A new name; a new life

Image of a red stamp that reads, "Case Closed"

It had been a long and often painful journey for the woman who fled her abusive husband in the 1990s.

The final straw was when he cut her with a knife and threatened her baby.

Mother and child moved into a shelter, and then began rebuilding their lives. They overcame struggles to get health care and housing.

Now her 18-year-old son, on the brink of going to college, wanted to make a change in his own life. All these years he had carried his abusive father’s last name. Now he wanted to be rid of it. He wanted a new last name.

The AIDS Law Project had represented the family numerous times in the past, so the son turned to us for help.

At 18, it was easier for him to change his name than when he was a minor. For one, he didn’t need parental permission. He had no contact with his father and didn’t want any.

“He wanted peace of mind and closure,” said Malissa L. Durham, J.D., an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by the Norflet Progress Fund at the AIDS Law Project. “His legal name tied him to his father.”

Legally changing your name is a relatively simple procedure, but the circumstances of the case required additional precautions that Malissa and Staff Attorney Juan Baez, Esq. needed to address.

The trauma of domestic violence had created a fear that remained with the family.

“He didn’t want his father, or anyone in his father’s family, to find out where he lived,” Juan said.

Along with the name change, Juan and Malissa secured a waiver of publication of the decision and got the record sealed.

Not long after our client turned 18, he got his new name.

“Severing ties with his father was the best birthday present he could get,” Juan said.