I changed my first and last name after having kids. The paperwork was complicated.

Elliott Harrell holding her new driver's license and smiling.
Elliott Harrell changed her name and got a new driver's license.

  • People knew me by a name that wasn't actually legally mine.

  • I wanted to have the same name as my children and husband but didn't want to do the paperwork.

  • I finally decided to, and it took nearly $500 and four months, but I'm glad I did it.

Most people know me as Elliott Harrell, but that wasn't my actual name until recently. I'd see the name Jane Walker on a piece of mail or hear it called out in a doctor's office, but it wasn't a name I identified with. I finally changed it earlier this year, and it's been surreal to finally see my legal name match my identity — and, more importantly, to have my last name match my children and husband.

I didn't think I needed to change my name until I had kids

Elliott was my middle name and I'd been using it as my preferred first name for nearly 20 years, which is longer than I'd used my given first name, Jane. I started using Harrell as my last name socially when I got married five years ago, but didn't make the change official.

Not changing my name had less to do with feeling like I'd built an incredible brand at work with my maiden name and more to do with dreading the mountain of paperwork that comes with changing a name. I'd heard it wasn't necessarily a difficult task, per se, but definitely a tedious and annoying one, and I wasn't convinced it was worth it to do.

It was very important to me to take my husband's name and, eventually, to have a shared family name when we had our children. Initially, I thought I'd use Elliott Harrell socially and my given legal name when mandated and that everything would be fine.

I figured I could put up with the annoyance of being called the "wrong" name at appointments and the vexing but humorous exercise of trying to figure out what combination of names I had used to order take out with (was it Jane Walker, Elliott Walker, or Elliott Harrell?) if it would mean escaping an overly bureaucratic process.

And it was fine for a while, even after our first daughter was born. I didn't love that we had different last names, but I also didn't feel a compelling push to do the work to change my name.

That changed with our second daughter's arrival. She surprised us six weeks early, and we didn't have a name picked out. In the NICU, the nurses and doctors referred to her as baby Walker, my maiden name. They also continuously referred to me as Jane, despite reminders of my preferred name.

The whole time, I kept thinking, "Who are they talking about?" I wanted to correct them and tell them that she and I were both Harrells and that I was Elliott, but our charts told a different story.

I realized that only using my preferred name socially would mean forever feeling disconnected from my family, and I decided it was time to formally change my last name. And at the same time, I decided to legally change my first name, too.

Elliott Harrell with her daughter smiling.
Elliott Harrell changed her name after having her second child.

Changing my name was a hassle, but I'm so glad I did it

Changing your legal first name is more complicated than just adding a married name. Each state is different, but where I live in North Carolina, it meant I needed to get a court order approving the change first before I could take steps like updating my social security card or driver's license.

It took almost two months to get the court order officially approving the change to Elliott Harrell after having to get two sets of fingerprints, having friends write character affidavits for me and posting a notice on the courthouse bulletin board about my intentions, among other things.

The paperwork doesn't stop after the court order. My name was legally changed over three months ago and since then I've been working on getting things like my license, passport, and even my Costco card changed over. There's still more work to do, and between getting the court order and getting new documents, I'm approaching $500 in fees.

Even though I'm still in the depths of paperwork hell, I'm so glad I decided to move forward with the process. For me, it turns out that it did matter to have my name officially match the rest of my family and I'm so happy that we'll always be linked together now. Hearing my own name called out in waiting rooms is just the icing on the cake.

Read the original article on Business Insider