What's my name? No, really, what's my name?
October 20, 2011 3:35 PM   Subscribe

I changed my name. Or perhaps I did not. I'm not quite sure any more, and suddenly it matters quite a bit.

From the beginning:

* I was born in Illinois with the name Frederik Quinten Jones.
* My social security card and passport say Frederik Quinten Jones.
* I got married in Illinois with the name Frederik Quinten Jones.

Then, the name change:

* I filed paperwork in Illinois to change my name to Fred Q Jones Stafford.
* I obtained a new Illinois driver's license in the name Fred Q Jones Stafford.

Then, the relocation:

* I moved to California and obtained a California driver's license in the name Fred Q Jones Stafford.
* I obtained jobs, mortgages, cars and other things using the name Fred Q Jones Stafford.
* I paid taxes under the name Fred Q Jones Stafford.
* I had children whose father is listed as Fred Q Jones Stafford.

Now, the trouble begins:

* My passport expired and could not be renewed with the new name, unless I could show proof of the name change.

* After much research, I discover that my name change petition never went before a judge (and obviously neither did I -- I was ignorant of the name change requirements) and so my name was never legally changed in Illinois!

Obviously this is problematic. Here is the information I need:

1. I have heard that in California, using a name consistently for ten years makes it your legal name. I meet this criteria, if it is true. Is it true, and if so, how do I prove it to the passport people?

2. I am going through a very amicable divorce using LegalZoom paperwork (which is why this question is anonymous, I am trying to be polite and thoughtful) and I have no idea whether I should file the paperwork using Frederik Quinten Jones or Fred Q Jones Stafford (the former is on the marriage certificate, which I have a copy of, but the latter is on my official documents and our bank accounts/mortgages.)

3. Since the answer is likely "you need a lawyer, dude" -- what kind of lawyer am I looking for? Who specializes in stuff like this? The name change issues primarily, and secondariliy how it might impact my mortgage, divorce, child custody, etc.

I don't know whether my "new" name made it to my social security records yet -- I assume so since I've successfully filed taxes under that name -- but I'm trying to dig up that information now, and in the meantime any advice given should cover both possibilities. Followup: I have confirmed with the social security office that the name Frederik Q Jones Stafford is on my social security card.

posted by anonymous to Law & Government (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A very similar question from last year including some good links to CA specific info.
posted by Zophi at 3:50 PM on October 20, 2011

Here's the US State Department's flowchart detailing how to deal with passports and name changes.
posted by zippy at 3:51 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Summary from the above page:

"If you cannot legally document your name change (through court order or marriage) ...

You must submit the following in person at an Acceptance Facility or a Passport Agency :
  • Your current, valid U.S. passport
  • A completed Form DS-11, Application for a U.S. Passport
  • Applicable "First Time" fees
  • At least 3 public records showing your date and place of birth that show exclusive use of your assumed name for at least 5 years
  • One recent, color photograph

posted by zippy at 3:53 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

On the lawyer aspect -- I am a family lawyer (divorce, custody, yadda yadda). I deal with name changes quite a bit (divorces, remarriages, adoptions, what have you), so I could answer your questions if you were in my state. Try calling a divorce lawyer.
posted by freshwater at 4:28 PM on October 20, 2011

Why can't you apply for a new passport using your social security card as proof of your name?

How did you prove to SS office that you had changed your name?
posted by eatcake at 8:00 AM on October 21, 2011

I'm a passport acceptance agent, so while I can speak as though you were sitting in front of me expecting to have your application executed, I cannot speak on behalf or with the authority of the US State Department. They issue your passport, they are the final authority.

Basically, as long as the name on your valid State-issued ID (Drivers License) matches the name you wish to have on your new passport, and as long as you can provide proof of your citizenship and pay the fee, you can get a new passport with your Frederik Q Jones Stafford name. zippy's link and information is good.

At least 3 public records showing your date and place of birth that show exclusive use of your assumed name for at least 5 years

If you were to bring me your valid CADL (that counts as 1), your SSID featuring the name you'd like to have on your new passport (2), and your proof of citizenship (previous passport) along with a correctly filled-out DS-11 application, I would have no trouble executing the app and submitting it to the State Department for their evaluation.
posted by carsonb at 3:43 PM on December 29, 2011

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