TN 3 (01-08)

PR 02705.032 New Hampshire

A. PR 08-043 Use of New Hampshire Civil Union Documents as Name Change Documents

DATE: December 20, 2007

1. SYLLABUS

A New Hampshire civil union certificate may be used in the same manner as a New Hampshire marriage certificate as proof of a name change in New Hampshire. Since in New Hampshire an individual may change his/her name for any reason (as long as the change is not made for a fraudulent, criminal or wrongful purpose) simply by using the new name, no additional action is necessary to effectuate the name change other than the usage of the new name. A civil union is dissolved by a court decree of dissolution or annulment of the civil union, and a civil union dissolution or annulment decree may also be used as proof of a name change.

The Equal Access to Marriage statute, N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 457:1a, which became effective on January 1, 2010 removed the ability to register a new Civil Union as of January 1, 2010. In addition, effective January 1, 2011, all civil Unions registered in New Hampshire before January 1, 2010 became marriages unless otherwise dissolved, annulled or previously converted to marriage.

2. OPINION

This memorandum is in response to your request for an opinion concerning the use of a New Hampshire civil union certificate as proof of a name change once the New Hampshire civil union statute, N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 457A, takes effect on January 1, 2008. See 2007 N.H. Laws 58 (enacting the New Hampshire civil union statute). Specifically, you requested an opinion as to whether New Hampshire state law allows an individual to change his/her legal name after entering into a civil union in New Hampshire, and if so, whether there are any restrictions on such name changes and whether the individual must take any additional action to change his/her name to conform with New Hampshire state law after entering into a civil union. You also requested an opinion as to the procedures for dissolution of a New Hampshire civil union and the type of document(s) that would allow the Agency to change a name back to a former name in the event of the dissolution of a civil union. As set forth below, an individual may change his or her name for any reason in New Hampshire. A New Hampshire civil union certificate may be used in the same manner as a New Hampshire marriage certificate as proof of a name change in New Hampshire. No action is necessary to effectuate a name change other than usage, and the only restriction on a name change is that the name change cannot be made for a fraudulent, criminal or wrongful purpose. A civil union is dissolved in the same manner as a marriage, and a civil union dissolution or annulment decree may also be used as proof of a name change.

Analysis

New Hampshire follows the common law with respect to name changes, under which a person may lawfully change his or her name without resort to any legal proceedings where such a change is not made for a fraudulent, criminal or wrongful purpose. Moskowitz v. Moskowitz, 385 A.2d 120, 122 (N.H. 1978).

Statutes regulating name changes merely provide additional methods of making such a change and do not abrogate or supersede common law, but merely affirm and aid ! it. Id. Therefore, under New Hampshire law, an individual may change his or her name for any reason (so long as such a change is not made for a fraudulent, criminal or wrongful purpose), including based on entering into a New Hampshire civil union or the dissolution of a New Hampshire civil union.

Under common law, a name change is effectuated simply by use of the new name. 57 Am. Jur. 2d Name § 16 (2007); Corpus Juris Secundum, vol. 65, § 21 (2000).

Thus, any document showing use of the new name could conceivably serve as an indication that a name change has occurred. See, e.g., N.H. CODE ADMIN. R. ANN. Saf-C 511.08(b) (2007) (name change petition, marriage certificate, divorce decree, passport, adoption decree, court decree or notarized statement for New Hampshire driver's license); N.H. CODE ADMIN. R. ANN. Den 301.07 (2007) (“copy of the documentation that legally changed the name, if any” for New Hampshire Board of Dental! Examiners). While an individual may petition the court for a name change under N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 547:3-I (2007) (name change generally) or N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 490-D:2, X (2007) (name change relative to a family court matter), such a petition is not necessary under New Hampshire law. We could find no New Hampshire legal authority requiring that a n individual take additional action other than usage to change his or her name.

Further, with respect to New Hampshire civil unions, N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 457-A:6, which becomes effective on January 1, 2008, provides:

the parties who enter into a civil union pursuant to this chapter shall be entitled to all the rights and subject to all the obligations and responsibilities provided for in state law that apply to parties who are joined together pursuant to [section 457 concerning marriages].

New Hampshire permits the use of an original or certified copy of a marriage certificate as proof of a name change. See, e.g., N.H. CODE ADMIN. R. ANN. Saf-C 511.08(b) (2007) (concerning name changes for driver's licenses).

Therefore, since New Hampshire accepts a marriage certificate as proof of a name change, N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 457-A:6 will require that New Hampshire also accept a civil union certificate. Thus, a name change request based upon a New Hampshire civil union certificate should be processed under Program Operating Manual System (POMS) RM 00203.210B. and POMS EM 06064 in the same manner as a name change request based upon a New Hampshire marriage certificate.

With respect to the dissolution of a New Hampshire civil union, N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 457-A:7 provides, “Parties who have entered into a civil union who wish to dissolve the civil union shall do so pursuant to [section 458 concerning annulment, divorce and separation]. Thus, New Hampshire's statutes concerning dissolution of a marriage apply equally to a New Hampshire civil union. See also N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 457-A:6 (granting parties to a civil union all of the same rights, obligations and responsibilities under law as are granted to spouses in a marriage). In New Hampshire a marriage is dissolved by a decree of divorce or nullity. N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 458 (2007). Under N.H. REV . STAT. ANN. § 458:24 (2007), at the time of entry of a decree of divorce or nullity, upon the request of either party, the court shall restore a person's former name. Since parties to a divorce or annulment may request that a court restore a former name, we conclude that parties to a civil union may as well, by operation of N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 457-A:6. New Hampshire state agencies appear to accept as proof of a name change a certified copy of a divorce decree.

See, e.g., N.H. CODE ADMIN. R. ANN. Saf-C 511.08(b) (2007) (concerning name changes for driver's licenses). Therefore, N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 457-A:6 requires that a decree of dissolution of a civil union also be accepted as proof of a name change. Furthermore, given the common law right to change names for any reason, we conclude that an individual may change his or her name as a result of the dissolution of a civil union without requesting that a court restore a former name. As previously discussed, under the common law, such a change may be effectuated simply by use of the new name.

CONCLUSION

Based on the above analysis, we conclude that an individual may change his or her name for any lawful reason in New Hampshire. A New Hampshire civil union certificate may be used in the same manner as a New Hampshire marriage certificate as proof of a name change in New Hampshire. No action is necessary to effectuate a name change other than usage, and the only restriction on a name change is that the name change cannot be made for a fraudulent, criminal or wrongful purpose. A civil union is dissolved by a court decree of dissolution or nullity of the civil union, and a civil union dissolution or nullity decree may also be used as proof of a name change.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1502705032
PR 02705.032 - New Hampshire - 06/21/2011
Batch run: 06/21/2011
Rev:06/21/2011