Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Nathan's Name Change Fiasco

When Nathan was born, things were a little hectic in the hospital. Because of his cleft palate, we had many doctors and nurses visiting and giving advice. And of course there was the usual push for all the paperwork, which we did throughout our stay.

We decided to use my grandpa's name as Nathan's middle name. He passed away a few years before Nathan's birth, and we thought it was a great way to honor him. Blake, my other son, has my other grandfather's first name as his middle name. So we liked that we could honor both grandparents through our kids.

When it came time to sign the social security form with the official name, we mistakenly wrote my maiden name as his last name on the form (what my grandfather's full name is). Even though both Joel and I reviewed the form, we did not notice that the wrong last name was printed, probably because we know my grandpa's name well. So it got sent off to social security, and we went home with our newborn. I spent the first few weeks learning to pump for him, and to feed him with the special bottles. Things were still hectic.

Then we got his social security card in the mail. I opened it, and didn't even think anything was wrong. My husband looked at it and didn't notice, either. Probably a few days went by before I did a double take--"Oh my gosh! That's not his last name! It's my maiden name! My grandpa's last name!" I told Joel, and we both laughed about it, and didn't think much of it. We had no idea how much Nathan's social security card would affect things down the road...

First problem: filing our taxes the following year. The IRS would not accept them, and we could not figure out why. We called, and were told it was because the name of one of the family members did not match the social. So we had to put the name shown on his card to have our taxes accepted. Not a big deal, we thought. We'll just remember this for next year, and change his name when we could. How hard could it be?

Life continued to be busy with all of Nathan's doctor appointments and feeding around the clock. Then came time for his surgery, and many follow-up appointments. Another year came and went, and it was time for taxes again. We forgot about the name issue. It was another reminder that we needed to get that changed! So in the summer of that year I went on the social security website and printed out some forms. I sent in the paperwork and waited. It came back denied. I called them. They said we had to go through the court system to have his name legally changed. I was astounded. I told them it was a simple mistake made in the hospital. They said it didn't matter. Still, it wasn't a pressing issue for us...yet.

Early the following year, 2015. Nathan is now two years old. We had to change insurance plans for the kids. This new insurance required a birth certificate. I still hadn't gotten him one (yes, I am lazy and usually wait to get one until I NEED one.) So I went down to the vital records office. They had to print his birth certificate with the name on his social security card. And because I needed one for him to get insurance, I had no choice but to pay for a birth certificate with the wrong name. I vowed, then and there, to get this name change taken care of. The courthouse was in the same area as the vital records office. So I went through their lovely metal detectors and talked to a clerk. They gave me a big packet of information on how to get a name change. They told me the court fees were $450 per person, per petitioner. Joel and I were on the original form. This meant $900 for a little mistake in the hospital. Mistakes can be costly!

The big stacks of paperwork sat in a file for a few more months, until fall of last year. I had some time to figure it out, and went back to that courthouse ready to tell my story. I had the paperwork filled out. I explained that it was a simple mistake, and we just needed the last name changed. They agreed to waive our court fees. HUGE relief! They scheduled the court date for January 21, 2016. Our next step was to have a local paper publish the official name change in the paper for 4 consecutive weeks, just in case anyone objected to the new name and wanted to appear in court. Really? I told them NO ONE would care. But of course, I had to follow protocol.

After I left the courthouse, I called the newspaper and asked how much it would cost to have this printed for four weeks. $110, they told me. Well, it's better than paying the $900, I thought. I bit the bullet and paid the fee. We got a letter in the mail from the newspaper after it was published.

January 21st came. Joel had to take a day off work to come with me. The appointed time was 1:30. We sat in the waiting area with other adults and lawyers. The court clerk came out and asked who was there for a name change. We were the only ones. He said we were first. Hallelujah.

We walked into the courtroom. Another clerk asked if we wanted a court reporter for this case (the person who types on the little keyboard). If we did, we'd have to wait another 20 minutes for this person to arrive. We told them no, we don't need a court reporter. We stood as the judge walked into the room. We had to raise our right hands and swear to tell the truth. She asked us to come to the front, and give her the statement from the newspaper. Once she looked over that, she simply said, "Okay, we are here to change the name of your son from Nathan ___ ____ to Nathan ____ _____." She spelled his new name in full. We said yes. And that was it. We were dismissed. It took literally 30 seconds to get his name changed. She said we could come the next day to the clerk to get the official form with her signature.

This morning, I went in to get that form. I asked the clerk what my next steps were. She said she had no information for me. Wow, so helpful at these places. She gave me the paper and I began to leave. As I walked toward my car, thinking about how happy I was that I would never have to set foot in that place again, I felt inspired to go to the nearby vital records office to ask what to do. The clerk there said that my next step was to change his name with the state. She gave me some forms and a giant packet. Once the name was changed with the state, I would be issued a new birth certificate (that I would have to pay for, again), which I could then send to social security, and this whole mess would be behind me. I felt relieved, knowing I was closer now.

I got home and reviewed the packet from the vital records office. It said the name change form from the court needed to be "certified." I looked at the form that was printed for me. It certainly didn't look certified. I called the courthouse and asked if it was. They said no, it's not certified, and that there was a $25 fee to have this done. Really? So not only did they give me a useless piece of paper, but they also didn't even care to ask if I needed it certified for getting the name changed through the state. There is absolutely no communication between the court system and the vital records office at all. I asked if they could certify the record in their office, and have it sent to me in the mail, since I was just there this morning. No, it had to be done in person.

Guess where I'm going again tomorrow? My new hangout, the courthouse. This should be the last step in getting Nathan's name corrected, once and for all! I'm sure my grandpa is laughing in heaven over all of this! Would you look at that little face, though? I guess all this trouble is worth it!

My advice to anyone who has read this: make sure you fill out forms in the hospital correctly!

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