matter of public record.”  Piotrowski v Piotrowski, 71 Mich App 213, 216; 247 NW2d 354 (1976).  For example, there are alternative procedures available upon marriage or divorce.

Concerning marriage, the spouse who changed his or her name can provided a certified copy of the marriage license to the Social Security Administration office to change his or her name on the Social Security card.  Likewise, a person can present a certified copy of the marriage license at the Michigan Secretary of State office or the local city or township clerk to change the name on his or her operator’s license or voter registration card, respectively.

Concerning divorce, “[t]he circuit courts of this state, whenever a decree of divorce is granted, may, at the instance of the woman, whether complainant or defendant, decree to restore to her her birth name, or the surname she legally bore prior to her marriage to the husband in the divorce action, or allow her to adopt another surname if the change is not sought with any fraudulent or evil intent.”  MCL 552.391.  This name change order will appear in the judgment of divorce.

 

LIMITATIONS

The judge’s decision to grant a name change is discretionary.  The circuit court will not grant this request if the intention is to impersonate someone else.  It will also not be granted if the intention is to avoid debts or dodge criminal liability.  Likewise, if the petitioner has a criminal record, they have the burden of overcoming the presumption that the petition is for a fraudulent purpose.  If evidence to the contrary cannot be produced, the petition will be denied.

If you have further questions about name change petitions or need legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.

 

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