April 9, 2017

Easing name change could boost safety for domestic violence victims

By Nick Watson

A person escaping a domestic violence situation may change a cellphone number or delete a Facebook account to protect themselves.

Now a bill sent Wednesday to Gov. Nathan Deal could make domestic violence survivors even safer, according to local advocates.

House Bill 279 was passed by both chambers. It also would allow a victim of family violence to request a name change privately. Currently, those seeking a name change are required to publish a notice in the county’s legal organ; in Hall County, that is The Times.

“In extreme cases of abuse and violence, that’s one of the places where our law was very arcane,” Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard said.

A person requesting a name change petition must file it with Superior Court. But if the court determines the petitioner is a family violence victim, “the court may issue an order waiving the requirements of publication,” according to the bill.

“Different clients that we’ve had in the past few years have really expressed that need for that name change to increase their safety, and it wasn’t available,” Gateway Domestic Violence Center advocate Blythe Hammons said.

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