In The Application of EFG to Assume a New Name (decided by the New Jersey Appellate Division on March 17, 2008) the Appellate Court ruled that a victim of domestic violence who wished to change her name was not required to publish her new name and that the Court records of the name change could be sealed.
Ordinarily a person who has changed their name is required to publish notice of the new name as public notice to creditors or other interested parties.
The Court records of a name change are generally not sealed, and are open, public records.
In EFG the party changing her name, a victim of prior domestic violence, asked that it not be published and that the records be sealed in order to protect her new identity from the perpetrator of the abuse.
The Trial Court originally ruled that it had no authority to abrogate the publication requirement or to seal the records.
On appeal, the Appellate Court held that under the circumstances, the victim’s right to protect herself and her identity justified waiving the publication requirement and sealing the records.
Victims rights advocates hail the decision as a step forward in protecting victims of domestic violence. Creditors ‘ attorneys and advocates of open public hearings criticize the decision as adversely affecting their rights.
In balance, it would seem that the Appellate Court made a courageous and correct decision which will allow future Courts to enter fair and appropriate rulings on a case by case basis.