Legal Clinic: Can I change my name after my spiritual rebirth?

Praying worshipper

A worshipper prays after Mass to usher in the new year at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Eldoret town on December 31, 2020. 

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • A change of name is possible legally, socially, and religiously.
  • A duly filled deed poll must be presented to the registrar together with support documents.
  • You are obligated to commence a process of acquiring new identification documents after name change.

Hi Eric,

I recently experienced a spiritual rebirth and I want to mark it with a change of name. Given contradictory information from online sites and blogs, I would very much like the opinion of a real lawyer and perhaps even a way of cooperating with one. What is your advice?

Dhana (David)

Hi Dhana,

A change of name is possible legally, socially, and religiously, despite the information hurdles you may have faced so far. Before responding to the direct question, a few indirect issues within your text require a bit of legal insight.

You remind us and our readers of the significance of religion, especially the right associated with it. Article 32 (1) of the Constitution, provides all people with a right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, and opinion. Part (2) of the same provision contextualises the right, by recognising how people manifest religion or belief, either through worship, practice teaching or observance of a day of worship. On your part, such manifestation begins with the adoption of a new name. Your decision helps readers appreciate the power in their hands, for which the law has provided if a name change is required. You provide the difference between an adult and a child under 14 who cannot legally influence or stop the change of name initiated by their parents or guardians.

Sometimes, a letter contextualising such change may be necessary, but not mandatory.

Since you are an adult, no one should crucify me in assuming the following: that you already have legal identification documents such as the birth certificate, national identity card and passport: you have academic certificates bearing the name David. The Birth and Death Registration Act, which acknowledges arrival and demise of life, consider your change of name as of late registration. This is an acknowledgement besides recognition of a new person into the register of life after two years since his or her day of birth. Therefore, you qualify for a second registration, which creates a new identity, where an old name is to be removed or replaced. All persons beyond the age of two are required to fill a deed poll as provided for within the Registration of Documents (change of name) Regulations to amend their name. A deed poll is a declaration that binds an individual or group of people showing intention to change the name.

Deed poll

Once a deed poll has been filled, it must be presented to the registrar together with support documents, which must include, the original birth certificate, copy of the national ID card, receipt evidencing payment of prescribed fee and a statutory declaration (sometimes referred to as an affidavit) by someone who has resided in this country and known you for more than ten years emphasising this fact and your desire to change the name. Sometimes, a letter contextualising such change may be necessary, but not mandatory. In your case, such a letter from the new spiritual leader or institution could suffice. The registrar’s role, in this case, is to review the name change application and has powers to reject or accept the proposed name or the application altogether. The reasons that could occasion a rejection could include or be one of the following: if the name sought has within its spelling some punctuation marks, numbers, symbols, or it is difficult to pronounce. If the name connotes inherited or conferred title, award, honour or rank such as Dr Prof, Lord, King, etc. If the name seems to be ridiculing any state agency, person(s), companies, or if it is vulgar and offensive. If the name change is seen as an act of fraud besides seeming to encourage criminality, racial hatred, religious intolerance, and drug abuse. Thereafter, the registrar places the name for gazettement for 30 days, to await any formal complaint against the name change sought. If within 30 days, there is no petition filed with the registrar’s office objecting to the proposed name change, you can be sure ‘Dhana’ will now become your legal identity, going forward. Once the complete name change has been done, you are obligated to commence a process of acquiring new identification documents to reflect the new status. This means a new birth certificate, replacement national ID card and passport. However, for the academic certificates, you may be required to first swear an affidavit of the discrepancy of names.


Mr Mukoya is a lawyer with over 17 years’ experience. He’s the Executive Director, Legal Resources Foundation. Legal query? E-mail [email protected]