You asked us to determine whether an individual who enters into a civil union in the
State of New Jersey may legally change his or her name based solely upon the civil
union event or whether a court order is required to effectuate the proposed name change.
Recently enacted New Jersey legislation legalizing civil unions specifically allows
for the right to change surnames based upon a civil union event without a court order.
Accordingly, an individual who enters a civil union in the State of New Jersey may
legally change his or her name without a court order.
The new legislation added a list of legal benefits, protections and responsibilities
of spouses that shall apply in like manner to the parties to a civil union, including
the “right of a spouse to a surname change without petitioning the court.” S. 3787,
212th Leg. (N.J. 2006).
By way of background, the New Jersey Supreme Court noted in Lewis v. Harris that “without the benefits of marriage, some plaintiffs have had to endure the expensive
and time-consuming process of . . .legal surname changes.” Lewis v. Harris 188 N.J. 415, 448; 908 A.2d 196, 215 (2006). The Court in L~ concluded that under the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the
New Jersey Constitution, committed same-sex couples must be afforded on equal terms
the same rights and benefits enjoyed by married opposite-sex couples. The Court mandated
that New Jersey legislature either amend the marriage statute to include same-sex
couples, or create a separate statutory structure, such as a civil union. Id. at 457, 221.
The New Jersey civil union will be acceptable as a name change event where the event
itself is sufficient for a name change.
Barbara L. S~
Chief Counsel, Region II
Suzanne M. H~
Assistant Regional Counsel