I'm changing my name to a mononym. What should I know or do to make this easier?
To head off the obvious: I'm not asking for legal advice, just information. I'm giving context and references for clarity. I know you're not my lawyer.
About 10 years ago, when I was living in California, I started going by the name "Sai Emrys". CA allows for common law name change
, and I got a DBA for the name so I could open a checking account with it, but I never got around to going through the court-order process. Given post-9/11 security measures, it's very hard to get bureaucracies to acknowledge a common law name change, so the name on my government ID etc is still my birth name.
Ever since then, I had been going pretty much exclusively by the name Sai except when forced otherwise by bureaucracies. Nobody who knows me IRL calls me by another name, and few even know what it is. I listed "Sai Emrys" as an AKA in my passport registration, and it's one of the signatures I put in it. I have multiple publications in it. I sign my checks, bank statements, etc. "Sai" - though I give my legal name, since that's the only one they will acknowledge.
I recently moved to Illinois, and at around the same time, decided two things.
1. I haven't really ever liked "Emrys", and it actually rather grates on me to use a last name. I added it as a formalism, some sense that I had to, but actually I've never used it and I don't respond positively to "Mr. Emrys". Therefore, I dropped its usage entirely except where I'm forced to enter a last name on a form.
I currently give my name exclusively as "Sai", generally correct people if they add a second name (though I haven't bothered to redact all stuff that's had the "Emrys" from before this decision), have been cited by name in major media outlets as just "Sai", etc.
2. It's about time I got my new name legally recognized. I've lived with it for a decade, and being addressed by my birth name - even by faceless bureaucracies - really strongly irritates me.
I also figure that with a court order I'll be able to get my actual name (Sai) more recognized in other contexts.
Illinois law (735 IL CS 5/21
) requires 6 months' residency before one can obtain a court ordered name change. I intend do so as soon as I obtain residency (in March), together with registering DBAs for both the binym "Sai Emrys" and my birth name to give me a bit more legal flexibility. It'll cost ~$400 in total.
I'm fairly sure that changing my name to this mononym is completely legal:
1. The Full Faith & Credit Clause
requires IL to respect my already existing CA common law name change
2. TTBOMK, the only restrictions
on name changes that have been upheld are: no fraud (e.g. celeb names, copyrights, avoiding arrest/debt, etc), no obscenity / fighting words, and nothing intentionally confusing (e.g. "?." or "10" - though there is Jennifer 8. Lee
). "Sai" is none of those.
3. I'm not disqualified from name change (no felonies, child abuse, etc).
However, I realize that there are extremely few legally mononymous people
in the West (vs. say Indonesia
, where mononyms are the most frequent form), and therefore that I'm liable to run into problems.
I'll carry around ID and a certified copy of the name change order, but that may not always fix them. ;-)
For instance, simply due to poorly designed databases - representing names is hard
- I may be forced to give a last name sometimes despite not legally having one.
I could give "Emrys", but that would be my DBA. It's not clear in what situations that's permissible, and I'm fairly sure that there's no situation in which I'd be obliged to pick this option over others.
I could give any of a very large number of sentinel values
, e.g. " ", ".", "-", "n/a", "NULL", "no last name", etc. etc. This would be interestingly similar to, but far stronger than, the common practice of people giving a different middle initial in different contexts as a sousveillance
tactic to track how their name has been shared and to frustrate attempts at data mining them.
Thus, my questions:
1. What problems do you think I may have, and how might I overcome them or invert them to my advantage? For example, what might I ask the name change court to do that would make things easier?
2. Are there any flaws in my legal reasoning above, or better cites to use? Especially helpful would be court cases that are binding in CA, IL, or federally.
3. How should I deal with the "multiple sentinel values" issue, and what are possible consequences (legal or otherwise) of possible options?
4. Anything else that would be helpful?