Has anyone changed their first name?

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Hello my name is…
By: jaqianCC BY 2.0
I have been Gennifer since I was in the seventh grade, after I decided there were too many Jennifers, and I wanted to be different. Legally I am Jennifer but have used the G on my work papers, school records, etc.

Since I'm getting married, I thought it would be a prime opportunity to go ahead and make the change official.

I'm starting to research name changes and it's very overwhelming and now I'm wondering if it's even worth it for just the one letter. Can I continue the rest of my life as Jennifer legally and Gennifer personally/professionally?

Anyone else change their first names? How'd the process go for you? -Gennifer

We've talked about changing last names many many times:

But we've surprisingly never talked about changing first names. Have any of our Homies ever done this? What was your experience like? How was the process?

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  1. Speaking from experience we double barrelled our name, choosing which would go first after a long and drawn out discussion and ultimately on the toss of a coin! We really couldn't decide what to do. Our name is now long, unwieldy and doesn't fit on most forms with those little boxes for your letters.

    But what's in a name, I should have been less stubborn in refusing to alter my name. Change is not so bad!!! Just make sure the middle ground is actually a good idea long term!!!

    • Wait, what? You double barrelled your name? Middle ground? Coin tosses and a mutual name? You have to be talking about your surname here. Surely. Right?

      27 agree
  2. I changed my whole name – first, middle, and last – the year I turned twenty.
    I had always hated my name, and it never fit me. So after five years of consideration I just went for it. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I'm in Indiana, and it cost me about $300 and took roughly six months. Here, you file some paperwork with the state, put an ad in the newspaper notifying the general public what you plan to do (it has to be in the classifieds once a week for four weeks, with the last week being at least a month before your court date), and then wait for a few months til your court date arrives. (Mine was in November, which I found auspicious since that's what I was changing my middle name to. ๐Ÿ˜‰ You go in, the judge double checks that you're not trying to commit fraud and that your new name is in fact the name that you want, spelled correctly, and then they rubber-stamp you and you're on your way. No big deal. Especially if you're using a name similar to your old one (I went from Alyssa to Alena), it's pretty painless. If you've been using Gennifer for a while, I would just go for it. The process is scary-looking, but not terribly complicated. Let your outsides match your insides! ๐Ÿ™‚

    11 agree
  3. I haven't changed my first name, but hopefully i can offer a nugget of insight. My husband and I got married three years ago, and decided on a coin-toss which of our last names would become our family last name and which would be our middle. Every state is different, we live in Maryland. If you google how to change your name in the state of Maryland you get all kids of terrifyingly complicated info involving court orders and public notices, etc. However, through the social security administration, marriage (or divorce, or adoption) is an acceptable reason to change a name, without a fee. We both changed our middle names, legally, and he changed his last name. The SSA woman did in fact look at us a little strangely, but i think that as long as you have a marriage certificate, the government doesn't make a distinction on which part of your name you are changing on that occasion. Hope that helps! And good luck!

    5 agree
    • I think the government does make a distinction for first names though. I got married last year and with the Social Security Administration, made my maiden name a second middle name and added my new last name. However, I asked them if I could shorten my first name. (Legally I'm "Kayla", but I've gone by "Kay" since ~3rd grade) and they said that would require a court order.

      So at least for Social Security, to change your first name requires a court order, which I wasn't willing to go through the hassle of obtaining.

      6 agree
      • that depends on where you are. i'm canadian and changed my first, middle, and last names for divorcing-myself-from-biological-family reasons. from what i can tell on the forms everything was the same as just a last name change, although i'm not sure if they make you get fingerprinted when you get married. i get annoyed when i occasionally have to bring up that i changed my name and people gush about "oh, when did you get married!?" as if that's the only reason a woman would do such a thing. bit of salt in the wound of being a very lonely singleton for a lot of years.
        anyway, the process itself wasn't bad, just a lot of steps. and i still occasionally find things i forgot to change over some 5 years down the line. the hardest part was the personal decision of what to change it to, which entailed many many hours with name books and soul searching. i am glad that i had a ceremony with friends to make the transition feel more "real"

        13 agree
    • I had a similar experience changing mine for Social Security…I got that impression that as long as there's a marriage certificate, and the names being changed are some combination of the people involved, then they'll do whatever you want (though it may depend on the teller that you get that day). I took my husband's last name as a second middle name, and my person helping me hesitated, and then said, "Hmmm…yeah, I'd say that works!" He said he'd do the same for my husband if he came in with the certificate (whereas the "official" person I spoke to at Social Security said that Maine allows a woman to change her name with just a marriage certificate, while men have to go to probate court). But, that's all just last/middle names…

      • I changed my first name when I was 20 and my last name when I got married, the two processes couldn't be more different! Changing your last name due to marriage/divorce is a simple form. Changing your first name is done through probate court. I had to go to court, tell them why I wanted to change my name (probably to make sure I wasn't defrauding the government), then pay a fee and submit my birth certificate. Through the process I found out that the name I had gone by was not my legal name! Apparently it happened a lot in Maine pre-computers. It took about a month, they only process name changes once a month. But it was approved and I got an amended birth certificate.
        The best thing about it is that the new name almost completely obscures the name I was called as a child that I despise. Ten years later and I can't imagine having kept my old name. Sometimes I forget that I changed it. Until I run into someone from school that I haven't kept in touch with. My parents were supportive, but I had been telling them I was going to change my name since I was about 8. By 18 they were used to the idea.
        Anyway, suffice it to say if you feel strongly about it then do it! The process is weird because it's a court process, but it is worth it.

        3 agree
      • If you were able to get the spelling of your first name changed at SS office, you may feel you got what you desired, but speaking from 31 years of this in my past history, I have only just discovered,, that it is not legal, and can create all sorts of issues, (depending on where you live or move to) in obtaining Driver's license, and also in getting a passport, and a federal ID, should you ever need one for employment within the government. To be legal, your name has to match your birth certificate. When your name is legally changed, so is your birth certificate.

        • I'm not sure if it varies state to state, but it is certainly not true in New York State. You CAN change your birth certificate after a legal name change but do not have to. My husband changed his name before we got married the second time (he wanted a marriage certificate with his preferred name on it and I decided I did want to change my last name and that was the easiest option in NYS) and all he needed was the court decree to get a new state ID, Social Security Card, Passport, Marriage Licence, new credit cards, and change his name with his employer (City Government).

          You will want to have quite a few certified copies of the name change decree to hold on to, as it will come up in odd places from time to time, but we have never had a problem with the name change once we've produced that paper.

          2 agree
    • I think it really varies by state. A friend of mine, who is FTM, legally changed both his first and last name a couple of years ago. The process required a court order in the state of Missouri. Other states may be different, so it's hard to say for sure what a person needs to do to make a change. Also, I believe Missouri requires a court order if a man wants to change his last name upon marriage, but it does not require a court order for women. Hooray for backwards red states. *sigh*

      4 agree
    • It depends on your state. I want to add my hebrew name (which I adopted as an adult) to my legal name, as either a second first or middle name. I also happen to be getting married (but not changing my last name). However, in my state (CA), from my research, you require a court order to change your middle name. Even if you are taking your last name as a middle name, and your spouses name as your new last name, you require a court order to change anything other than your last name. (You can double-barrel, just not change the middle name).

      • I'm in California too, and I changed my middle name to be my former last name just by putting it on the marriage certificate. I believe you can ONLY change it to be your former surname, though… I couldn't have just picked a whole new middle name without a court order.

    • You can't change your first name when you get married, unfortunately. Either partner can change their middle name (and I think possibly you can only change it to your previous surname) and their last name, but not their first. I distinctly remember that from the marriage certificate. You have to go through a different process to change your first name.

      ETA: I'm in California, since I think these rules vary by state. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1 agrees
  4. I intend on changing my first name when I get married. Doing it here in SC doesn't seem too bad. I just have to pay filing fees and potentially appear before a judge to swear I'm not trying to dodge my old identity.

    Elyse is an unnatural nickname of my legal name, which is the same name as my mom, aunt, grandma, and cousin… and three of us share a last name at this point also. We all have different middle names, but credit companies don't care. They have mixed up my credit with my mom too many times to count. Oh, my future sister in law and I share a first name too, and she is not a stable person with whom I would trust sharing a name. So it has become a necessity for me.

    My biggest concern is how to accept checks from family unable to accept my step away from a tradition. I'm hoping my bank will allow me to deposit without a hitch if I put a note on file.

    3 agree
    • My bank has a note on file for my maiden name, as once in a while I still get checks with it on there (first year I did my taxes, an inheritance where everything was under my maiden name, etc) – I have my passport in my maiden name still just in case though. (And because in Canada if I updated it to my married name, I would have lost 3 years of usage, because they make you start all over again.)

  5. I have changed my first name and for a similar reason. I was born and legally registered with the a full female version of 'Mel'. After an abusive relationship as a teenager I asked everyone to call me Mel as the full version had far too many negative connotations for me. Unfortunately a lot of people would try to be polite and use what they assumed was my 'Proper Christian Name' which was sometimes the correct full verion of Mel and sometimes was not. Eventually I decided to double barrel my middle name into my first name and become Mel Ruth. This has helped a lot, particularly at work where members of the board like to use people's 'proper' names.

    In terms of changing it it was pretty easy for 2 reasons.
    The first is that everyone I already knew called me Mel and so didn't have trouble with the change, only a few of them think it jars when I get called Mel Ruth, these are the same who every 2 years or so call me the name I was born with.
    The second is that I live in Scotland, and as long as you are over 18 (although it might be 16 now) and are recognised by the name you are changing to (if you want to be called Princess Conswala Bannanahammock then you have to go by it for a while first) and willing to pay an admin fee then you can change it and you get new birth certificate with that name on it.

    I would check the legislation where you live because it changes from place to place and you might need to just pay an admin fee or gather together forms proving you have gone with a G spelling since a child.

  6. I changed my name. I was born Shawn, and even typing and reading it makes me shiver with revulsion and feel nauseated (not exaggerating). I was constantly misgendered, or had it pointed out and joked or teased about. It disgusts me. I'm certain it's nothing like what trans* individuals go through but it's the only thing I can compare it to to explain.

    When I became a teenager with a personal social scene I started going by a nickname (actually apparently as a preschooler I introduced myself to random strangers as Katie), which changed from time to time, until I joined up with an official group with paperwork and everything (a prenatal group as well as an adult school) who were willing to call me by my chosen name so I figured I'd better choose one! I went through a thousand names with my then partner before settling on Paige. I intended to make it legal after I turned 18, before my baby was born so it'd be correct on his cert but he was a bit early so it didn't happen… Then I figured the paperwork wasn't a priority. Until one day I got too frustrated and repulsed and shamed hearing that name at the drs, the bank, everywhere else legal and got off my arse and got it done. I changed my last name to my mother's maiden name while I was at it, since there was no extra fee and her family of origin is the only one I've ever known. I had to fill out a form with a thousand points of ID, swear I wasn't doing it for illicit reasons, and boom, granted. Then I had to run about and get all my accounts changed, which, thinking back, obviously wasn't that bad as there's nothing much to remember.

    My mother still often fails to call me by my real name despite my telling her how important it is (pretty sure she sees it as a rejection, much as she doesn't want to acknowledge my changed birthday due to a trauma that happened around my real one), my father essentially refuses but seems to try to avoid using a name at all as a compromise, and my grandparents either fail or haven't been made aware. My ex MIL still calls me by my nick name when she talks to me, even though I changed it while she was my current MIL and her son calls me my real name.

    Now, sometimes the name feels weird, and I second guess the choice – sort of like I do my tattoos at times. Not a regret, not weighing on my mind, kind of more like 'oh, maybe I should have bought those other shoes' or 'wonder what it'd be like to have curly hair?'. It definitely feels to me like my real name, and it's kind of like 'what if my parents had given me a different name' as though this was my birth name

    A lot of that isn't relevant to your situation, but, it's all the story I've got ๐Ÿ™‚

    Oh, and I'm in Australia

    6 agree
    • every time my dad says 'jennifer' i say "that's not my name." maybe it's rude, but i'm tired of being called something i don't like.

      also, my parents have NEVER gone by their 'given' name, always a shortened nickname, so why should I be any different?

      2 agree
      • To my mother, I'll often ignore her, say "who?" Or say "that's not my name" like you… But sometimes I respond, because it's so ingrained in me! It's frustrating that I can't get the training to answer to it out!
        With my father and grandparents, they're all elderly and partially deaf, and I never see my grandparents (also they genuinely do seem to care and are sorry they can't remember) so I let it slide. My brother I won't let slide because he's doing it to be a jerk. My old school friends, well, they aren't respectful and I haven't explained the seriousness of it, but, I see one of them maybe twice a year so I can't be bothered getting into it too much

        My parents don't go by their birth names either, nor do my grandparents! My father and grandmother use a shortened version, my grandfather uses a nickname that sounds similar but technically has no connection to his legal name, and my mother has been called by her middle name since birth! So when she is a dick about my name I sometimes call her Agnes…

        7 agree
      • And it's definitely not rude. It's assertive. That's NOT your name. If anything, the rude one would be them

        5 agree
  7. I was born Alexandra but went by Alex and then decided to go by Alix when I was in high school. I go by Alix most of the time and Alexandra legally. I am a deputy city clerk and my stamp says Alexandra and my signature is "squiggly" for lack of a better term so you can't really make out if it is "e" or "i". My degrees all say Alexandra as does my ID, passport, mortgage papers, etc. I've had no issues. Do what you wanna do love.

    2 agree
    • My father doesn't go by his legal name. He goes by a "nick name" (which is his name in another language but if you didn't know that you wouldn't associate the two) and has his whole life because his father and grandfather had the same name. Most people don't even know his legal name and the only time it comes up is with things that require him to use his legal name (e.g., vehicile registration, some id, insurance, etc). He doesn't mind it in those cases but he tells the person that he's dealing with that he prefers to be called by his "nick name". The only time this has been an issue is when his car was stolen and the police officer refused to call him by his "nick name" and kept calling him by his legal name (in pretty much every sentence). My FIL also doesn't go by his legal first name (he goes by his middle name), and he has had issues remembering this when he's travelling (e.g., a customs agent asked him his name, he said the wrong name, and my MIL laughed at him for forgetting his own name). My MIL does by a nick name too but it is a shortened form of her name.

      My father and FIL's signatures are not their legal names (it's the name they go by). My MIL's signature is her legal name.

  8. My mother unofficially changed her name in her mid-twenties and, as far as I know, has never had any major issues with it. She gets all her mail, she's had several jobs, even her driver's license is under her unofficial name. Maybe I should ask her how she got away with that one.

    I'm sure that when it comes to super official documents you'd have to go with Jennifer, and maybe in certain professions it could be an issue(?). But changing your first name legally can be a huge headache, and in your case, it may not be worth it.

    • Not sure how old your mother is, but something similar happened to my Mom. She never changed her name when she got married and one day it appeared on her password and all forms of ID as a slightly different name (her maiden name and my father's last name hyphenated). It's bizarre. She's the only one in the family with that official name, as I have her last name as my middle name and my Dad's last name as a last name. I once tried to discreetly switch my middle name to my last name (hyphenated like my Mom's) with no succeed. Turns out that are not so flexible about that anymore.

      All that too say: I think it's harder to change your official documents without changing your name than it used to be!

      1 agrees
  9. A friend of mine changed his name and it took some getting used to, but must people call him what he changed it to. I'll admit that it was probably easily for some people to call him by his new name because the first two letters of both name are Br.

  10. A friend of mine changed her first name (and last name to a new, shared one with her wife) when she got married. She chose a more gender-neutral version of her given name.

  11. It all varies based on state. In NH, you have to fill out a form, pay $90, attend a court date and then update all your documents. My husband legally changed his last name through a court date and it wasn't that bad. Once the big things are changed, driver's license, passport, birth certificate, Social Security, and work stuff, then it's all just chasing down the random things.

    All in all, it wasn't bad and if you would rather be Gennifer than Jennifer, go for it. As someone else with a ridiculously common name, if I could pick a new one, I would change it. But I can't pick, so I don't have to worry about it for now ๐Ÿ™‚

    1 agrees
    • Agreed. Each state has different requirements for a legal first name change. In NY, you have to take out an announcement in the paper when you do it. In WA, it was a matter of paying $100, telling a judge that the name change isn't an attempt to dodge criminal charges or debt, and then taking their signed court order to the DMV and any other gov't entity to get my records and ID cards updated. I also went the route of getting my birth certificate updated, which not all states allow and will vary in the fees they charge to reissue it.

      1 agrees
  12. I am going to assume you are American for this, since you don't mention otherwise and that is the law I am familar with.

    First, it can be really iffy, legally, to go by two different spellings of your name. I personally as an attorney would not recommend it, for a few reasons:

    1.) I know a lot of people say "personally one way, professionally another." But that rarely works out so easily. As far as the law likes it, you have one legal name – that's the one that's on your birth certificate and your Social Security card. Which name would you give to a landlord, or a teacher, or anyone else?

    2.) When you give somebody any name other than your legal name – and you do so knowingly – you always run the risk that you could be accused of fraud down the line. Even if nothing like that ever happens, a discrepancy creates extra paperwork for you and others. A lot of people don't know that the PATRIOT Act imposed a whole lot of new "identity verification" stuff in this country (people who applied for jobs before and after it are aware that there's new paperwork you now need to fill out). If you apply for, say, a credit card, an apartment for anything else where you need to produce a Social Security number or ID (which would contain your legal name) and you provide other documentation that contains a different spelling of that name, the processor would then be obligated to take the extra step of confirming the two are the same person.

    When people talk about "unofficial name changes" they are, in effect, talking about using a nickname. And that is fine. Plenty of people go by nicknames – heck, some of them legally change their names to their nicknames, and that's fine. But I would strongly caution against using two different names (and yes, they are considered different, even if it's variable spellings of the same name) in any context other than as the "real name" and the nickname. I've met clients who have done this and it always, always comes back to bite them in the butt in the end. It's not something I could ever advise. I've met clients that had to jump through hoops to obtain school records, who've been audited, or something else due to using two different names at some point in their lives, and that always makes me look worringly on doing it myself. I do it on some level, because I rarely say both my last names (I have a hypenated name, but I generally go by the first), but anything I write it down or need to give it to anyone, you'd best believe I say it proper.

    If you want to actually change your name, you would need to research the laws of your state. Some states allow "open and notorious use" to serve as the basis for a name change, while others require a judge to sign off on it. If you actually want to change your name legally, the process is fairly straightforward, but just know you might have to pay out the nose. My sister changed one name in her whole legal name, and while the process was super easy, it cost her over $500 – this is comprised of filing fees with the court and paying for publicationa and the required criminal and judgment histories and fingerprinting. So if you feel like pursuing this legally, please know that the process is usually quite easy, but it can get expensive. My sister's was done in a major urban area, so that probably accounts for some of the cost. Other areas are cheaper, but it can still be a hefty sum.

    3 agree
  13. I was born Crystal but never felt like my name was right, I just didn't identify with it. I hated introducing myself (I always felt like I was almost gagging on the last syllable). Last summer, I brought it up in therapy and my counsellor suggested that if I didn't like it, I could change it. What a novel idea! I didn't know what I wanted to be called so I started going through baby name books and compiling a list of possibilities. I was unrelatedly reading about Hindu goddesses and was really intrigued by Kali. I decided to use the name but added an e to make it Kaeli. I just announced it on Facebook and started introducing myself to new people as my new name. It's been confusing for some as I was Crystal for almost 30 years. My mom still calls me by my old name despite repeatedly telling her how important it wasto me. I haven't changed it legally yet but I'm planning to change my first and middle name soon because I'm tired of explaining and like another commenter said, I cringe when it's used at the bank, doctor's office etc.

    2 agree
  14. I didn't change my first name, but my middle name (changed it to my maiden name–had no connection to my birth middle name). In the state of Wisconsin it is super easy. With marriage you can legally change your name, I signed my new name on my marriage license, and changed it along with my last name at the social security office, no questions asked. With my new social security card I was able to change my driver's license and from there my bank account and credit cards.

    2 agree
  15. I legally changed my first name from something very common to Trystan back around 1992 in California, so my info might be out of date. I used a very helpful guide by Nolo.com – http://www.nolo.com/products/how-to-change-your-name-in-california-name.html – didn't require a court date or any fees, just had to be thorough & consistent. Started w/the DMV, then got a new Social Security card, & with those 2, I could change my bank account, credit cards, & everything else. I even got my university diploma reissued & my birth certificate changed. The latter was essential to get my passport reissued – & that's mandatory if you want to travel internationally, bec. the name on your ID must match the name your plane tickets are issued in or they won't let you thru security. Having one name consistently everywhere will also help keep your credit score clean when it comes to things like getting a car or house loan too, so I'd recommend against using two different spellings of your first name at the same time.

  16. I legally changed my first and last name when I was 17. I had my dad's helps so he did most of the "heavy lifting" including obtaining the court order. I remember having to take a day off school to get fingerprinted. I also remember the hassle of having to change EVERYTHING including my library card, blah blah blah.

    The funniest part is everybody still calls me by my old name. (I went from Lucy to Luciana.)

  17. haven't changed my first name, but had to do a court-ordered name change when we got married and changed names (as it wasn't a legal marriage, the name change wasn't included). that part is super easy, there's a form to fill out (current name, new name, reason) and a fee to pay (in our state it was almost $200) and then you wait for it to be approved. the hard part is all of the follow up: changing names on licences, social security, bank, work, memberships, god knows what else. if you're planning to change your name when you get married, you're already planning to deal with all that hassle – so i'd just do it all at once so you don't have to call/visit all those places twice. (though in order to do it all at once, you might want to include the last name change in your non-marriage name change form, and not do the change on the marriage certificate, so that you only have one piece of paper to provide for all changes.)

    1 agrees
  18. Fortunately as far as first names go, I had sort of the opposite problem – my parents called me by a nickname, Meg, my whole life, which I hated in that I'm of the age that has a ridiculous number of Meg(h)an's! So when I went to college 350 miles away and basically starting over socially, I started going by my legal name instead. This also made it much easier when my legal name had to be provided (like job applications or class rosters) – I no longer had to do the "but I go by…" on the first day.

    I did, though, look into name changing process in Oregon for a previous engagement when we wanted to both double barrel our names, with no hyphen. Fortunately Oregon is progressive in that both parties to a marriage are allowed the same automatic name change choices just by putting down your new choice on the marriage certificate – unfortunately double barrelling without a hyphen wasn't one of them (the hyphenated combination of both your last names is, but we just both didn't like the hyphen). It was a bit of pain, but I believe it was as mentioned above by some posters in other states – a court fee, I think maybe a couple hundred dollars, you have to appear before a judge to say you're not doing it for illegal purposes, and that's that.

    • My daughter is a Megan. She's named after a family member with a similar name (Peggy) but I had no idea when I chose the name that it was so common. She's been going by an unrelated name of her choice since she was a child in order to be different.

  19. I share my original first name with my future father-in-law. That means my FH would be husband to and son of the same name.

    I never liked my unisex name, except for a brief stint watching the X-Files.

    FH and I sat down and spent some time brainstorming potential names, finally settling on Lydia as inspired by Beetlejuice. Yup. Winona Ryder's emo goth girl. I'd liked Catherine and crazier names like Kelowna for a long time, but they just didn't work. Miranda and Violet were also pretty, but just didn't match. I specifically wanted a name that wouldn't be a pain in the butt on the phone. Now I get called Olivia when I order pizza. Nothing's perfect.

    We moved to a new state, and I introduced myself to new friends as Lydia, but my temp agency knew me with the old, legal name. Then I got my permanent gig and one of the staff already had the old name, so I 'fessed up about the change to Lydia. Now, I'm Lydia at work though all my official papers have the old name.

    Both of my parents changed their first names as adults, so they understood even though I felt so bad for changing a name they'd taken such care to pick for me! And sometimes I feel like a total impostor with this new name.

    I haven't done the paperwork yet, but some people have written checks to me using the new name and they cashed just fine. I'm going to do the full change when I ditch my last name–though I like how Swedish it is, I loathe how impossible it is to get spelled correctly, so it's going.

    1 agrees
  20. So y'all know me as Dootsie. What you may not know is that basically everyone in my life knows me as Dootsie (unless they call me by my high school nickname, Harpo.) Dootsie is regrettably not my legal name. I've waffled on changing it legally for some years now. And I keep just… not doing it.
    My professional work is under my legal name. That fact has always been why I've insisted I wouldn't be changing my surname. If I'd been wise and just done it when I got to college, this would not be a consideration at all. There's also the fact that you usually have to make a court appearance in Kentucky. That is enough of a bother/fear for me to just live with two names.

    4 agree
  21. As a queer person in Washington State, I legally changed my name when we got married (this was before we could get legally married there). I had to go to court and listen to others state why they were changing their names (interesting) and whenever the judge granted a change we would all clap. In WA the process is the same for first/middle/last name changes (outside of last name changes on marriage licenses). Pay a fee, go to court, send off a million copies of the court order to banks/jobs/etc.

    I say go for it. It is a hassle, but it only took a few months for everywhere to change my name.

    Be true to yourself- find out how to do it, and if it's worth it to you go for it!

    8 agree
    • I got a little misty eyed at the thought of people explaining why they wanted to change their name and then everyone clapping when the name change was granted.

      For numerous reasons, I haven't worked up the courage to change my name. But it's nice to know as a Washingtonian, it will be easy.

  22. I think when you get married you can change your name to whatever you want as part of the name change part of the wedding license/certificate. At least that's the way I read the form in Iowa.

  23. I went to college halfway across the country where I knew 4 people out of a student body of 40,000. I 'changed' my first name when I got there–just started going by Lucy, introduced myself that way, became Lucy to everyone, including my professors and anyone who saw my photos in the school paper.

    I found it ridiculously easy, because when you meet someone for the first time and they tell you their name, it's not like you question them on it. "Can I see some ID for that name?" Nope.

    I have never changed it legally, but since then it has bled through about half of my life, because which name I go by is organic–i.e. when I graduated and started looking for jobs, all my professors knew me as Lucy and they were my references, so anyone I went to college with or worked with in my degree field calls me Lucy. But for my family and in my current field, which I got into originally by working a job with a friend from high school who knows me as BirthName, I'm BirthName (I don't dislike BirthName, I actually love it, I'm just not sharing it because it makes me feel secure on the Internet).

    In fact, the reason my fiance knows me as BirthName is entirely arbitrary–we pre-met while working at a restaurant a few years before we started dating, and I was still in college so could easily have chosen Lucy, but since we met in my home state instead of college state, I was going by BirthName at the time. Actually, now that I think about it, I believe I chose BirthName because I wasn't going to be in the job for very long and I didn't feel like it was worth explaining Lucy to a short-term employer, and I wasn't going to know anyone at work for very long anyway. Ha!

    At different times in my life, it's been more confusing than others; all during college, I was basically Lucy when classes were in session, then I'd go home for break and be BirthName again. But it wasn't that weird for me, I actually found it easier to switch back and forth the more I had to. I don't find it odd at all to hang with my fiance and best friend together, even though they're calling me different names. Lucy IS my name, just as much as BirthName is, and I don't separate them in my head that much.

    I guess the moral of my story is that yeah, it's difficult to get people to call you by a chosen name when they've been using a different one for decades, because first impressions and all of that. People who know me as Lucy think BirthName sounds all wrong, and vice versa. Every so often I'll get someone who knows me as one name, but then finds out about my other name, and decides it will be totally hilarious to start calling me that. Which, whatever, it's just a name, but how difficult it is to just call me by the name I introduced myself to you as? My sister is trans and I'm still pausing in my head to remember to use her chosen name, but I can appreciate (sort of, I mean, it's obviously not totally the same) the fluidity of one's name.

    I have considered adding Lucy as a middle name. I'm going to look into doing it in conjunction with getting married soon.

    2 agree
  24. I'm from the UK and when I opted to add three middle names I had to go through Deed Poll. Basically I had to pay a small fee to have what basically works like a birth certificate and certifies that yes, that is my actual name!

    The only things I had to get used to were people's reactions – pretty much everyone finds it funny (the middle names were chosen by raffle, so nominees could pick whatever they liked). However I did have to call the police to report a break-in and giving my full legal name was a little embarrassing! As long as you're happy with the change, it's fine.

    1 agrees
    • You had a raffle to decide on 3 middle names to add to your name legally? I'd love to hear more about this.

      12 agree
    • If you live in Scotland this is one of the long term devolved things so there is no Deed Poll. I changed my first name and went through the general registry office. It was basically the same process and very simple (although I think I had to prove that I had been recognized by my new name for a while, which was easy as I had for over a decade). I've introduced myself as Mel Ruth since I decided to change over 12 years ago and no-one questions it, the only people who struggle with the change are older relatives I only see every other Christmas.

  25. Why overwhelming? Any name change, be it first, last, or both is simply a matter of filing a court document and going to the hearing. Once changed, you to Social Security, then to Motor Vehicles for new ID, then everything else. It's a process, like many things are. It's only overwhelming if you allow it to be, or maybe , just maybe, it's overwhelming because you have uncertainty regarding changing it manifesting itself… just a thought. I legally changed my name. Yes, it takes time to get it all done… the task that seems daunting (because I know what I need to do now) is changing it back. BE 100% you want to make the change permanent before you do it.

    3 agree
  26. I wish I remembered the circumstances, but a friend of mine changed her name years ago and was given a lot of grief by it from places like the DMV – they considered name changes for reasons other than marriage to be "potentially fraudulent" and she was investigated to make sure she wasn't making the change to escape criminal repercussions of any kind. It was bizarre and time consuming and very frustrating for her. This was in NY state.

    • As long as you have the certified copy of court order to change your name, the clerk at the DMV really has no say in the matter. Mine was a court-ordered name change and it's all that was needed. I did however go with my Birth Certificate showing my original name that matched my ID PRE-Change. Handed them the paperwork and twenty minutes later had a new Driver's License.

      1 agrees
    • No matter how the change occurs, be it marriage or court-ordered, it is most important that you change it with SOCIAL SECURITY first because many DMV's will verify with Social Security as part of the process to get your new license/ID.

      5 agree
  27. I changed my first name the day I turned 18. I had gone down to the courthouse that day, got the paperwork to fill out, paid I think $75 or so, and was told that the judge had an opening in 2 hours and I could come back then or I could schedule a time to come back in a few weeks.
    I came back in an hour with a friend and the judge just asked me why I wanted to change it. I said the new name was what everyone called me; he wrote down "common usage," and asked if I was trying to evade any creditors or and legal charges. I said no, and he signed the form and suggested I ask his clerk for a bunch of copies with raised seals, since it's easier to get the copies when you first get your name changed than to have to come back and request them later. Banks, SSA, etc all wanted a copy of the name change order.
    This was in CT, by the way.

    2 agree
  28. Yes! I changed my name when I got married. I actually took my maiden name as my first name and my husband's name as my last name so I had to go through the courts. I live in NJ, and as mentioned many time previously, I'm sure it varies from state to state. This link shows what I had to do in NJ.

    http://www.wikihow.com/Change-Your-Name-in-New-Jersey

    I found my local county court house was the most helpful. I also had to deal with the county clerk. So those are both offices I would call and ask where to start. You could also call your state's bureau of vital statistics, they would probably be able to direct you to the best place to find more information.

    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w.htm

    In the end, it certainly was a lot of hoops to jump through and I think cost me a total of $200 in small installments here in there – but it was totally worth it! I say go for it and good luck!

  29. My wife changed her first name after we got married. She figured that since she was going to take my last name, she might as well legalize the first name she actually uses. Since 7th grade she has gone by a first name+middle name combination as her first name. So we made that her legal first name, her old last name became her middle name, and my last name is her new last name. The legal process was super easy (in WA). Changing your info with all the millions of government agencies, companies, websites, etc, etc, etc that all have your name is the hard part. She still doesn't have a credit card with the correct name and it's been 4 years. Luckily, the bank doesn't especially care and will accept checks written out to any combination of her current and former name. Her family still calls her by her former first name, but that really doesn't matter. Good luck!

  30. Hello fellow Jennifer!!

    I was named Jennifer Jessica (ugh, I know, the TWO MOST POPULAR NAMES the year I was born. What were my parents thinking?!).

    I only ever went by Jenn, or Jennie growing up, and in college I adopted the nickname Jenna. A few months before my wedding, I went ahead and legally change my name to Jenna, dropped the miserably middle name, in order to have my maiden name as a replacement. It's been a few years now and I'm super happy I did it! The process was pretty easy, cost like $90 and then all the name change paperwork, so I think if it's something you want to do you totally should!

  31. I came into the world as Kathrin Jean Gallaher and I will leave as Qathrin Gallaher Hart. I changed the spelling of my first name in 1994, making it legal in 1999 was super easy. I went to a county courthouse, filed the papers in the morning on my way to work, the judge approved it at some point during the day, I went back after lunch and it was done. The follow up is of course changing all of your identification, which is easy with the legal document in your hot little hands. I got a new state DL and filed a name change for my passport and changed all of my accounts (which is really easy). I changed my middle and last names in 2002 when I got unmarried as it was conveniently part of the proceedings. I didn't change my social until '05 after my bag was stolen while traveling, the name change on my social was required to replace all my other ID, again easy with all the documentation in hand.

    Since the OP has been using a G instead of J for so long nobody but HR and her mom will have to adjust to the change.

    In regards to identity and names, as women we're conditioned to accept that we'll change our names eventually –ask a man about changing his name and you'll very likely open an interestingly heated discussion. Our western society is also conditioned to think lightly of a woman's name change, it ain't no thang. When I changed my last name I used my middle name as a transitioning tool. Having built my identity and business reputation on the unique spelling of my first name rather than my last names the transition was sort of seamless. As an artist and filmmaker I think a lot about how my name will resonate in the world, garner association and recognition, when the credits roll, the whole 19 letters gets trotted out, I have a lot of pride in my family identity as a Gallaher (there is an long tradition of Gallahers changing their name to Hart, my guess is that nobody will put an extra g in the middle of Hart).

  32. I'm planning to add my Hebrew name as either a second middle or second first name. In CA, you can't change your middle name when you get married (which I incidentally am doing soon but keeping my own last name), so I have to go through the courts. I'm saving up to do it. I get enough financial help from my parents for expenses while I'm in school that I feel bad asking for a waiver of the court fees, so I'm saving up.

    I have to go to court, take out a newspaper ad for a month, then go back to court. (Then so the SSA, DMV, passport office etc stuff). I anticipate between the court fees, newspaper fees, DMV fees, and new passport fees, it will cost about $650, but when it's worth it to me. (I just have to save up for it).

  33. When I applied to get married, one of the pieces of paperwork I needed to fill out said *Name after marriage*. I have 2 first names, but have been going by the 2nd one only since I was born. I dropped the 1st of my first names, and then hyphenated my last.

    It was pretty painfree. This was in Massachusetts.

  34. My first name, Marjorie, was really common in the 1920s. Not so much in the 1980s, so I grew up with an old fashioned and cumbersome and LONG name (my last name is also eight letters). It was a nightmare to write my name on every paper growing up (that's a lot of letters when you're six, seriously!) and when I was in seventh grade, my art teacher asked me if I had any nicknames or anything that was easier to spell (and you'd be surprised the number of people who can't even PRONOUNCE "Marjorie"… I mean come on, it's a real name and it's not that unknown, just super uncommon in my generation). I had never really thought about a nickname for myself, but my art teacher asked if it would be okay if she called me Margie. I said sure, and started going by it… I would have gone by Marjie (to keep the original spelling of my name intact) but wouldn't you know it, already a Marjie at school and the name was "taken" and I would be "stealing" her name… so I took the G.

    Fast forward to, um, now (I made the switch in 1997) and I've been going by Margie ever since. The only people who call me Marjorie are a few old friends I met when I was a child and haven't spoken to much since then, older relatives, and anyone who needs to use my legal name (college admissions people, whatever). It's a nickname for my real name, so it's never caused any problems, and I've never felt the need to change it because it's basically the same name, just shorter and with a G instead of a J (which does still drive me crazy, but oh well– Margie is the more common spelling). My driver's license, marriage license, etc all say Marjorie, which is my legal full name, but all my mail is addressed to Margie and EVERYONE (even my parents) calls me that. When I got married, I did not want to change any part of my name legally, but I occasionally tack on my husband's (extremely common and short) last name to my full name. For my mail and registration for things, I'm Margie Lastname. If I want to be SUPER formal, I go by Marjorie Middle Lastname Husbandname.

    TL;DR: Not quite the same, but it's not worth the hassle for me to change my name for something as small as a nickname I prefer.

    1 agrees
  35. My German grandmother has been using an unofficial, shortened, Americanized version of her legal first name since she moved to America. It seems to work out just fine for her, professionally and otherwise. My mother also goes by a nickname professionally and doesn't have any problems switching back and forth.
    I didn't change my first name, but when I was 18 I took my mother's last name. I paid the filing fees, ran the required announcement in a local paper, and then spent 30 seconds in front of a judge. The hardest part was getting the official paperwork and realizing they had spelled my new name incorrectly. That was a pain to fix.

    1 agrees
  36. Darnit, my comment from the other day disappeared! This may be too late but… I changed my first name from something common to Trystan back around 1992 in California. I used a guide by Nolo.com (DIY legal press, check out the website for handy advice on this & many topics), didn't get a court decree or pay any fees. Changed my name with Social Security first, then the DMV, & I used those new IDs to change my bank accounts & everything else. Eventually I had enough records that I could change my passport. That was HUGE & very important — if you ever want to fly internationally, your passport & your plane tickets must have the same name on them (thanks, 9/11).

    Another thing to consider is that if you use multiple names (one socially/professionally, one legally) or have had 2 first names as an adult, that can impact your credit reporting & applications for loans. Both names may show up on your credit report, & you'll want to keep track of the old & new name & beware of identity theft/fraud (so far, it hasn't happened to me, but the old name is still out there & shows up sometimes).

    1 agrees
  37. My fiance has been thinking of changing his first name. He is Filipino, and there seems to be a bit of a trend with baby names in the philippines where the parents' names are blended together to create the baby's name. Cute in concept, not so great when you hate your name and everyone pronounces it wrong because there's a random consonant just chucked in there. He has never met his father, who left when he was still a baby, and his mother was abusive, so having a name that is a blend of those two people just doesn't fit! We were thinking of changing the name to something that has the same nickname (which everyone knows him by anyway), so most people wouldn't even notice. The new name is much more meaningful to both of us, and would not connect him to toxic people in his past.
    I think now it's just a matter of getting used to the idea and then taking the plunge!
    ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Omg, so THAT'S why one of my mom's kindergarten students was named Princess Jenar!

      (That poor, poor child. The truly mystifying part of it was she had two older siblings and one younger sibling with perfectly normal American names. No idea what got into her parents – Jennifer (Filipino) and Arthur (German), btw.)

      Oh the stories I could tell, as the daughter of a teacher whose best friend was also a teacher – at an inner city school, no less.

  38. BOTH of my parents don't go buy their real first names. My mom hates her first name so she goes by her middle name (and it suits her a lot better in her defense) and my dad has a very French first name which I have always thought was cool, but he got a shortened version of it as a nick name from his sisters when he was younger and it just sort of stuck and now the people who have just known him as an adult think it's his real name. I guess it's kind of good in a security aspect too, because if people don't know their real first names it's a little harder to commit fraud on them by just using the (not legally binding) names they go by ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • My mother had a nickname her family only used with her. Since they all lived out of state, I didn't know until it was explained to me one day when my mother's sister called and asked if Dolly was home. I said no Dolly lived here, my mother starts screaming "wait wait"….and I'm like… I got it MOM!!! They want a Dolly, not you! Fortunately at this time she was close enough to just take the receiver. I was 6 or 7…it was an interesting talk afterwards I had with my mother Ann… aka…Dolly.

      1 agrees
  39. My sister has always gone by her middle name (my parents named her that way on purpose because they had a name picked out but wanted to stick with the same first letter as me and our cousins and their chosen name didn't fit the mold). She's always wished she could switch the two and she took the opportunity when she got married. There was definitely extra cost and extra paperwork involved, but she was organized and took care of everything quickly and I think she's very glad she did it.

  40. In my group of hippie/ freak/ burner/ pagan/ general weirdo friends, it is very common to have a name that is not your birth name. There is me, my husband, Arrow, Serenity, Taz, Kip, Ean, Thandor, Grace, Kylei, Jessica and Kara (both MTF trans)… I could go on. As far as I know, only Arrow has legally changed his name, though my husband and I both want to change ours soon. It doesn't seem like too much of a hassle here in GA, but there is some paperwork and some fees. All in all, its about having your name match who you are, I think. I changed my name because I was named after my father, who was abusive when I was a child. Now I hate being called Michelle, or even writing it, because it makes me feel queasy. I have changed to become Ashta, which comes from the ashtamangala, the 8 holy symbols of Buddhism. My name makes me feel whole and happy. And that is what matters. Good luck with your name, whether or not you legally change it!

  41. One form, a trip to the Probate court, and a $100 check later, you can change your name (at least in my state). I walked in with the paper, sat in front of a probate judge, he asked a few basic questions (why the name change, are you running from the law, etc.) and with a signature and seal it was done. Took that paper to all the needed places (DMV, Bank, etc) changed my name on all the necessary places, and it was done. It's not as overwhelming or scary as it seems.

  42. Hey there. I know this is late but I have two stories that may interest you.

    Story 1: My aunt never went through legal proceedings to change her name.. Fastforward to my 70 year old aunt getting flagged for an investigation by the IRS because of her inconsistent name usage. Even though she had done no tax evasion, the lack of a legal paper trail turned it into a 2 year ordeal.

    Story 2: I googled the name change legal documents for my home state. I printed them, filled them out, mailed them in, and got assigned a quick court date.$200 and less than 2 minutes in front of a judge and my name was changed. Prices vary by state but it was worth it. I got a new birth certificate from my state with my new name and never had to have an awkward conversation trying to explain my name ever since.

    So go change your name legally! It is easy and will save you trouble when you are a little old lady.

    • Yes to your first story. We still don't know what my late grandmother's name is/was. My Dad was trying to fill out her Medicare stuff and renew her passport so we could take a last trip to Canada with her, and nothing matched. Her passport, driver's license, marriage license, medical stuff was all different. And her birth certificate was destroyed in a church fire. We don't think the name that everyone called her was part of her legal name at all.

      Unfortunately, by the we figured this out, her memory was too far gone to ask her. We've decided she was a Russian spy and those were her aliases, and used to tease her about it on her good days ๐Ÿ™‚

      2 agree
    • Not too long ago I had to get state ID in a new state (moved for school), to get the new ID I had to take in my birth certificate, military documents, marriage and divorce documents, records of prior name changes, actual piles of paperwork to verify my identity. It was a huge PIA! I've been wondering what it would take to change my name back to my birth name just to save myself the hassle. It didn't occur to me to have my birth certificate changed. I know every state is different, do you know if the laws pertain to the state you were born in, or the state you live in, or both? I have a sneaking suspicion that the deep south state I'm in now won't permit it at all.

  43. My husband changed his middle and last name due to personal reasons before we got married. Like most people said, we had to go to the probate court, fill out forms, get a court date, run an ad in the newspaper for a month, then gave reasoning to the judge. It was a fairly simple process for the most part. The judge had no qualms and the time my husband spent speaking with the judge was less than 5 minutes. I'm not sure how the first name change thing goes. I recommend contacting the Social Security office and probate court in your area and asking them what the procedures are for first name changes, and see if it's possible to just change your first name when you get married, then just take it from there.

  44. I changed my first name in '99. I'm not an American by birth and my name was basically phonetically spelled out in the Latin alphabet when my family emigrated. It sounded horribly ethnic, like a wad of mucus. I changed the spelling myself in 8th grade first, and just started signing test papers and homework with the new version and no one even seemed to notice. When I went to get "naturalized" (love that term) as a citizen, I changed my last name completely and my first name to the new Americanized version. I didn't know at the time that you could do that, so when the agent asked me if I wanted to keep or change my name, I was completely unprepared and made the decision on the spot (fun conversation with my parents that night). 15 years later, zero regrets. I basically have a completely made up name and I love it. I got married since, and never even CONSIDERED changing my name to my husband's, because now I feel very strongly about having my unique self-made identity. Funny thing is, I'm a dual citizen, and the Motherland really don't give a shit what I wanted to do in America, so my other passport is in my old name and when I go back to visit, I still have to use my Old First, Old Last everywhere. It's kind of funny, but it doesn't bother me since it's only 1-2 weeks a year.

  45. I changed my whole name, in fact. First, middle, and last in one fell swoop. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, but I also needed to renew a lot of paperwork anyway, so it was good timing. First, I changed my first and middle names so the marriage license would have the right names on it, which meant a trip to town hall with a filled out form and a check for $15. Then, I waited a couple weeks for the letter and my newly ordered birth certificate copies (I got 5 just in case). From there, I got my marriage license and some official copies of that for my surname changes. Then I was off to the DMV, Social Security Office, and passport agency. At the time, I didn't have a bank account or a valid credit card (long story), so that was moot. All in all, it wasn't too bad. I think the biggest hassle was the passport, and that was just because the nearest centre that I could do the fast track processing at was 6 hours away from where I was staying at the time.

    I think if your name isn't right and it bothers you, then change it. What do you have to lose?

  46. I've thought very hard about changing my name. As some with a gender neutral name and a nickname for one the most popular names of my birth year (twofer!), I've received some outstanding comments in my life.
    One is in 10th grade, when it one of my classes we had a sub and we were required to raise our, she called my name and I said "here" and raised my hand. She said my name again, and thinking she hadn't heard me, I said a little more loudly "Here!" and waved my hand. She then said "You need to raise your hand!" at which point I half stood up and practically shouted "My hand is up, I'm over here!" She looked stunned and said "Oh! I was looking for a boy!" The whole class was aghast and even then class slacker/clown said "Dude, that's not cool!" Oh, and did I mention our attendance had our sexes marked next to our name?
    The other was actually not long after, I had just discovered I had hypothyroidism and was filling out paperwork for a specialist's office. I handed the clipboard, my insurance card, and state id to the secretary working the desk, but before I could even turn around, she said in this ridiculously snotty tone "Actually, we need your full, legal name, per the instructions." I handed the whole mess back to her again and pointing to my id said "Actually, that is my full legal, name, per my state id."

    But more than just that, I have never identified with my name. It just doesn't seem like me. And then you pair it with my fancy middle name and it can be weird and confusing (also been made fun of for that!) A couple years ago I was strongly motivated to do it. I even had a name picked out. It was one of the two name's my mom wanted to name me when I was born and it still fit with the theme of my name and my brother's both being Scottish as a nod to the main part of our heritage. And then I hit my first bump. While my dad and mom (who both went by their middle names) swore then wouldn't care if I changed my name, my dad picked my name and I am named after who of his aunts. And I adore my dad and I was having feelings of reservation. Then, when asked how I would be changing my name, I mentioned how I would be dropping the Jessie and just having my new first name and my birth middle name. To which my mom said "Oh, that will probably be hard for Daddy (yes, she still refers to him as "Daddy" around me, like I'm still 6. Yes, I know, it's creepy and weird as hell). Jessie was his favorite auntie and (other auntie) wasn't very nice!" To which I immediately found myself wondering "Then why was I named after her?" But OH! The Guilt! Even though he said he didn't care, the guilt, the guilt, the guilt. So, somewhat remorsefully, I started trying to get used to new first name + old first name + old middle name. Two elegant girl's names with a po'dunk gender neutral (leaning towards boy, even though it has an "i" and is a perfectly acceptable nickname for Jessica, but apparently not as an actual name) smacked in the middle. But who even asks middle names? It'd be fine! So, I start to do research and thinking about fees. And then, bump two. To my chagrin, I find out that all these years, my mom has been pronouncing the name wrong. It's not the lovely Ca-tree-own-uh I'd imagined it to be, but rather "Katrina". Mmm, no thanks! For a split second, I considered the other name my mom wanted to name me, Kanina. Until I remembered mentioning this to a friend when I was about 10 and her saying Kanina like Vagina?

    So wind taken fully out of my sails, I have trudged forward these last couple of years, still Jessie. I have no idea if I will ever change my name (the GUILT!) but at this point, I have no clue what I would change it to even if I wasn't paralyzed by the guilt. (the GUILT!)

    But to lighten the mood on this dreary post, anecdote: one of the reasons they didn't go through with naming me Catriona (and mispronouncing it for 28 years) was my mom was worried my nickname would be Cat and wouldn't have be awkward if I didn't like cats? Of course, I arose to the challenge and was born a fully formed crazy cat lady.

    • I was Kathrin until I was 7 or 8 when I asked for a proper nick name ( I was Kaffee to all the kids in the family). I declared to my mom that Kathrin was too big of a name for a little kid. My mom suggested Kitty, at that age my sarcastic seriousness was fully formed and I replied, "Do I seriously look like a Kitty to you? No." Now I kind of wish my name was Kitty or Kit or something like it, I hate Kathi/Qathi so very much, enough that I usually go by Q.

    • I was Kathrin until I was 7 or 8 when I asked for a proper nick name ( I was Kaffee to all the kids in the family). I declared to my mom that Kathrin was too big of a name for a little kid. My mom suggested Kitty, at that age my sarcastic seriousness was fully formed and I replied, "Do I seriously look like a Kitty to you? No." Now I kind of wish my name was Kitty or Kit or something like it, I hate Kathi/Qathi so very much, enough that I usually go by Q.

  47. I legally changed my first and middle name in Nevada recently, and here's what it was like for me:

    First off, find a REPUTABLE source for the paperwork. You don't need a lawyer, you can do it yourself, but you need to make sure that whatever source you're getting your paperwork from gives you the RIGHT paperwork. I found a website specializing in family law in Nevada that auto-generated my paperwork from the information I had submitted to them, and it saved us a bunch of time and money.

    You will have to file this paperwork with the court, and it's going to cost money. Depending on what state you're in, you may also have to file paperwork with a local newspaper to run an ad for you. The ad usually says something along the lines of "OLDNAME is changing to NEWNAME. If there's any legal reason they shouldn't be able to do this, contact COURTHOUSE." That will also cost money. It cost us almost $300 total. Be prepared.

    After everything is filed…you wait. Here, the ad has to run for three weeks, and then the newspaper sends you a certified affidavit with a copy of the ad saying that they ran it. Then you go file that with the courthouse…and wait some more. All in all, I think I waited about six weeks.

    Finally – finally! – I got a letter from a judge saying that my legal name change had been approved. I COULD HAVE gotten a letter summoning me to court to justify the name change. Thankfully, I didn't. So, with that letter in hand, it was another trip back to the courthouse to pick up certified copies of the court order. Those cost $3 each here, so it wasn't that big of a deal on top of what we'd already paid out.

    Now I'm in the process of getting my name changed everywhere else – on my Social Security, on my state ID, my medical insurance card, my credit card, the post office, and all of those other little places where your name gets used. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it to me to be able to live as my own authentic self with a name that holds real meaning for me. It's been such an identity-affirming process for me, and I'm so glad that I did it.

    Overall, the process can be expensive, and it takes a lot of patience, but if it's really something you feel in your heart that you need to do – DO IT!

    Edited to add: it's worth noting that there will be a period of time where it's just really inconvenient, because the name on your ID won't match the name on your credit card or insurance or whatever. It can help to keep a copy of the legal name change order on you so that when this comes up, you can show people the paper trail between your old name and your new name, so that they know it's all legal and it's a work in progress. YMMV!

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