Uncle Sam Says “You’re not really here!”

Last year I changed my legal name. Fireheart and Summerwind were going to change theirs too, but that’s another story. Now before you groan in horror, I should point out that I only changed my last name. I refuse to expect the bank teller to call me “Wintersong” and it probably wouldn’t be the best thing for my business either.

The actual process of changing my name was relatively simple. I contact the village where I was born, sent a check a copy of my driver’s license, and I request for a copy of my birth certificate. I then took my birth certificate to the probate court office, filled out a form, paid a modest fee, and after a brief meeting with the judge it was done. It takes longer to get an appetizer at the Olive Garden. The probate office keeps the birth certificate and gave me an official document showing the legal change of name. When I filled out this form I was asked if Vermont should ask New York (my state of birth) to change my birth certificate. The judge told me the process was a pain in the ass and for sentimental reasons I wanted my birth certificate to have my birth name on it. For any official business a copy of my birth certificate and the name change form would be fine.

Now however, there is a bit of a problem. At some point in the move from NH to VT the second copy of my birth certificate that I had ordered at the same time as the one the probate court kept, went missing. This would not concern me except for the fact that New Hampshire will not issue a driver’s license without either a birth certificate or passport.

I contacted the village where I was born and sent them a copy of my license and the judge’s order changing my name along with a check and request for a new copy of my birth certificate. They refused. A few hours and a number of aggravating phone calls later and here are the facts:

1. The state of New York now requires that the person requesting a birth certificate either have the same name as is on said certificate OR present a marriage license showing a change of name. A judge order showing change of name is no longer accepted.

2. According the person I spoke to in Albany, I am not the person whose name is on the birth certificate. He was in fact quite nasty about it, going so far as to yell at me that I had to get it through my head that I am not that person and as far as New York is concerned that person no longer exists and therefore cannot request his birth certificate.

3. It will take 6-9 months to get my birth records changed. However New York requires certain steps are taken in the changing of a name that Vermont does not. Specifically I can’t provide proof of publication as Vermont does not perform publication as part of the process anymore. I was told that without proof of publication there is an excellent chance that after 6-9 months New York State will deny my request for change of birth records.

4. The probate court in Vermont might be willing to give me back the birth certificate that they took when my name was changed. Unfortunately, that copy had my mother and father’s names and social security numbers on it. Since for some reason that information can not be in the records, the secretary removed the information with an exacto knife. New Hampshire will not recognize the document as it has been altered.

5. New Hampshire will not grant me any sort of temporary license until this is sorted out and if I don’t get my driver’s license transferred over soon they are going to order my auto insurance policy terminated.

6. NONE of this would be happening if I had a marriage license. The state has totally different standards and procedures for someone who changed their name as a consequence of a legal marriage. I assume that this stems from the fact that most people wouldn’t want their birth records to reflect a last name they got from their spouse.

Fortunately, it turns out that my mother has the very first copy of my birth certificate and she is willing to lend it to me for 24hours to get this immediate shit settled. The state of New Hampshire will accept the old birth certificate along with the judge’s order for getting my license. But obviously this just postpones the situation. For instance I would really like to get a passport. And it is just a good idea to be able to access one’s birth records.

None of this makes me feel safer. I was told by several different officials that a few years ago this would not have been a problem. My driver’s license and social security card (both of which reflect the name change) along with an original certified copy of the judge’s order would have been perfectly adequate to get a copy of my birth certificate with the old name on it. However, Homeland Security regulations have changed the way they do business.

This actually makes me feel less safe. I have inadvertently discovered a way to help someone “disappear.” As far as New York is concerned, to a significant legal extent I don’t exist. The state does not acknowledge any connection between me and the person who had my name until just over a year ago. I can think of some ways that could be useful to someone who wanted to vanish into legal obscurity, currently the last of my needs.

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