Name change process

Name change process in Mississippi.

Background

I found little information regarding the name change process in Mississippi. Most links were to websites to file the name change for you, or for buying forms, but not much in the way of the process, filing and notification requirements, and so on.

Think of everything that follows as “Hanna’s understanding is…”. I am not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice. These are my experiences that I hope will help the next person. I have no affiliation with any of the web sites mentioned below, other than being a customer.

Forms and requirements

A citizen residing in Mississippi for more than six months has the legal right to change their name, so long as it is not done for a fraudulent purpose, such as evading creditors or crimes. The peititioner can have no outstanding judgements and (I think) cannot be a convicted felon. From my searching, the new name must be pronounceable (i.e., not a symbol a là Prince) and not profane.

There is no standard, state-required form. You could go to http://www.deltacomputersystems.com and look for other name change cases - many Mississippi counties, including Lafayette, where I live, file everything electronically. I took the convenience of using forms from http://www.uslegalforms.com/changeofname/, which came with filing instructions.

Most of the name change cases I saw included a copy of the petitioner’s birth certificate. Since the only birth certificate I had on-hand was a birth certificate card, went to https://www.vitalchek.com/birth-certificates and ordered a paper copy. It arrived in three days (paid for overnight shipping).

Double- and triple-check the spelling in the petition to avoid complications or denial of your petition. The court requires name change petitions to be notarized before filing. The instructions I used said have three copies of the petition and judgement filled in. Because my county files everything electronically, I only used one copy of the petition and judgement order.

Also recommended is filling out the Social Security card application from http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/315/~/change-a-name-on-a-social-security-card, which is also used for changing the name in the Social Security system. The PDF can be filled in electronically and printed. I did this the day before court.

Filing

Take your notarized petition and paper birth certificate to the probate or chancery clerk’s office. If they file everything electronially, they will redact the Social Security number on the petition before scanning. The clerk will assign a case number, such as CV2013-025, which is the year and a sequential number. There will also be an (R) or (A) next to the case number, indicating whether the resident or attorney filed the petition. The filing fee in Lafayette County is $82.50, which includes filing fees and court costs.

After assigning the case number, the chancery clerk will give you the appointed judge, and the judge’s assistant’s number to schedule the hearing. Where I live, the chancery court only hears ex parte matters once a month, usually on the fourth Friday.

As far as I can determine, there are no publication requirements, before or after the name change. The instructions from U.S. Legal Forms, chancery judge, or clerk, did not indicate or order any publication.

Court day

I was scheduled to appear in court at 9:30am, when session begins. Reviewing the Delta Computer Systems site, I saw a muncipal bond issue, some probate and conservatorship cases, and a couple of name changes including mine. There was a young woman next to me, and a large group of people behind us.

The bond issue was heard first, raising some two million dollars for building upkeep and maintenance. As no one appeared in court to object, the bond passed and was signed by the judge.

Next was a conservatorship dispute, where accountancy of the conservatorship’s assets was not made. A restraining order preventing withdrawl of CDs (certificates of deposit) was put before the court. Lawyers on each side argued for several minutes. Eventually, the judge ordered a bond placed on the conservatorship and an accountancy completed in the next thirty days.

The group of people in the gallery left the courtroom, leaving only the young woman and myself. The judge asked if there was any other business before he called a recess. The woman approached the bench with her name change petition. Apparently she was living on her own or was estranged from her parents. As the age of majority in Mississippi is twenty-one, and she was eighteen years old, the judge denied her name change. He advised she could file to be emancipated (declared independent) from her parents, or wait until she was of majority age.

I approached the judge next with my petition and judgement order. The judge read it and the order, and signed the order without asking me any questions. Friends who went through name changes related experiences of the judge reiterating some of the items in the petition, especially about not changing the name for fraudulent purposes. Nothing of the sort in my case. He just signed the order, handed it back to me, reminded me to have the order filed with the clerk, and wished me a good day. It was done!

I left the courtroom and went downstairs to the clerk’s office to have the judgement filed. As with the petition, the judgement is filed electronically, so I only needed the original copy signed by the judge. The clerk made a second certified copy of me to give to other agencies. I don’t know how much copies usually cost, she gave me the copy free of charge.

First steps

For me, the most important things to have changed first are Social Security, my bank, my employer, driving license, and passport. My research indicated the DMV (department of motor vehicles) uses information from the Social Security agency. I was unsure about the bank, so start there first. I had to go there first, anyway.

The bank (1)

I talked with a bank manager about changing the name on my account. She indicated that the court order was not enough, that they look at Social Security information. In addition, I should wait until I have updated Social Security and the bank account before changing it at work. All this is due to the Patriot Act, you see. All privacy-driven and proper. That’s fine. I just need to get into my safe deposit box to retrieve my Social Security card and passport.

So I go to the desk to sign in for my box. The lady at the desk has worked with me before and has let me in my box before. But I wasn’t presenting female then and not wearing makeup. I sign in and hand her my driving license. She pauses, asks me to wait a moment, and goes to talk to a manger. After several (five? ten?) minutes, she comes back and says she can’t let me into my box. I don’t resemble enough my likeness on the license. Did I have any other government-issued ID with an up-to-date likeness? No; the only other ID was my passport in the box.

I wasn’t being allowed into my box to get my Social Security card, so I could update it with a new name, get a new license, and then come back to the bank and update my account. She said I should be able to go to the DMV with my court order and birth certificate (which I had with me) and get a reissued license. I was upset then, defeated at the first gate. I decided to go to the DMV to see if they would reissue my license.

DMV

I calmed down by the time I arrived at the DMV. Went inside and was seen immediately. I showed the clerk my court order and expressed my desire to have my license reissued. She said they couldn’t change the name with just a court order, but that Social Security had to be updated, that is how they determine which name to use. Of course, I was just denied entry to my box to get my Social Security card so I can update my records and get a new license….

I asked if they could reissue it with the same information but a new picture? Sure, they could do that, eight dollars please. Five minutes later I had an ID with my new likeness, back to the bank…

The bank (2)

OK, I can finally get into my box. Time is growing short, because I need to be at a Social Security office by 3pm.

I go back to the box desk, here’s my ID, can I please get in my box? My ID and my likeness match, I’m using my old name to sign in, but… she takes my info and ID and goes to talk to a manager again. Maybe five minutes later she is back and starts looking up something in the computer.

She hands me a sheet of paper with my secret questions, would I please answer them? Of course, easy as pie. Oh and if I would sign my name five times (presumably to ensure my signature is the same as that on the sign-in form). See how secure we are? We are protecting you! Finally, she retrieved the bank’s box key and led me into the vault. I retrieved my Social Security card and passport, and left. I had to get to Memphis (well, not really, but you’ll see why below).

Social Security office (1)

Fueled up and headed to Memphis. Several of my friends raved about the friendlyness of the Social Security office in Germantown. I needed a break today. It’s difficult to believe the easiest part of the name change was getting the judge’s signature!

Drove up to the Social Security office in Germantown. It’s eeriely silent. Walked to the door. The office closed permanently in December 2012, please visit one of our other locations. This is like a comedy of errors. Comedy from the outside only. It’s 2pm and I have an hour to make it downtown in rush hour. I feel like I’m in an episode of 24.

Social Security office (2)

Fortunately, I already knew where the office was in midtown Memphis. The most straightforward way was to hop on Poplar and head west. No real problems until I got to the Poplar-Perkins intersection. We sat through two light cycles, and the traffic barely moved. Turns out there was a wreck in the inside lane (my lane). I went in the turning lane and turned onto Perkins south, and cut over on Spottwood. Go around Oak Court Mall and pick up Poplar again. Make it to midtown and finally at the office.

I check in and get my printed ticket. It’s 2:50pm and there’s a waiting room full of people. But, things are moving pretty quickly. 3pm goes by and the guard locks the outside door. Those of us that signed in would be processed. Hurray! My number is called and I give the clerk my judgement order, application (filled in and printed out earlier), and old Social Security card. While I wasn’t required to have the old card, it makes the process quicker if I did have it. The clerk took the card and gave me a printout showing the application was entered. I should receive the new card in a few days.

Afterword

It’s been a day and a half and it’s still hard to believe I’ve done it! Just running around on Friday didn’t give me time to think about this achievement. All I can think of is, wow.

I hope the Social Security electronic records are updated in the next couple of days, so I can get my real updated driving license in the next week. I hope I don’t need the physical card to get a new license.