I marked August 22 on the calendar with: “7am, breakfast date. 9am, court.” This was about to be a momentous occasion for me and I wanted it to be celebrated a little bit. Sitting in the cafe, we each drank about three cups of coffee, read the newspaper, and dreamed about things to come. We were at the courthouse about a half hour early and poked around each floor looking photos.
The judge was teleconferencing into my hearing. It was a little surreal to have this voice of power booming down at me from the speakers but I did. In my last acts as Ms. Lakin, I swore to this invisible Your Honor that I wasn’t doing this to avoid debts and that it was my sincere wish to change my name as stated on the petition.
“Seeing no objections, I will sign the order. Ms. B, I’ll fax a copy to the clerk and you can pick it up in about 10 minutes.”
Upon hearing myself called Ms. B, my head whipped around to look at F. It had taken less than five minutes in total but the simple acknowledgement of my name in one swift sentence sort of blew my mind.
Our wedding is on Saturday but I already have my my new drivers license, bank cards and social security card. My passport has been mailed off and should be here any time. We’re picking up our wedding license today and it will reflect us having the same last name.
I always sort of knew that that I would change my name when I got married. As it turns out, name changing is a really personal decision and there’s a ton of good reasons to keep your name, take your partners name, or to create an entirely new name for the two of you (or any other permutation you might come up with). All of these reasons are totally completely valid for different people in different situations. Sort of embarrassingly for me, I’ve also been actually surprised by the number of women who have struggled with the decision.
To me, there was never much of a question about whether or not I would change my name. I always liked the family name, I liked the “We are The _________s” part of it. I know lots of women, however, who simply decided that their name was a key part of their identity or that they were otherwise attached to it and didn’t want to change. Since I also just liked my maiden name, I could also sorta understand this.
The reasons Forrest and I are marrying have a lot to say about how our individual values align as part of a team. How do those values match up with his? What decisions have we made about the direction of our future life together? Joining together in marriage shifts the dynamic from when we first started our names appear on documents together in a legal sense in the fall of 2010 (house deed, bank account, car titles). Being part of this team means that I am partially defined by being part of the team. Since marriage is “among life’s most momentous acts of self definition” (Goodridge vs Department of Health) and the name you chose to use is another sort of self-definition it follows that the two might intersect. We’re all given names at birth (or at least shortly thereafter) but we are give the right to change those names in common use or even legally (as long as we’re not changing it to avoid debt).
I love my maiden name. Love it. I used to tell everyone that I was going to give it to my daughter as a first name. As much as I love it, it is important for me to share a family name with my soon-to-be husband and decided to take his last name. This decision wasn’t made lightly but it was made fairly easily.
It did open up a whole new line of thinking for me: since I’m going through the hassle of changing my name on my social security card, my passport, my drivers license, my bank accounts, credit cards, library card, utilities, and on and on and on, I started considering the rest of my name.
I have never used my legal first name. Well, almost never. Aside from a brief stint in kindergarten, I have always used “Beth” as my first name; my Aunt Nanci gets away with calling me Elizabeth though, she’s special, so special, in fact, Nanci is (was!) my middle name. Since I was already changing my name some, suddenly the thing to do seemed really clear. I’d change my name. My whole name.
I did some initial research and returned hits that it was “expensive” and hard. I didn’t care. My name was going to be ME. Beth Lakin Bault. Done.
So I did it. Turns out, in Idaho it’s not that hard. The Idaho Supreme Court even has a “Self Help” area including name change information. (I’m writing the rest of this for any Idaho residents that may want to change their name. There’s not much here of interest for the rest of you. This is NOT legal advice, just a synopsis of my own experience. Legal boilerplate about how I’m not responsible for your results, etc. etc.)
I decided to get the name change done before we actually tied the knot for miscellaneous logistical reasons. In late June, I took the packet of papers down to the courthouse in Wallace. The directions were a little vague about when I should have them my petition notarized so I showed up with it blank. In retrospect I should have had it notarized then made my copies.
At The Courthouse:
- Original notarized copy of your petition for name change (Idaho form CAO NCA 1-1); this copy will be filed at the courthouse.
- One copies of the notarized petition for name change; this copy will be given to you for publication in the paper.
- Original Notice of Hearing form (CAO NCA 1-2); this will be given to you for publication in the newspaper. The original must be in your final packet at the courthouse so don’t lose it!
- Two copies of the Notice of Hearing form (I only ended up needing one, but I’d make sure to follow the instructions; I also had extras of everything in my bag separately.)
- $88 filing fee payable in cash or money order. (Not by personal check!)
Then I had to publish a Notice of Hearing in a local newspaper for 4 consecutive weeks. For me it was as easy as faxing in a cover letter that was generated with the online interactive assistance and the Notice of Hearing I’d had signed by the court clerk. In our local paper it came to just under $120 for all four weeks.
At the Courthouse for the hearing:
- I checked in with the magistrate and provided them with a copy of my prepared Order for Name Change (Idaho form CAO NCA 8-1).
- I waited in the courtroom until I was called. When I was, I sat down where the clerk directed me to and answered all of the judges questions.
- When the hearing was over, he signed the order and I picked up a couple of certified copies ($2 each) from the clerk and I was on my way.
Total legal name change cost (including certified copies): $214.
I imagine this is likely way more expensive in some states and that most(?) states don’t have the helpful forms available quite as easily. BUT if changing your name is something you want to do it is definitely something worth looking into, my name fits who I am (or will be in another couple of weeks anyway) and I’m really pleased with my decision.
(Again. This is not legal advice. Make sure you figure out what you have to do in your state. You may want to consult a lawyer if that makes you feel more comfortable. But don’t be too afraid to go at it on your own. The clerks at our county courthouse were super helpful to me in making sure I had the right number of copies of everything.)