February 11, 2013

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     Mine was an easy name change. Many are not!

     Let me introduce myself to you: My name is Peggy!! Really. Well, almost. The Court said so, just last week, and the requested paperwork was sent to the State of my birth although I haven't heard from my "birth state" yet. After preparing pleadings, paying a $187 filing fee, having a hearing and obtaining certified copies of the Judgment, the paperwork was sent to the state of my birth, along with more fees.

     Name change laws of all fifty states, and federal law, and the agency regulations implementing federal law, all have different requirements and processes for changing a person's name. The assumption is that the name given to a child at the time of his or her birth is the name that will follow that person through life.

     The process of changing my name was relatively simple. Deciding to change it was difficult.

     The name "Peggy" is on my Social Security records, passport, and every driver's license I have ever had. Basically, it is on EVERYthing, since I was about fourteen years old. But "Peggy" is not on my birth certificate. It had been my experience that my passport or valid driver's license made other identification unnecessary. After 9/11, identification policies became more stringent. When I applied for an identification card with the United States Uniformed Services Office, the name "Peggy" was rejected. Only the name as it appears on my birth certificate could be used. My husband had retired from the Army, and I needed an identification card from that office to buy prescription medicine on his (Army) Tri-Care medical coverage. They would not accept affidavits or any other identification. Passport, drivers' licenses, even former military records were irrelevant. My military identity card did not match any of my other forms of identification, and even in spite of the conflict we were able to make three or four more trips to foreign countries, without problems.

     Recently, it was necessary to renew a prescription, which would be paid for by military insurance. The doctor issued the prescription, and the pharmacy filled it to "Peggy Hedrick." When the pharmacy processed my payment "Peggy Hedrick" did not appear in the Tri-Care files. And my medicine was not released to me until a new account was opened in both the doctor's office and the pharmacy, removing "Peggy" from their records and adding my name as it appeared on my birth records. The domino line had begun toppling. What should I do? Add "Peggy" to my birth name? Change a lifetime of public records? Or live with the uncertainty of being forced to change one record at a time, as each problem arises? I began by evaluating the process, which is what I would tell a client to do:

  1. Contact the Health Department of the State in which you were born, to find out what their requirements are to change a name in a birth certificate;
  2. Consider the persons/businesses that are using your birth name, and rejecting the use of your desired name;
  3. Contact a lawyer for information as to the legal process for changing a name in the State where you live, and evaluate your potential roadblocks and costs; and then, unless you want to deal with uncertainty for the rest of your life,
  4. Follow the procedures necessary, balance the costs and benefits, and, as I did in my case, change your name in the way that works best for you.

Posted by Peggy S. Hedrick at 10:17pm

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It's not just whether one likes or doesn't like a name. The invasion of technology into the details of our lives has changed things --and using a nickname on legal documents, i.e., deeds, membership records, ID cards, ... can mean big problems at inconvenient times! When problem(s) come there often is a domino effect changing other public and private records to a name one does not want...The blog post is intended to point out questions that should be asked before the dominos start falling...
Posted by Peggy Hedrick on 2/18/2013 at 7:57am