Irony: Being Forced to Pay for the “Legal” Use of Your Name

Photo from Credit: Joshua Earle

Photo from Credit: Joshua Earle

A new irritant has breached my horizons. Well, not new, exactly, but it’s rearing its ugly head more and more recently.

It’s the battle to use my birth name rather than my married name. Please note that I’ve been divorced for more than nine (9) years now, and have been using “Wendy Garfinkle” or “Wendy C. Garfinkle” exclusively for about the past six (6) years. Following my divorce, I continued to use my hyphenated married name “Garfinkle-Brown” – yes, plain, unimaginative, over-used “Brown” – for my son’s sake, for school and whatnot. But he’s 14 now. And I never use “Brown” anymore…except for at my day-job…under protest.

Here’s the problem: when I divorced my ex-husband, I didn’t realize that a woman must decide then and there whether she will continue to use her married name or revert back to her maiden name (I know, with my love of thorough research, I should’ve known this). Otherwise, said woman faces the situation I’ve been staring at for the past half-dozen years – paying the court – not to mention attorney’s and filing fees – several hundred dollars to get a judge’s signature on a “legal” document giving the petitioner “permission” to drop her married name and use her maiden name henceforth.

I have a problem with this. There’s no better way to get my back up than to tell me I “can’t” or “have to” or am “not allowed” to do something. When I married, I simply hyphenated and added “Brown,” becoming “Wendy Garfinkle-Brown.” All I’m trying to do is drop “Brown,” much like dropping the remaining baggage (not my son, he’s not baggage, he’s a blessing…usually…) from my ill-fated marriage. But I have to have judicial permission to do so? The SSA and DHSMV have already reissued my SS card & Driver’s License (never changed my name on my Passport).

The current hold-out is my wonderful employer. Human Resources (and Legal) wants a “legal” document from the court – SS, DL and U.S. Passport aren’t enough for them (apparently, by not demanding the same document as my employer, the federal government has “overlooked” the requirements for reissuing these documents in my maiden name).

I switched financial institutions years ago because my previous bank wouldn’t comply with my request. But I kinda need my job. And yes, I’ve even considered remarrying for the sole purpose of getting rid of the “Brown.” But that brings its own can of worms…

So now I’m doing something I said I’d never do: giving into to the demand for that over-priced piece of paper. I consulted an attorney earlier this week on what’s required…IN ADDITION to the “petition”:

  • my fingerprints…because working for a government agency isn’t proof enough that I am who I say I am;
  • what year my bankruptcy was discharged (I guess this kinda makes sense);
  • every address where I’ve ever lived…EVER…cause I must have all that written down somewhere…

Lumberjack(s) CroppedJust in case you’re wondering what I consider to be “over-priced,” the filing fee and court costs come to $401. That’s four hundred one dollars. For a PIECE OF PAPER signed by a judge. And I doubt the paper is recycled, so apparently I’m also paying the lumberjack(s) who’ll be cutting down a tree to print out my Name Change petition…and probably paying for the pen with which the judge will sign said piece of paper…I wonder if the ink will be 24 carat gold…

Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about paying the attorney, because my legal plan that will cover her fees. (I knew that $7.00 I’ve paid 26 times a year for the past 10+ years would come in handy some day.)

What brought all this to a head was when earlier this week someone at work referred to me as “Brown.” Everyone in my office knows me as “Garfinkle” or “Garfinkle-Brown.” My email signature is “Garfinkle” and my email address is “GarfinkleBrown.” I got pissy (I don’t like to get pissy at work – it makes me appear unprofessional.)

So. I’ve had enough. I’ll buy the over-priced piece of “legal” paper. But I won’t go quietly…


Filed under Life, Sarcasm, Stuff, Writing

10 responses to “Irony: Being Forced to Pay for the “Legal” Use of Your Name

  1. When I divorced my first wife, she didn’t have to do much, because in the 3 years we were married, she never actually changed her name on anything. Unless being married suited her needs at the time.

    • Bob, I’m sorry your first marriage didn’t work out, and hopefully your ex didn’t enter your marriage expecting that it wouldn’t work, but as an ex-wife myself, I sympathize with her decision to NOT change her name – it sure saved her more headache by keeping her maiden name…

  2. Holy sh*t, I had no idea this was a thing! I mean, not surprised considering how much government likes to nickel and dime people for the sake of “officiality,” but geeze, this is crazy.

  3. The whole “legal” name thing is insane. When I got married, I changed my name on the marriage license, but never knew (yeah, not the smartest thing) that I needed to change it with the social security office. And then, a couple of years later, our taxes were an utter clusterf*ck. I’ll spare you the details, but will leave it here: the government makes it way too hard for women when they make a decision to change their last name either because of marriage or divorce.

    • Mary, Thanks for sharing your own experience. Yeah, it seems like the government likes to make money on every little thing. I’m sort of surprised they haven’t yet legalized, regulated & subsidized prostitution.

  4. Let’s hope that’s not the next thing they decide to do. And best of luck getting your name back.

  5. It actually depends on the state. When we were first considering marriage in OH, I would have had to file a legal petition, which a judge would have had to GRANT, to continue using my maiden name, under which I was both a professor and a published author. By the time we actually got married, 3 years later, the law was that I could go by any name I wanted, all legally: A married name, A maiden name, A maiden name- married name. So I did.

    They’re all listed as “aka” on my credit report, which I didn’t know till we moved to NM and I attempted to purchase a home. Some states are more progressive than others. Here, I was actually asked, by the bank, why I had so many “aliases,” which were all my maiden or married name. Meanwhile, back in OH, before laws were changed, many of my divorced friends had to file suits/pleas/motions/whatever to be able to take their own maiden names back after divorce since it was not automatic. (I believe it is now.)

    Horrifying legal system, which cannot even allow you to use your own name any way you want. I do hope you can manage to get it fixed to your satisfaction.

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