This change of name proceeding presents an intriguing question of first impression in New Jersey. The issue created by the complaint is whether United States citizenship is a legal prerequisite for judicial leave to assume a new name under N.J.S.A. 2A:52-1 et seq.
The adult petitioner, Aruudhati Pirlamarla, is a citizen of India who entered the United States on December 9, 1972 pursuant to the Immigration and Naturalization Act, 8 U.S.C.A. § 1153(a)(3). By virtue of her status as a "permanent resident alien" she is authorized to remain in the United States indefinitely. Her status also enables her to work in the United States. She is a physician who is licensed to practice medicine in New Jersey and in New York.
Dr. Pirlamarla and her husband, Ram Gupta,*fn1 own real property at 182 Konner Avenue in Montville, New Jersey where
they have resided since 1979 with their two daughters. Chetana is now eight years of age; Anita is three years old.*fn2 Through the adult petitioner*fn3 and with their father's consent, they also seek court approval to change their surname to Gupta.*fn4
The adult and infant petitioners wish to be known as Gupta so that all family members will have the same last name. In addition, the adult petitioner has found that her present name is difficult for people in this country to spell and pronounce. Gupta is considerably shorter and easier to spell than Pirlamarla. Changing the surname to Gupta will eliminate the adult petitioner's difficulties and provide the common family identity the family seeks.
The common law permits an adult to change his or her name without leave of court simply by adopting a new name and utilizing it in the ordinary course of daily living. See McGarvey v. Atlantic City & Shore R.R. Co., 123 N.J.L. 281
(E. & A.1939); State v. Librizzi, 14 N.J.Misc. 904 (Sup.Ct.1936); In re Witsenhausen, 42 N.J.L.J. 183 (C.P.1919). Of course, this method would not obtain if the individual had a fraudulent or criminal purpose for assuming the new name. Id.
In addition to the common law method, two name change statutes have given rise to a formal judicial procedure. See N.J.S.A. 2A:52-1 et seq.; N.J.S.A. 2A:34-21.*fn5 The name change statutes have been construed as remedial in nature, thus supplementing the common law and not in derogation of it. Egner v. Egner, 133 N.J. Super. 403 (App.Div.1975); In re Lawrence, 133 N.J. Super. 408 (App.Div.1975). The statutory methods are preferable since they are speedy, definite and a matter of record.
The statute upon which the adult petitioner relies, N.J.S.A. 2A:52-1, provides in pertinent part that "[a]ny person may institute an action in Superior Court for authority to assume another name. . . ." She asks this Court to construe "[a]ny person" to include a resident alien. This is a plausible construction. The Legislature's use of "any person" is facially broad enough to confer upon a noncitizen the statutory authorization to seek a name change. If the New Jersey Legislature had intended to limit the class of persons permitted to invoke this statute, it could and would have employed language which would clearly express that intent.*fn6 Similarly, the court rules under which this ...