In the recent case of In re the Name Change of Jane Doe, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that state law does not require that a person seeking a name change prove United States citizenship.
At issue in the appeal was the petition of Jane Doe and R.A.C. (petitioners) to change their legal name pursuant to Indiana Code § 34-28-2. The trial court found that it could have easily granted their request, but for petitioners’ lack of United States citizenship. The trial court interpreted I.C. § 34-28-2-2.5(a)(5) to require proof of citizenship in order to grant a name change petition.
The Court of Appeals disagreed with the trial court’s interpretation of the statute. It determined that requiring proof of citizenship conflicted with “the history of liberally allowing non-fraudulent name changes in Indiana.” The Court of Appeals opted to interpret the statute broadly, and allow name changes unless there is evidence of fraudulent intent.
The statute requests that a name change petitioner produce certain information. Among those are: date of birth; current address; a driver’s license; a list of previous names; proof of citizenship; and a passport. The Court of Appeals interpreted the language of the statute to be permissive. In other words, if a person is unable to provide certain information, they are not required to provide it.
So what is the practical effect of this recent decision?
First and foremost, one need not be a United States citizen to legally change his/her name. The decision creates wide latitude for persons who wish to change their name. Indeed, a petitioner need only show that they lack a fraudulent intent for the name change, and a court should grant the petition.
The predicted effect of this ruling is that if a person wishes to change his/her name, the amount of required personal information is limited under the Court’s interpretation. So for people who wish to change their legal name, only the information that is available to them must be provided.
This article is a brief summary of the Indiana Court of Appeals’ recent decision in In re the Name Change of Jane Doe. The information provided does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney/client relationship. If you have any questions regarding the contents of this article, please contact Benjamin T. Ballou or Carl J. Hall.
Hodges & Davis- May 2020