Change my name while living at current residence, or waiting till I move?
February 14, 2009 6:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm changing my last name. Should I do it now or wait until I get a new place of residence?

I want to legally change my last name, primarily because there are some unsavory people I am related to, and I don't ever want them to know where I live or have them track me down. Or at least make it as hard as possible for them to find me. (Some of them are criminals, some are not. None of them have personally threatened me, only slandered me to an old employer.) None of them are immediate family. (Even if they do end up finding out some way, I'm set on changing my name regardless. It's just a matter of when.)

Should I change it now while I am still at my current address, which they are aware of, or wait until I get a new home in my current name and then change it?

Also, my state requires 3 weeks of publication of the name change in a newspaper published in my county. Is there either any way to get around this, or can I get away with publishing it in a tiny-run newspaper (such as those senior papers given away free at restaurants), buried in the back in the smallest print possible? (I know YANAL but I have one in mind if I need to contact one.)

Any other thoughts?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You may publish it in one of those tiny papers. Done all the time that way. I would wait until I move to use the new name. The less of a trail to follow forward the better. If you wait, it will look as if you fell off the face of the earth. If you are moving nearby, I would change the name now and publish now so that you can see if it is noticed. I would wait to use the new name when I moved though. If you are moving longer distance, I would wait and publish in the new place and then use the name there. If you use the new name where you are now, the landlord and all sorts of others will be able to associate your new name with your old. You want to avoid that as much as possible. The less people that can put the two names onto the same person the better.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:59 AM on February 14, 2009

I changed my name in Ohio (from Lorena Christine to Lorena Cupcake; having a super-official piece of paper stating a court has ordered that your name is Cupcake is awesome). If you live in a different state, your experience will be different, as the process and the prices vary wildly between states.

So, YMMV and all that, but according to my experience:

+You don't need a lawyer.

+They're going to tell you what newspaper they'd prefer you publish with when you go to file the paperwork. You can ask them then what your alternatives are, but I got kinda frowned upon when I suggested a paper they didn't normally work with. Also; this is a standard service that bigger newspapers are used to providing, and when you pay the (cheap, maybe $20) fee to have it published, they'll send a copy and the right paperwork to the government department you filed with. A tiny paper may not be familiar with this process.

It's buried in the back of the paper, and I couldn't find my notice when I tried, though they do send you a copy, and it's kind of fun to see your new name all typed up in newsprint. CUPCAKE!

+This process is going to take longer than you think. I can't really advise as to the family situation, but you're going to want to make the transition period as short as possible. It took me about 1-2 months from the time that I went downtown to file my paperwork to the time when I got my Name Change Court Order. However, after that...

+You have to change your birth certificate. This is going vary WILDLY state to state. I don't want to scare you, but this process took me OVER A YEAR. You have to deal with the bureaucracy of the state you were born in, not the state you live in, if they are different. In my unfortunate case, I was born in California, and had to do everything by mail. California has a HUGE population, and their bureaucracy crawls at a snail's pace at best. They would send me letters saying "Well, we're normally 2-3 months behind, but things are busy right now so we're 5 months behind." I hope, for your sake, you were born in Rhode Island or something. You can't start this process until you have the Court Order.

+You have to change your Social Security card. This was a lot easier for me; one hour waiting in the SSA office, about two weeks for them to ship it. Again, you can't start this process until you get the name change.

+This whole process was both easier and more of a pain in the ass than I thought it would be. Make sure you really, really like your new name, because once you legally change your name once, you are never ever going to want to do it again. Even if you still kinda wish you had the balls to call yourself Honey Encyclopedia Brown.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:07 AM on February 14, 2009 [6 favorites]

The "legal organ"/ newspaper for such notices and publications may be a smaller, obscure to the general public one that will easily go undetected. YMMV. The links that follow you are SS # and birth date. I think the answer depends on whether you are moving from a large metropolitan area or a smaller "everybody knows everyone's business" area. Of course m changing your name to "John Doe" might help.
posted by Agamenticus at 7:38 AM on February 14, 2009

Huh. I didn't have the amount of difficulty that Juliet Banana Cupcake had, but then it's likely because I was in a different state.

For me, it was simply a write and wait game: Fill out some paperwork, submit it. Wait for the court date. Attend the court date, accept the new name. Fill out more paperwork, wait for the official stuff. Then came the changing of the social security card, drivers license, etc. I wasn't forced to change my birth certificate.

This is my advice: If you are moving soon, say, next week, then you'll have to change your name after the move. The process took me about three weeks to a month all told. If you have the time before you move, do it now. No one will tie your new name to your current address: how could they? The newspaper clipping doesn't give your address out, it just mentions the change, and (as previously stated) it's a teeeeeeny article that is difficult to find, even when people are looking for it. You will have to use a combination of your old name and new name for a few months anyway, as you are listed on all your identification, bills, etc. as your old name.

The reasoning behind changing before you move is that it will make your life so much easier to move into your new place with your new name. It will make filling out the rent paperwork (if you're renting) easier, all the mail that comes to your new place should (by this time) be in your new name... if you're looking for a clean break, that's the way to go.

Good luck! :)
posted by thatbrunette at 10:31 AM on February 14, 2009

Another step I forgot to mention:

First you have to change your name, then you have to change your birth certificate and SS card, and then you have you change you State ID/DL. Your DMV might be nicer than mine, but the ones in Cali and Ohio both told me they wouldn't give me an ID until my SS Card and Birth Certificate matched. However, mine NEVER matched (this is why I changed my name). You might have an easier time than I did.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:00 AM on February 14, 2009

Whoa - not sure whether you're still checking this thread, anon, but you really want to check the laws around legal name changes in the state and county that you will be moving to. I intended to change my name around the time I was moving, too...and then discovered (too late) that I needed to be a resident of my current county for at least a year before I could petition for a change of name. So waiting may not be a good idea at all, as you'll be stuck with your old name for a while in your new place of residence.
posted by shelbaroo at 6:24 PM on February 16, 2009

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