As of one hour ago, I officially have a new name. Well, more accurately, I officially have my old name back. I left my ex-husband over seven years ago, but until about two years ago, I didn’t want to go back to my maiden name. My acquired surname was too cool. I liked it for its linguistic complexity and meaning, and I liked it for its difficulty of pronunciation and spelling. But then one day I decided I was over it. Nothing happened, I simply changed my mind. Then I spent a few years thinking about what name I could adopt instead, but that responsibility proved to be too much. Too many options. You can literally change your name to anything you want. Did you know that? Analysis paralysis set in. Eventually, I gave up and decided to take the boring route of going back to my maiden name. And so after waiting months for fingerprints and background checks and court dates, I’ve gone back to who I once was.
But was I ever really someone else? I’ve lived a lot of lives and had a lot of shifting interests in the last 39.5 years, but the fundamentals of my personality are steadfast. Parts of who we are belong to nurture while others are all nature. My meticulous, detail-oriented, rule-following (*when the rules make sense) personality has always existed across different names and countries and relationships. It’s why I’m an excellent technical writer. And the government sure could have used a proper technical writer, or at least a good editor, for the docs I had to fill out to change my name.
A woman can change her name at the time of marriage and at the time of divorce with very little bureaucratic to-do. But if you decide to shed your ex’s surname at any later point, get ready for a lot of paperwork, time, and money. And for anyone who’s ever had to deal with city hall, you know that you have to have your ducks in a row or you’ll be running in circles. But without a strong technical editor or writer on staff, having your ducks in a row is easier said than done because the instructions aren’t always clear or accurate. For example:
- The Colorado Bureau of Investigation doesn’t tell you which background check you need to pay for. There are two options but the instructions only say this:
Mail or hand-deliver your completed CBI fingerprint card to the CBI at 690 Kipling, Denver, Colorado 80215 along with a money order. Do not fold the fingerprint card. If you hand-deliver the fingerprint card, you can also pay by cash. The following link will give you information about obtaining a CBI background check as well as the fees changed: CBI – Criminal History Record Information Fees. You can also contact CBI at 303-239-4208.
At the time I applied, there was also an application to fill out but it seems to have been removed from the website after I called for more information. The application wasn’t necessary according to the instructions, but the website made it seem like it was.
- You have to publish your name change in the newspaper. The instructions say:
Public Notice (JDF 427).
Complete all sections of this form.
This is the form that you will submit to the local newspaper to publish notice of the requested name change.
So I filled out all sections of the form, but it turned out that the whole middle section of the form is for the judge to fill out. Fortunately, the man who accepted my paperwork was nice and printed off a new form for me to fill out at the window while he waited. Not every government worker will do that for you. If you catch someone having a bad day, you might have to go back home, print off a new copy, come back, go through security again, and take a number and wait inline once more to be called.
- I couldn’t find any information on whether I was going through a county court or a district court, which is something you have to indicate on all the court forms.
- I couldn’t find any information about who I was supposed to make the check out to for the filing fee.
I’ve written previously about why what I do matters, and while providing instructions for government paperwork isn’t exactly the same as technical writing for software, it’s in the same job family. It’s about making sure users can correctly get done what they aim to do. Even though there were several failure points in this process, I’m lucky that I live in Boulder where most government workers are helpful and and people-oriented. This process went much more smoothly than when I was going through the divorce in Denver courts. But clearly there is room for improvement and a need for professionals like me.
And while I may not be one of a kind in my skill set or my name (anymore), I still think I’m unique. And I won’t be going through a name change again!