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SHERIDAN — Last week I found myself wishing a couple strange wishes: 1) I wish I had an electric bill to pay, and 2) if only I’d signed a lease agreement in the last 30 days.
It’s not that I had a sudden desire to give my money away; I was scrambling to find proof of residency at the place I’d occupied since getting married 30 days prior so I could change my name on my driver’s license.
Problem is, my husband and I have utilities included in our rent, he had signed the lease agreement for our apartment months earlier while I had moved in 30 days ago and was not included on the agreement, and I’d received one solitary piece of official mail at my new home.
According to the checklist of what I should drag with me to get my new driver’s license (don’t forget the kitchen sink!), I was not a bonafide resident because I couldn’t cough up two of four proofs of residency (utility bill, rental agreement, voter registration card and vehicle registration) with my current residential address.
In my desperation to prove my Wyoming-ness, it felt more like I didn’t exist.
Alas, I had changed my name on my voter registration card and the nice lady at the DMV (they do exist!) allowed me to use the piece of mail I’d received from my bank even though it wasn’t technically what was required.
Whew! I was still a Wyoming girl, and I could now start the process of happily taking my husband’s name — if I went to the Social Security office first and returned to the DMV 24 hours later.
Doh! Of course Social Security would be first.
Somewhere in the middle of my hustle to get to Social Security before it closed and enduring a rapid-fire interrogation to again prove I was who I said I was, I had a thought: I bet there are other June brides, and maybe some May and July brides, too, who have yet to stumble through this crazy process of becoming a new name. Maybe I can share what I’ve learned along the way.
If you’ve recently been married or are tying the knot in months to come, clip this article for a little feet-on-the-ground advice on how to officially become Mrs. Married Name.
Go a little Jr. High
Remember in seventh grade when you had a crush on Bradley Joshua Green and you practiced writing his name, and your name with his name, all curly and girly in your math notebook about 7,000 times? It’s time to call on that junior high you and practice your new signature because you’re going to use it — a lot.
This will also be a good time to put a little patience into practice. According to Danielle Tate, founder and CEO of the name change website MissNowMrs.com, it can take approximately 13 hours of waiting and filling in forms to get all your name change ducks in a row. That time may be a little less in a smaller city, but it’s wise to go in with realistic expectations of plenty of waiting and time filling out forms.
By the way, there are websites out there that offer name change kits or programs for a fee. If you don’t want to go through the hassle or if you’re strapped for time, it may be worth looking them up.
Gather up and go
If you decide to wade through the name change process yourself, it’s a good idea to gather up what you need first. Here’s a rundown on what I needed and a recommended order in which to tackle the various agencies where you will need to change your name.
Copies of your certified marriage license
Go back to the county clerk where you applied for your marriage license before getting married. Your official marriage license should be on file (typically the pastor or officiant files the license that has been signed by your witnesses with the county clerk in the week after your wedding). Stop by and ask for a couple certified copies. In Sheridan County, they cost $5 each.
Proof of residency
While many websites say to head straight to Social Security, I’d recommend making sure you can produce two proofs of current residency first. This may be able to be done before the wedding or shortly thereafter.
• If you will be moving after the wedding, make sure to get utility bills sent to you in your name. They can be in your maiden name but need to be at your current residential (not P.O. box) address.
• If you and your husband rent, make sure your name is on the lease agreement.
• I’d recommend changing your name and residential address on your voter registration card right after picking up copies of your marriage certificate. Both can be done in the Sheridan County Courthouse. Not registered to vote? Now’s a great time!
• While you’re running around the courthouse, stop into the county treasurer’s office (on the first floor next to the county clerk) and change your name, and address if needed, on your vehicle registration.
The amount of required identification forms will differ for each agency, but it’s not a bad idea to gather them all up and have them ready whenever you have a lunch hour to check off another name change. Just try not to get mugged with all that valuable information in one place.
Here’s what you will need:
• A valid U.S. passport or state-certified birth certificate. FYI, the birth certificate with your cute inked footprints may not be official. Make sure it has a raised, embossed or multi-colored seal along with the signature of the registrar and the date it was filed.
• Proof of social security number such as W-2 form, IRS tax form or Social Security Card. Getting your new social security card will be one of your first stops, and you’ll need your new card with your new name to get a driver’s license.
• Wyoming driver’s license or identification card. Citizens born outside the U.S. will need a U.S. Department of State certificate of birth abroad or certificate of naturalization or citizenship.
• Certified copies of your marriage license.
Social security card
Now that you have your ID and residency ducks in a row, you can begin checking off the biggies — Social Security, driver’s license, passport, bank accounts.
Start with Social Security. You will need your new Social Security card to get a new driver’s license, which you’ll need to change your name on your bank account, and on down the line like dominoes.
In Sheridan County, you can visit the Social Security office in person at 909 Long Drive Suite A, during the hours of 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. the other four days of the business week. It is also possible to change your name by mail.
In the office, be prepared to see a security guard. Also be prepared to answer identifying questions such as your mother’s maiden name, your birth place, your favorite cereal, etc. I’m joking on that last one.
You will need: evidence of your name change (certified copy of your marriage license) and evidence of your age, identity and citizenship. This can be your birth certificate and driver’s license (the one in your old name), or your passport will satisfy all three.
You will also need to complete social security form SS-5, the basic application for a social security card, which can be done in the office or found online and mailed in.
Your social security number will not change.
Head down to the Wyoming Department of Transportation driver’s license services office (the DMV), located at 1949 Sugarland Drive, Suite 168. Hours are 8 a.m.to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The office is closed on Wednesdays.
Bring a valid U.S. passport or state-certified birth certificate. The passport can be in your old name. Also bring your old driver’s license, two proofs of residency and your certified marriage license.
In order to get a new driver’s license, you will also need your new Social Security card — or at least the letter stating you have changed your name if you don’t want to wait for your new card to arrive in the mail. You must wait 24 hours between changing your name at Social Security and changing your name at the DMV.
Be prepared to wait. Also be prepared to do an eyesight test and get your picture taken.
Just FYI, when putting in your electronic signature that will appear on your license, you can clear it if you don’t like it and try again. I realized that too late.
This one is the pricey one. Unless you’ve gotten a passport within the last year, you will have to pay the full $110 fee to get a renewal passport with your new name.
Head to the clerk of district court on the third floor of the county courthouse and pick up Form DS-82. This form can also be found online at travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/renew.html. Fill it out then gather up everything else you will need:
• Most recent U.S. passport book and/or card.
• Copy of your certified marriage license. This is why you will want to purchase at least two because there is no guarantee you will get this one back once it’s mailed off.
• A check or money order made payable to U.S. Department of State. Your full name and date of birth must be typed or printed on the check. The fee is $110 for the book and $30 for the card. If this is your first passport, the fees are the same, but you must also pay an execution fee of $25, use a different form and apply in person, not in the mail.
• A passport photo. You can get these at Walgreens and Photo Imaging Center in Sheridan.
Once you have all you need, mail it to National Passport Processing Center P.O. Box 90155 Philadelphia, PA 19190-0155.
My husband and I debated for weeks on whose bank to use to combine our accounts. Consider asking each bank, or a completely new bank, about investment services for setting up retirement accounts, minimum fees for savings and checking accounts, credit card options and processes and rates for home loans, as it may be possible a home purchase is in your future.
You will need your driver’s license with your new name. For us, since I’d received my new license less than 60 days ago, I also had to produce a certified copy of our marriage license.
The whole process took about 30 minutes and involved verifying my husband’s information and account number and then adding me to the account, as well as setting up online banking.
If you will be closing out your old account, here are a few things to consider:
• Time your name change with your employer so that you can deposit your last check in your maiden name at your old account and give it time to clear before closing it out and transferring to your new bank.
• If you have payments for credit card, phone, charities, etc., automatically withdrawn from your bank account, make sure to time the closing of your account so as to not interrupt payments. You will need to get in touch with all places that do automatic withdrawals to change your account information with them.
• Make sure to request new debit and credit cards in your new name, too, and be aware there may be fees associated with this.
I am currently somewhere in the middle of all the other miscellaneous name changes that need to be made. They seem to keep popping up, and I’ve been told to not be surprised when I find some random card or online account that still has me under my old name a year from now. Work through these as you have time:
• Employer/payroll, which may have been taken care of when changing your bank account
• Credit cards
• Loans (house, car, student, personal, etc.)
• Post office
• Utility companies/city utilities
• Insurance (auto, health, life, rental, etc.)
• Investments (401k, IRA, etc.)
• Doctors and dentists
• Phone, cable and Internet services
• Email and voicemail accounts — personal and work. If your email address includes your maiden name and you want a new one, you will have to start a new email account and have your old email account messages forwarded.
• Online and social media accounts
• School and alumni associations
• Library card
• Frequent flier mileage programs