What's In a Name?

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Written by: Tanya Vogel Step by step instructions for name change.

Names represent the humans that we are. My nickname growing up was Tani and I have kept that into my adult life. It is short and peppy and is my true real name. When my wife calls me Tanya I am almost offended – it simply doesn’t sound right. My given name Tanya is the stronger version of me. The surname of Hall is how I identified for my entire life until recently.

My wife and I had talked about changing names, how would we do it? Would we hyphenate? Who would take who’s name? In a same sex marriage there are no traditions to how the couples names change, if they do at all. With all of those thoughts in my head I took a minute and asked myself “do I want to change my last name?” The answer was a resounding “YES!” My wife is my life and completes the rest of my circle, having her name would be an honor and a privilege.

Once I made the decision to change my name the bureaucratic process started. I wanted to surprise my wife on our anniversary with the name change so the whole process started a couple of months before that—and I needed every minute of that time. The first thing I did was Google name changes with marriage. This search brings up all kinds of services that will do the process for you, at a price. Before you can change your name on anything you have to change your Social Security Card. I found the information I needed on the social security web site: How do I change or correct my name on my Social Security number card?

First thing is to get your paper work organized, you must have the original marriage certificate or a certified copy—I suggest if you get certified copies pay for several. You will also need your driver’s license (or ID) AND your birth certificate along with your current social security card.

The website gives you the option of going to a social security office or mailing your information to them. I am a tad paranoid and mailing my original copies of anything makes me nervous so I opted for visiting the social security office.

Now remember I am going to surprise my wife so I have to slip out of work on a day I know she is at work so there is no possibility of us passing in traffic or something equally obscure. I chose the office in West Chester. Not a bad facility and the entertainment factor of the woman behind me filthing and fouling in the presence of her very young niece was priceless. The entire room breathed a sigh of relief when they exited the building. The wait was only about 30 minutes—I honestly expected to be there for hours—and the staff were kind. The process itself took less than 5 minutes. I had all my forms filled out, the nice lady made copies of my documentation, took my social security card, and I was all done! Now for the wait………7-10 business days and the card comes in the mail.

Did I mention I was trying to surprise my wife? So for the next week I stressed about getting to the mailbox. Fortunately the card came on a day she worked and I was home before her. SUCCESS! Step one complete!

The next step is to get the driver’s license or state ID changed on the PA Department of Transportation website. Go to the online Service Center page and search for name change, this will bring up the form DL80. Again you can mail the information in with a certified copy of the marriage certificate. The DOT will mail you back a little piece of paper that you carry with your current license as proof of the name change. I already had a little piece of paper for my recent address change so I decided to go into a branch and have a new DL made. I went on a Thursday (again slipping out of work under cover with shades and hat) and it was surprisingly NOT BUSY!! I was there a total of 20 minutes! Very exciting!

The DOT only accepts money orders or checks. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t be a problem however my wife is in charge of the money and she looks at our bank account 400 times a day. Had I written a check she would have seen that and then the surprise would have been blown—same with taking money out of the money machine… I would have to make up something I was using the funds for and I really don’t fib well. Just keeping all of my adventures to myself was hard enough. I ended up borrowing the cash from a friend and getting a money order. LOL!!!

Now that I had the two big pieces of the puzzle I could start changing credit cards, bank accounts, etc. I am still changing names because things I took for granted or didn’t think of keep popping up. Don’t forget things like life insurance, benefits, any licensure like a nursing license, car registrations, car loans, student loans, lines of credit….. the list is long. Some companies it was as easy as a phone call, others I had to download a scanned copy of my DL and marriage certificate to them. You will have to go into your bank to make changes and be prepared to leave an original of a certified copy of your marriage certificate.

If you are divorced and changing a name from a married name back to a surname you will have to have the court documentation stating the intent to change the name. You can get a social security card but you won’t be able to get a DL without it.

The transgender community have different hurdles and I have asked Jane to write about the name changing process as it pertains to transgender. Please look for it in an upcoming post.

My surprise worked!! My wife was VERY surprised—the only bad thing about the gift was that I will never top it! She is now doomed to the same old gifts and flowers….