Help Correcting Birth Certificate
September 10, 2004 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Need help with correcting a birth certificate / changing my name [MI]

I went to apply for a passport this year and discovered that my name is misspelled on my birth certificate. To correct it I either need a) the hospital I was born in to admit they made a mistake; b) Official school records from before the age of seven with the correct spelling of my name or c) A court document with an official name change.

Well the hospital won’t give me any such letter and I’m having a bear of a time getting my hands on any school records, so I’m thinking I may have to go the C route - the legal name change. I wanted to know if anyone has had experience with this? Do you have a lawyer you can recommend?

I am literally just adding the letter “A” on to the end of my first name. I only have to change my birth certificate because every other document in my life has the correct spelling of my name (but for some reason these are not good enough for New York City’s County Clerk’s office - argh)

Is this going to cost me an arm and a leg?
posted by Julnyes to Law & Government (16 answers total)
You can file the paper work yourself with fees involved. I used a lawyer which was more expensive. There are tedious tasks involved like reporting your name change publicly in a news paper.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:27 AM on September 10, 2004

Julnyes, it might be cheaper to get a Private Eye to gather the old school docs. They have some good contacts. :-)
posted by shepd at 10:55 AM on September 10, 2004

from what i know, it's only around 60-70 USD for the filing cost and not that much more to have a lawyer do it, free if through some student legal services or if you just know one to file it for you. You do usually have to publish it in a paper but that is also only a nominal fee if at all, some do it free on their blotter or local announcement thingies (a friend of mine does those), only at most $20 unless it's some major paper.
all in all i've never heard it having to cost more than $65 to 150 with a lawyer, but it's been a few years and that was the midwest.
posted by ethylene at 11:00 AM on September 10, 2004

I'm often in court on business (in & around Los Angeles) and there are usually a few people doing name changes. As thomcatspike says, you can do it yourself and skip some of the fees. Publication is the thing most people seem to screw up, but the people I've seen are clearly not the brightest bulbs on the tree. There are any number of legal newspapers that exist solely to publish notices like these (name change, fictitious business name, incorporation, bankruptcy sale, etc). They usually have agents lurking around the clerk's window at the courthouse and county clerk, trying to pick up business.
posted by spacewrench at 11:05 AM on September 10, 2004

If you're getting a passport though I see a trip in your future. Changing your name takes time (I know it does in Colorado, your state may vary) since here they do a criminal background check for adults (up to 8 wks) require fingerprinting and, unless the judge waives it, it has to be published in the paper 3 times over 20 days before it takes effect. Judges normally only waive the notification if you've been the victim of a crime.

You don't need a lawyer to do it but you should seek some legal advice.
posted by m@ at 11:19 AM on September 10, 2004

Many years ago, it cost me $10 for my name change papers. A friend of mine who had changed his name simply gave me his papers -- I replaced his old name with my old name and his new name with my new name. I turned them in at the courthouse and paid, like, 10 bucks. I got the paperwork a few weeks later, and that was that.

Laws vary from state to state, of course, but I know that it's a fairly simple in most states. Were I you, I'd track down somebody who has gone through the process in New York and crib their paperwork.
posted by waldo at 11:35 AM on September 10, 2004

Best answer: This is my anecdotal story. When I applied for my passport, I gave them my birth certificate which has my full given name: Jessamyn Charity West. I had always hated my middle name so when they asked for my name as I wanted it to appear on the passport, I wrote Jessamyn Spaz West. They had my official birth certificate, and they had my wiseass form fill-in. Which one do you think they went with? I carried that damned passport around for a decade, getting all manner of raised eyebrows from airport staff worldwide. I bet it's more of a pain now, but maybe if you apply someplace where they mail it all in, you could end run some of this nonsense?
posted by jessamyn at 11:53 AM on September 10, 2004 [1 favorite]

Best answer: my anecdotal experience:

my name is spelled differently on my various official birth records (i am an american national born abroad--one birth certificate alone, apparently, is not sufficient); all my school records; my SS card and my driver's license (obviously, some of the documents match). i had no difficulty getting a passport (although bar certification was something else entirely). have you tried to get the passport anyway? the passport agency may be a little more flexible than the county registrar of records.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:02 PM on September 10, 2004

alternate idea: start going by your real name. you know, the one on your birth certificate. is it that bad? perhaps it's nicer without the "a." what does your mother say about all this?
posted by ZippityBuddha at 12:59 PM on September 10, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions and help.

I was afraid to give in all my documentation because my sister said "what if you end up on some list?" and I didn't want my passport to have the incorrect name.

So maybe I'll just swing by the passport office next week and give it a shot with the weird birth certificate and hope it all goes through so I can go on my trip (BEIJING here I come - maybe) and deal with the slow process of correcting the certificate at a later date?

and Zippity - I do go by my real name - the one on the birth certificate is wrong - and my mother would not be amused if I suddenly dropped the "A". She is pretty upset as it is with the mistake, no need for me to aggravate the situation.

posted by Julnyes at 1:06 PM on September 10, 2004

Response by poster: oh and my sister used a spooky voice when she mentioned the list. Like the FBI was going to swarm my house with swat teams and haul me off to some detention area where they keep other infidels who falsify government documents.
posted by Julnyes at 1:08 PM on September 10, 2004

Julnyes, my girlfriend just changed her name when we got 'married'. It's a really simple affair. Here in CT it's handled through the probate court. It was $150, a short form (4 lines), an affidavit, and then a scheduled court hearing which took not even 30 seconds. Total piece of cake if that's the way you choose to go.
posted by widdershins at 1:13 PM on September 10, 2004

Response by poster: hmm, I finally stumbled across the necessary forms on the New York State Unified Court System website. I'm going down to Civil Court on Monday to try and do this without a lawyer.

All this trouble for one freakin' letter!

Thanks again for the help and the assurances that it won't be a painful process.
posted by Julnyes at 2:26 PM on September 10, 2004

A friend of mine had his name mis-spelled on his birth certificate, and has had to live his life as a 'Micheal" for all legal purposes.

And I was feeling bad that I'm stuck with a double barrelled first name on my passport.
posted by jb at 7:12 PM on September 10, 2004

My name was almost "Bourtney Barol" instead of "Courtney Carol" due to mistakes on the birth certificate. But someone read the form back to my dad, and he was able to correct the info before checking me out of the hospital.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:18 AM on September 11, 2004

a friend of mine is named eloid because the hospital staff couldn't understand his parents saying lloyd.
turned out much for the better

(links later of all the referencing i do at some point soon, about name, date, legal document stuff we've all been talking about. as well as an ethicFilter)
posted by ethylene at 3:18 PM on September 11, 2004

« Older NYC Mystery   |   Wireless headset for my landline work phone? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.