My husband and I just celebrated our 1 year anniversary. What should have been blissful (and it was on many levels) turned out to be the thorn in my side. The thorn because I kept putting off changing my name and a year later, all my papers, ID etc are in a name I borrowed years ago.40+ years ago when I was first married, I had nothing but a single bank account, SS#, driver’s license and a marriage certificate, it was much simpler to change my name to his.
I placed a phone call to my lawyer last year for 2 reasons: To see about doing a name change and updating my will (another grandchild was on the way). The $2500 fee she quoted had me hesitating. Yikes. She said that I need to file a petition with the courts in order to start the ball rolling, place a notification in the newspaper stating that I am changing my surname due to a marriage and not to defraud any collection agency. (OK so the last part is unspoken, but that is one of the reasons and to make sure I’m not put on a terrorist list as stolen identity).
One step at a time…
I couldn’t see the forest from the trees and sometimes when a task seems unsurmountable, if I ignore it and it might just go away. What’s in a name… My husband’s patience was wearing out and wanted why I hadn’t started the proceedings. He doesn’t think it’s as complicated as the lawyer made it seem and that I could go about it on my own. (hello honey… have you met me – nothing I do is ever that simple) I too wanted to just do it… It’s not that I didn’t want to take his name. It’s certainly a lot easier to spell than the one I assumed 41 years ago. We travel and (heaven forbid there is health emergency), having different last names does not show authorities or hospitals that we are married. No legal paper work that would link us as husband and wife, giving either of us authority to act in each others benefit when split second decisions have to be made. (Not many people carry their marriage certificate in their wallets).
Monday, I finally put the name change in motion. I called SS and was told by a recording that I could download the form from their website. I called motor vehicle – the gal told me I would need my original birth certificate, first marriage certificate, divorce decree and my current marriage certificate as a paper trail of how the names became what they did in order to change my driver’s license and vehicle registrations. Of course I really should call my local office of Vital Statistics to see if I need to petition the courts to change my name. (I’ll do that today).
There is an obstacle with my Birth Certificate – people born in Hudson County before 1965 had to get new birth certificates due to a scandal about fraud. See Vital Statistics. Again, this is something that I should have done years ago too and didn’t because I already had my passport, driver’s license, etc as ID so why bother. (oh yeah and I was lazy – because you had to jump through a couple hoops in order to get the new certified copy).
The NJDMV gal suggested I go through an online site since I didn’t want to have to go to Trenton in person. I don’t know what the difference is between the long form and regular Birth Certificate is so I opted for the long form. And I ordered 3 copies. I also had to request the certified document of my first marriage. I don’t think I ever had possession of it since it was my “ex” that needed it to file for divorce. I do have a copy of my divorce decree. VitalChek.com asked for copies of specific IDs. One being my marriage certificate (hello I don’t have it! that’s why I am requesting it from you). Since I don’t have a fax machine, I had to digitally photograph my driver license (both sides), passport, vehicle registration and my current marriage certificate because it has both my maiden name and my current name (that of my ex- husbands). Upload the documents alon with the form and they would get back to me within 48 hours to verify that the documents would be accepted and approved in order to move forward.
Friends asked me for years – why didn’t I just go back to my maiden name… and here’s the funny story. I was a receptionist at an ad agency and took a phone call from a school nurse looking for Mrs. so & so. I was new to the job and checked the list of employees twice knowing that I had no knowledge of the woman. Sorry no one by that name is at this number… Casually I mentioned it to the woman who used to be the receptionist and she yelled that’s me!. Well how would I know since her name was not his. That’s when I decided that I would not go back to my maiden name as I didn’t want to have a different name than my child. Both our children were asthmatic and I was so thankful that I queried her as to whether a Mrs. so & so worked there before I did. She flew out of the office to her child’s school cursing me under her breathe as she pounded the elevator button.
What does this have to do with NY Metro art scene … we are both artists. Some of my earlier photography prints that have sold are signed Mary Durante Wehrhahn and the ones from this past year are signed Mary Durante Youtt because that’s who I am now (in my mind). So you see, even this becomes more complicated than it should. What if I become famous???? Will the value of my work before the name change increase as well?
SS #, Bank Accounts, IRA’s stocks, bonds mortgage, driver’s license, registration of 2 cars, passport, insurance policies, will, credit cards, PSE&G,phone bill, cable and a host of other things will slowly be altered. So much easier if I had decided to keep my maiden name when I got married the first time (but that was just coming into vogue with women’s lib in 1970).
If all goes well, by the beginning of Dec. (it takes VitalChek 19 – 22 days to research and get the appropriate certificates in the mail) I will change my SS# which is the first on the list, passport is next because I need 6 points of identification to change my drivers license… Some things should be easier to do (I’m hoping) with just a copy of my current marriage certificate and written notification.
As Juliet once uttered – What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet….
So yes, before you know it I will legally drop the Wehrhahn and be who I am today – Mrs. Mary Durante Youtt. I like the sound – has a sophisticated ring to it.