How do I legally change my names?

Dear Harold,

I want to start the process to end my marriage in a court of law over irreconcilable differences. I need to start a new life and blot out any reminders of him, including his name that I took up in my documents. How do I do that?

Ciku, Nairobi

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Dear Ciku,

Names are not cast in stone and it is possible to change them. You may need the services of a lawyer to effect the desired change through the use of a legal document called a deed poll.

With a deed poll, you can change your forenames and/or surname, add names, remove names or rearrange your existing names.

You can change your name at any time and for any reason provided it is not to deceive or defraud or to avoid an obligation.

If a married person makes an application for a change of name, then their spouse has to give consent to the proposed change of name.

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For a separated person, a certificate from an advocate that s/he is living separate from their spouse is required. If the applicant is divorced then their certificate of marriage or evidence of marriage together with decree absolute or certificate of divorce will be required, to facilitate the change of name.

Once all the legal requirements are concluded, the deed poll is registered at the Principal Registry in Nairobi or the Coast Registry for Coast province only.

After registration, the registrar shall advertise in the Kenya Gazette as a notification to the public of the change of name.

However, it is important to note that the registrar may refuse to accept a change of name, if the change is impossible to pronounce, includes numbers, symbols or punctuation marks. The registrar may also snub names that are vulgar, offensive or blasphemous. Other names that can be rejected are those that promote criminal activities, racial or religious hatred or use of controlled drugs.

Other names that cannot be registered are those that ridicule people, groups, government departments, companies or organisations.

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The registrar will also decline names that may result in belief that you have a conferred or inherited honour, title, rank or academic award, for example, a change of first name to sir, lord, laird, lady, prince, princess, viscount, baron, baroness, general, captain, professor or doctor.

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