Legally changing my first name
April 19, 2021 5:21 PM   Subscribe

I started the process at an admittedly hectic time in my life. Now what?

The good news is I'm "changing" it to the name everyone knows me as and the name I have gone by my entire life. It's listed as my preferred name in all of my grad school documents and I'm pretty sure I've used it legally at times with no issue. It is my name and it suits me and all I want is for my legal documents to reflect it. I'm sick of people being thrown off when I ask to be called something different than what my ID/documentation says and asking a million and one questions and having to explain to friends why I go by my chosen name and just constantly having to manage it. I'm just tired of it all.

The bad news is I have a lot going on right now and I really could not have chosen a more inopportune time to do this. I nearly did it in the fall. I should have done it years ago. I'll be graduating from graduate school in less than a month, then trying to get a job. I need to sit for a licensure exam at some point a few weeks after I graduate, which I'm guessing will occur between the end of June and middle of July, and I really want my NEW legal name written on the certificate if/when I pass. I'm very concerned that the name change confusion is going to cause problems with the certification, which I absolutely need in order to get a job. I'll also go into the SERIOUS PHASES of a job hunt right after that, though I'll likely throw out some applications ahead of time. My resume now has my legal and preferred name which should HOPEFULLY ward off any confusion, but I'm still concerned about it causing problems. Not to mention my insurance card, bills, and fuck knows what else I'm forgetting here.

I'm just.... so overwhelmed with all of the STUFF that needs to be done now and I'm not entirely sure how to proceed. I submitted the application today, so it's happening. Do I let the boards know? Wait as long as possible to register (which I can't even do until June 1)? Tell my school now or just deal with them later (no way this is getting done before graduation)? I'll need ID to sit for the exam, which may not be finalized in time? The DMV is a hot mess which makes me think it may take longer than expected to get my new license, especially because I want an enhanced license. Plus I may need TWO forms of ID, which is making me even more stressed because how do I know that two will be done in time?! It's just a lot.

I plan on contacting the boards for guidance (have already sent an email) but I'm looking for any other guidance/experiences about what to expect and how to handle all of the logistical components, because I was already stressed and this is making it worse. As a side note I'm off my ADHD meds and taking steps to try and get back on them, which should hopefully make everything happening in my life right now much easier.

Thanks in advance!
posted by Amy93 to Law & Government (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hey, I'm sorry you're stressed about this. I went through something similar, in terms of inconvenient timing. Not to mention ADHD.

RE having conflicting IDs, not having a new driver's license, possibly needing a couple forms of ID, etc: none of that matters once you have a name change order in hand. Like, I am sure the court order would suffice for the licensing boards to get a name change going on your certification. (If you even need the name changed; perhaps your court order will come before you sit the exams.) In terms of the DMV, etc: when I got a new license, I just brought two forms of ID with my old identity, plus my court order. All went smoothly. They don't expect you to have two forms of ID with your new identity, if that's your concern...that would put everyone in a serious catch-22!

(Just FYI, I don't know how this works elsewhere, but in my state, you have to change your info with the SSA before changing your license. This only took a couple weeks, even though I was doing it by mail because COVID; I think if the SSA offices are open, you can actually do it same-day. From there, it took a couple days for the database at the DMV to update.)

But I know the above info doesn't help for the limbo of awaiting your court order. You might have to sit your licensing exams under a different name; I don't know. But it probably won't be a big deal to change the name on your certification, if that does happen. Like, the boards must deal with these issues all the time; the time of life when you are getting professionally licensed tends to coincide with people changing names at marriage, realizing they want to be professionally associated with a name they use in daily life, etc. This can't be uncommon.

(Also, to offer possible hope, you may be overestimating the amount of time this will take. I changed my name in the worst possible place, in terms of court impaction and wait times, and it took about three and a half months. This really shocks people from other localities, where this process tends to be quite fast. Of course, if you are also in urban CA or NY or somewhere similarly problematic, yes...pessimism about timespan is warranted.)

Either way, this is going to be over soon, and the problems that seem overwhelming won't be nearly as bad in real life. I won't lie, you'll probably run into some annoying inconveniences. But you can resolve those as they arise, one step at a time.
posted by desert outpost at 6:47 PM on April 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Ask your school about the name change/diploma issue. It usually takes a few months for diplomas to get ordered and printed after graduation. Assuming you utterly miss the ordering deadline, unless your school is totally unreasonable, you could probably arrange to change the name and get the diploma replaced, though you might have to pay for it. However, you most likely will have to show some proof of name change to get the new diploma.

I can't speak for the rest of it, but I've heard enough diploma name change stories to be able to speak on that one.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:13 PM on April 19, 2021

It depends on what you are trying to change. Changing your driver's license is relatively easy after you go to court. People do it when they get married all the time. I guarantee that every organization has dealt with this. Getting your birth certificate changed will take a little longer. It is a pain dealing with things like changing the name on your credit card or bank account, but with persistence, it will happen.

I had a good friend whose brother wanted to use another name than his given name. He did. He started at a young age so it was not a big deal. Everyone called him by his chosen name. His given name and chosen name were both quite ordinary for the 60s and 70s. Think, David and Steven. When a teacher in HS would call the roll the first day of class, they would call out David. He would say, "It is spelled D-A-V-I-D, but I pronounce it Steven. Have all my life." That usually satisfied the teacher.

I know that is not what you want to do, but in the right situation it can really diffuse tension or bureaucratic confusion.
posted by AugustWest at 12:44 AM on April 20, 2021

I did most of this a few years ago. (I still find out that occasional things I hadn't thought of are in my old name and hopefully will get around to those sometime.) The most important piece for having your name correct on your certification is your court order. Pretty much anywhere should accept old ID with new court order as your new name. (The only exception to this is your new enhanced license-- you need to get your new social security first and bring that as well as court order. But bringing a passport with your old name is fine. I can't remember which order I did license and passport, but I think that didn't really matter officially, it was just which one I wanted correct sooner.) For about a year I just carried the court order in my purse everywhere, so anytime I realized someone had the wrong name, I could get it changed (library, kid's school, beneficiary on my mom's bank account that I'm not entirely sure why she needed me there...)

Feel free to memail if you want to talk about it, have questions, etc.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:28 PM on April 29, 2021

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