The designation of an individual person or of a firm or corporation. A word or combination of words used to distinguish a person, thing, or class from others.
An individual's name is comprised of a name given at birth, known as the given name or first name, selected by the parents, and the surname or last name, which identifies the family to which he or she belongs. Ordinarily an individual is not properly identified unless he or she is called or described by this given name in addition to the surname. This rule has significance, among other times, when students are designated in school records and when parties are called or referred to in legal proceedings, including CHILD CUSTODY actions. The general rule is that when identity is certain, a small variance in name, such as that caused by typographical errors, is unimportant.
The method by which an individual can change his or her name is usually prescribed by state statutes and involves filing a certificate in, or making an application to, a court. Whether or not a name change will be granted is ordinarily a matter of judicial discretion.
In recent years, some married women have begun to depart from the traditional practice of taking their husband's surname upon marriage. Instead they retain their birth names, the surnames possessed before marriage. While some states subscribe to the rule that a woman's legal name is her husband's surname, others hold that an individual can be known by whatever name he or she desires as long as such designation is used consistently and in the absence of a fraudulent purpose. A number of states have specifically provided that a wife is not required to use her husband's surname, or that she can use it in her personal life while continuing to use her birth name in her profession.