When we are born, we are solely dependent on our parent(s). Whatever happens to us, depends on their feelings and emotions. The same is equally true when it comes to the names that an individual is given at birth, many a time people dislike names they were given at birth and the question arises as to whether one can change their name or not. The answer is in the affirmative. Zimbabwean law permits an individual to change his or her name and in terms of Section 18 of the Births & Deaths Registration Act [Chapter 5:02]. In terms of the act, one can legally change his or her first name, middle name, surname or a combination of all these.
What are the legally acceptable reasons for name change?
There are numerous instances that may result in an individual seeking to change their name the following are examples of such;
- Where there is a strong dislike of one's name and the general liking of another name associated with what one generally likes or approves of.
- Where there is a desire to assume a celebrity name
- For Religious and or spiritual reasons
- In instances where one wishes to assume their father's surname when one has been given a maternal surname.
- Where a woman assumes her husband's surname after marriage
The reasons given above are not exhaustive. There can be many other reasons provided the reason to change one's name is not intended for criminal or fraudulent activities.
Change of Name: The Legal Process for Majors
This process is done with the assistance of a lawyer who is also registered as a notary public in terms of the law in Zimbabwe. The following are the steps to be followed;
- The individual intending to change his/her name appears before a notary public personally and has the Notarial Deed for change of name executed. The Notarial Deed of change of name should clearly state one's old names and the new names to be assumed.
- Armed with the executed Notarial Deed, the Notary public causes the process to be advertised in the local newspaper and the Government Gazette. The advert then runs for fourteen days from the date of the publication of the advert.
- After fourteen days, the Notary Public lodges the Notarial Deed of change of name with the Registrar of deeds together with the proof of advertising in the manner prescribed by the law.
- Upon satisfaction by the Registrar of Deeds that the application is above board, he/she registers the Notarial Deed of change of name.
- Once the Notarial Deed of change of name is registered, the individual who has changed his name(s) takes the registered Notarial Deed, proof of advertisement and his/her old birth certificate to the Registrar of Births and Deaths for the issuance of a new birth certificate.
Change of Name: The Legal Process for Minors
A minor is any person who is below 18 years of age and minors too can change their names and the process is equally the same as that articulated above with the only difference being that the Notarial Deed of change of name is signed by their parent or guardian. If the Registrar General is satisfied with the application, he/ she then issues a new birth certificate.
Change of name by a wife adopting her husband's surname
A woman who wishes to adopt her husband's surname after marriage, does so through an application to the Registrar General, no notary public is required. The wife need only submit the spouses Marriage Certificate and after satisfying all the aforementioned requirements, the Registrar issues out new identity documents bearing the new surname.
Why advertise in the local newspaper and the Government Gazette?
Advertising is done to inform the public of one's intention to change as a way of ensuring that no one changes their names for the purposes of defrauding the public. Therefore, if a party with a vested interest in the process of the name change, feels that the name change is being pursued for the wrong reasons, objections can be lodged by such party and if sufficient proof is available to sustain the objections, then the Registrar of Deeds will not approve of the name change.
Fees required for the change of name process
- Where one involves a notary public, then notary's fees are payable
- Advertising fees, payable to the relevant papers
- A statutory fee, payable to the Registrar of Deeds
- A statutory fee, payable for the issuance of a new birth certificate.
The change of name process is a straightforward process that takes approximately a month to complete provided one is properly advised of the procedures to be undertaken. The process is affordable and there is therefore no need for an aggrieved individual to stick with a name that one feels is associated with beliefs that are contrary to one's moral oand/or religious beliefs.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.