How do I deal with a name change once the paperwork is done?
August 30, 2007 10:17 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for advice from people who have legally changed their first name.

Long story short, I hate my name. I mean, I am talking seriously deep levels of loathing here. I want it changed to something less trashy before I obtain professional licensure and move so that I can start over somewhere else without having this albatross following me. This is not an issue of changing my name to a commonly used nickname. I don't have one. I also have no middle name to fall back on. I have the paperwork, and I know the legal proceedings I have to go through to do this. I know I need to notify credit card companies, credit bureaus, Social Security, and the IRS so that I don't get chased down and have my kneecaps broken. My biggest concern right now is with complications that will possibly arise from using past employers and instructors as job references, as they have only ever known me by my current name.

What else am I missing? Has anyone else done this and run into unexpected snags along the way? I've googled the hell out of this topic and have come up short on everything but 'should I take my husband's name or not' anecdotes, which don't really apply.
posted by makonan to Human Relations (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I changed my first name 10+ years ago, and it's pretty much a snag-free process. I just kept a whole bunch of photocopies of the court order, and as things came in under the old name, sent off a name change request. The process was both cheap and easy.

The thing is, you never fully escape the old name. Your concern about employers is one example--to get a reference, you'd probably have to tell a new employer, "You can talk to my old boss, but she knew me as Horrible Old Name," so you still end up revealing the old name--though, alternately, it occurs to me that you could contact old employers first to say, "I gave you as a reference, but I legally changed my name to Great New Name, so they'll be calling about that."

There are also legal documents where you'll have to list your former as well as current name. I recently had to list both names for a criminal background check, and then had to deal with nosy questions about why I changed my name. Not a big deal, but it seems to me the old name never gets buried completely.
posted by not that girl at 10:38 AM on August 30, 2007

Also, different states have different requirements for, e.g., giving you a driver's license. I know someone who legally changed her name, lived without any troubles under the new name for fifteen years or so, then moved to California where the DOL wouldn't accept her name as her name. Of course, her birth name wasn't really acceptable by that point either. Much hassle followed.
posted by hattifattener at 11:14 AM on August 30, 2007

This site about legal issues for name changes has some interesting information broken down by state. While the information is aimed at transgendered individuals and contains some advice specific to that, the majority of the information is applicable to anyone who wants to leave an old first name behind.
posted by jamaro at 11:23 AM on August 30, 2007

It could be worse. (Are there lawsuits against parents for stuff like that?)

Doing it before getting professionally licensed is smart. A friend's mom changed her name when she got married, and it essentially invalidated all her graduate studies and work up to that point, as far as the college was concerned. Sounds illegal as hell, but apparently different states have different rules for that stuff, and there was nothing she could do.

Good luck. I mean that.
posted by Myself at 11:30 AM on August 30, 2007

You may also want to have your education transcripts changed to your current name. Send a copy of the court order to the registrar at the College/University or the administrative office for any other school requesting they change the name on your records.
posted by onhazier at 11:31 AM on August 30, 2007

When I turned 18, my modem handle was a unique phonetic spelling of my first name. Well, it had been since I was 14, but at 18 I changed it. The judge (in WI name changes needed a court appearance) gave me a bit of a weird look, but didn't even ask.

My highschool "forgot" the name change when it came time for diplomas, but I've never needed that. I've also never needed my college diploma (and no longer have it), but I'd recommend that you get that changed, as someone else did. Other than there being a lot of forms which ask you to list all of your previous names, once you have your new license, SS card and passport if you have one, it's not a hassle at all. I didn't premptively seek out the IRS, but the next time I did taxes, I remember there being a question if I'd previously filed under a different name, and I supplied the correct info. I suppose that they care more about SSN itself.

The only practical advise that I'd have is since you're doing the legal foot work, give serious consideration to your other names. I've always hated my last name; it's too long for a lot of forms. With my WI accent, it sounds a lot like a common first name and a common last name so people ask for my last name, never ask for my first name, thinking that I've given it, and a lot of times will try to ignore me giving them my first name when I realize what they're doing. But, as my parents were against the name change, and I needed their financial support for college I didn't push them. Even if you don't necessarily want to take your spouse's last name, think hard on whether you want something different from the current name.

I will say that even in this day and age, it's an occaisional annoyance having two last names in a married couple. I'd wanted to take my wife's name when we married, but my immigration lawyer suggested to wait until I was a PR. Now I'm a PR, but waiting until we adopt, and I'll change my name along with the kids' when things are finalized.
posted by nobeagle at 1:15 PM on August 30, 2007

My biggest concern right now is with complications that will possibly arise from using past employers and instructors as job references, as they have only ever known me by my current name.

You can't make them know you by the new name, and this is why the old name will not go away for a long time, if ever. You'll have to give it out in order to get references from people who knew you before, it'll show up on your credit report as an aka, and will probably paper-trail you for a long while. That's not to say you shouldn't do it, and as long as you can accept that the name exists and is going to come up now and then, you can probably get on with your life post-change relatively peacefully.

Certainly it will be easier, in some ways, than an informal name change. I've gone by my middle name for 15 years, a number of the women in my family went by their middle names for 60+ years, and those first names keep butting in and complicating things when you least expect it.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:24 PM on August 30, 2007

I changed my name (first and last) about 7 years ago. I still consider it one of the best decisions I have made. It was much, much easier than I thought to switch over insurance companies, medical records, credit cards, and college transcripts. I had anticipated a great deal of trouble, but I made several copies of my notarized order of name change, old and new social security card, old and new driver's license, and it was amazingly easy.

Go for it! It was really a great step for me. I have made a decision to never tell anyone my old name. I do get asked, occasionally, and I just say that I never tell it. When I say this with the correct affect, people rarely continue to ask. Feel free to email me for more.
posted by aliksd at 3:28 PM on August 30, 2007

Changed all of mine 11 years ago, at 42. Big adjustment, but long ago ceased to be an issue.

You can go though life accepting what you are handed or be master of your world and choose what YOU want for a name. After all, yours was chosen for you by people who didn't know you, without your permission before you were even born, probably. How lame is that?

Anyone who values you as a friend will respect your decision and reasons. Drop those who don't, including family, by the wayside.

I changed my birth cert, my college and high school records, and my printed diplomas/degrees. Cost a few bux. I am pretty honest about it with anyone who asks, and tell them my birth name and my REAL name, which is the one I CHOSE.

Funny thing, my personal bravery in this matter has resulted in many people I have met changing theirs, once they find out reasonable, intelligent people do it. Hell, my patent attorney called me a few years back to find out how it was done, as his wife was interested in changing hers and eventually did. I get about a call per year from friends who are considering it or who know someone who is.

Practically, a court order will get you a new license, you can get a revised birth cert, but a passport may list your old name. I waited until my passport expired and got a new one, thus dodging the issue. Diplomas are a little harder, but just take some time to accomplish.

Rock on. In 10 years, you'll pat yourself on the back and smile. Accept what you can't change, but change what you can't accept!
posted by FauxScot at 5:50 PM on August 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

I changed mine 20+ years ago. I had always hated my name. It was a great move. No practiacal advice except hang loose with enforcement. Felt bad when My Mom said, "OK, hon- I mean pointilist!" It takes a while for even those with a good heart to get it. Only had one person say, "You will always be oldName to me." and he was dying so I let it slide.
posted by pointilist at 11:27 PM on August 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

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