Mark McCown: Name changes and Ohio’s legal system

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Dear Lawyer Mark: I got divorced last year, but my ex won’t leave me alone. Even though I moved and changed my telephone numbers, he was still able to find me, and not a week goes by without him showing up and begging me to come back. I keep telling him to leave me alone, but he won’t.

When we were together, I had to call the police on him for beating me up a couple times. I dropped the charges, but finally had enough and thought I would get out.

He told me I could only get the divorce if I kept his name, and I did. Now I want to change it and move so he can’t find me.

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Can I change it now, or did I have to do it during the divorce? If I can change it, does it have to be back to my maiden name? — Petrified in Proctorville

Dear Petrified: There are a couple of things that you can do to protect yourself, but to answer your question first, yes you can change your name.

Ohio Revised Code 2717.01 provides for name changes. Under that section, a person may apply to the probate court of the county in which they are residing, and must have resided in that county for at least one year. The change of name can be to anything approved by the court, and does not have to be to a maiden name. So long as the person requesting the change of name has a “reasonable and proper cause” for changing her name, the court may order the change. In your situation, I believe the court would find that your being a victim of abuse and continued stalking would more than meet the burden of a reasonable and proper cause.

Typically, a person applying for a name change must have a notice prepared and published in the newspaper prior to the court granting it. The purpose of this is to let any interested party (such as people you owe money) know that you will be changing it. The court can waive the requirement, as well as seal the case from public view, if you can show the court that your personal safety would be jeopardized by the public notice.

By statute, there are two groups of people who are not allowed to receive a name change: 1) Anybody required to register as a sex offender, and 2) anybody convicted of identity fraud. The legislature believed that in those cases, the need to protect the public outweighed the need of an individual to change their identity.

In your case, I also highly recommend you speak to the domestic violence task force at 740-532-7111, or talk with an attorney. They can speak to you about how to obtain a civil protection order requiring your ex-husband to stay way from you.

Thought for the Week: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” Proverbs 22:1

It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.