Help my wife prove her identity to the German Consulate
July 23, 2012 9:52 AM Subscribe
My wife, a card-carrying permanent resident alien living in the U.S., allowed her German passport to expire and is seeking a renewal through the German Consulate in New York City. She has her documentation mostly in order, including German birth certificate, but needs to show proof of a name change that took place during an adoption in Iowa when she was four years old. Difficulty: Iowa adoption records are sealed. Looking for advice on how to best request a copy of the documentation, or provide a suitable alternative. Comprehensive details inside.
posted by Joey Bagels to law & government (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My wife was born in Germany and came to the U.S. legally as an infant with her mother. Her German birth certificate correctly lists the identities of her biological mother (who lives in Iowa) and biological father (who remains in Germany, as far as we know). When she was four years old -- circa 1969 or 1970 -- she was adopted by her mother's husband in the state of Iowa, and her last name was changed to match the new family name. The identity of her biological parents is not in question, nor is it a secret to anyone.
Upon visiting the German Consulate, she was told that she would need to provide her adoption paperwork to show evidence of her name change before a new passport would be issued. (Her name did not change when we were married, in part because we were sorting out an issue with the then-INS involving a stolen green card and did not want to complicate the process of replacement.) Unfortunately for her, we've moved -- twice! -- since she received her previous German passport, and her only copy of the adoption paperwork went missing. We've been in contact with the appropriate county clerk in Iowa, where all adoption records are sealed. We've been instructed to write a letter to the presiding judge at the courthouse to request the opening of the adoption file. We've asked if proof of the name change could be provided separately, but apparently it is part and parcel of the adoption file.
So we're going to write the presiding judge immediately and explain a) why my wife needs the document and b) that no one's identity is being protected by keeping the record sealed. As we've been warned that it's difficult to get these records unsealed, I'd appreciate some advice on what should go into this letter or insight on what our chances are. Also, if we can not get official documentation proving the name change, what might our options be? How else does one prove a name change? (She's been using her current name for the last 40 years or so.) Might we change her name to match mine (based on marriage) and leapfrog her previous name entirely for the purposes of this passport and moving forward?