Wednesday, August 12, 2009

(Guest Post) Adventures in Changing Your Name... and musings on Asians named Ashley



(This is the girl formerly known as Ashley Moeko Wallis. Does she look like an "Ashley" to you? Well, she doesn't feel like one either. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you a guest authored by one of my besties. Read her account of what it takes to change your name, complete with red tape, confusing Google Map directions, attempts to uncover her criminal past, courtroom drama and more. Who knew what the hell someone has to go through to change what you go by...)

"Most of my closest friends know that I despise the name Ashley. No offense to anyone named Ashley, but for me it's been the source of a lifetime of frustration. I'll start with a little background: I was born in Tokyo where my parents gave me the name Ashley Moeko Wallis, and decided to call me by my middle name while living in Japan. They knew we would eventually move to the U.S. and planned to call me Ashley once we moved. Well, I was 5 when we finally moved and that's when my parents realized that it didn't make sense to start calling me a different name, so they stuck with Moeko.

Anyone who goes by their middle name can relate to the inconveniences that go along with it.  My medical records are impossible to find (it's not under Moeko? Try Ashley...); when I started working for PwC, my coworkers couldn't find me in the company directory (Moeko didn't exist!); I receive double junk mail (one addressed to Ashley and one to Moeko); my passport didn't match my SkyMiles account (and so I had to stand in an hour-long line to check-in at the airport vs. using the speedy kiosk!)...you get the idea.

In college, people used to ask me why I didn't just get my name changed, and I kind of looked into it but decided that I didn't have any extra funds lying around to pay for it (at that point I wasn't sure how much it would cost me but was smart enough to know that it wasn't going to be free).  At that point, I decided that when I got married, I would just change my first name at the same time I changed my last name. Simple as that.

I was married in May 2009, and Katy forwarded me a handy document (authored by our mutual, recently-married friend Maria) outlining the steps of getting my name changed after marriage. It went something like this:

Step 1 - Get at least one copy of your certified marriage license. Done.

Step 2 - Get your SS card changed. To do this you will need to take your marriage license and your driver's license showing your old name (which is why you want to do this step first). Done. This was relatively easy, and I just explained that I was dropping my first name (Ashely) and wanted to take my middle name as my first (Moeko), my maiden name as my middle (Wallis), and then my husband's surname as my last (Wilson).  A few days later I received my SS card in the mail: Moeko Wallis Wilson. Yay!

Step 3 - Go to the DMV and get your new driver's license (you will need a certified copy of your marriage license for this as well).  I went to the DMV and took my marriage license and my new SS card.  I filled out the paperwork, showed the lady my official documents, smiled for a picture, and started to walk out the door when I realized that my license said "Ashley Wallis Wilson." WTF! I quickly cut everyone in line to find the lady I gave all my documents to, and said "You forgot to change my first name." She replied "What do you mean? You can't change your first name." And I said "Why not? I have my SS card showing that my name is 'Moeko Wallis Wilson'." And she responded "That don't matter. Social security will let you change your name to whatever you want." I didn't even know how to begin responding when she continued "If you want to change your first name you have to show us proof of a court-approved, official name change."

At this point I realized I wasn't going to get anywhere arguing with her, so I walked out with my new license. At this point my SS card said Moeko Wallis Wilson, my driver's license said Ashley Wallis Wilson, and all my credit cards still said Ashley Moeko Wallis. Talk about an identity crisis.

I decided to start the process of an official name change in Fulton County.  Fortunately while applying for my marriage license at the Fulton County Probate Court I picked up a packet outlining the steps of a name change (for $2.50, I might add.) The first step was to fill out a bunch of paperwork, including a petition to change name, and have it all filed at the Clerk's Office downtown.  In order to file the papers, I had to pay $82.50.  The next step was to take my petition to change name and have it published once a week for four weeks in the Fulton County Daily Report.  I believe this part is required in case someone is changing their name with the intent to defraud someone. This cost me an additional $80.

After the 4 weeks were up I had to get a final decree of name change signed by a Fulton county judge. For this part I was assigned a court date, where I was required to go to the Fulton County Superior Court.  The packet also said that once the judge signed my decree, that I could obtain a copy at the Clerk's Office.

I Googled each location and found the following addresses and directions/map:

Fulton County Superior Court:185 Central Ave, Atlanta, GA 30303

Fulton County Clerk's Office: 136 Pryor Street, Atlanta, GA 30303



It wasn't until after I made the walk from point A to point B that I realized that they were both located in the same freakin' building. 

Anyway, back to my court date.  There were about 20 others in the room with me, and I was told that the court set aside an hour every Tuesday for name changes.  The judge called us up one by one, asking a majority of us why we were changing our name.  One was changing his name to Muhammad, for religious reasons, I assume.  A few others were Asians wanting American first names.  Another was like me — wanting to make their middle name their first name! After the hour was over, I made my way to the Clerk's Office to obtain my certified copy of name change (for $2.50 a copy).  I was elated when I had it in my hand, thinking that this whole process was going to be over soon.  I started to walk out of the courthouse when I realized that my decree said, "Meoko Wallis Wilson."  WTF…again! I ran back to the assistant and said "you misspelled my first name," to which she replied, "no, I didn't." I was speechless once again. She continued, "I just copied whatever you wrote so you must have written it wrong when you filed the papers." I'm thinking, right lady, I misspelled my own name, which I have written a billion times…

She took the paper back and was able to correct it then and there, but can you imagine what would have happened if I hadn't seen the mistake until I got home!?

I plan to get my license in the upcoming week. All I have to do is take my certified copy of my name change to the DMV and then I can proceed to Maria's step 4, which is to get all of my bank accounts and credit cards updated."


Crazy, right? 

Amount of time participating in beauracratic procedure: 2-plus months

Dollars spent in petition filing and documentation: $167.50

Having your name be what you want: priceless


15 comments:

Cariad Photography said...

This sounds like a nightmare and I am so glad I decided to keep Steffi Smith when I married Steve, I don't think I could go through all that besides doing all the INS paper work.......... YUK!! You have my sympathy.......and congratulations on your NEW/OLD name hahahaha!

K_Streams_Her_C said...

Steffi, I'd almost forgotten about all that iNS paperwork drama you guys had to deal with. YUCK is right! :)

Mego said...

glad ashley no longer exists for mo's sake! ;)

Kb_Mal said...

She's one happy camper!

mew3333 said...

Moeko/Morko/Meoko,

your post cracked me up! What a hassle. It has been my experience that ANYTHING involving a government run organization is totally screwed up. I am actually surprised the lady fixed where she misspelled your name and didn't insist that it would be easier for you to just be Meoko for the rest of your life. (I have had similar issues with the City of Atlanta Permitting Dept when they made mistakes on forms or listed addresses incorrectly and then tried to tell me I should just go back and re-write 60 pages of documents to match their WRONG address on file. Stunningly logical.) Nevertheless, I am glad you have that behind you. Now Ashley is no more, but I still have one final question... whatever happened to Morko?

Kb_Mal said...

I'm going to start calling her Meoko (pronounced Mee-ooh-koh)

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