How to Change Your Name 

There are lots of reasons you might want to change your name. Maybe you're running from the law. Or it could be because your hippie parents slapped you with the name Catnip Moonbeam. Or maybe you've gotten hitched and you've decided to take your new partner's last name. (Or conversely, you want to lose it after a divorce.) The steps to making it legal are surprisingly simple; in fact, the hardest part is deciding whether to make the change or not.

Changing your name is an intensely personal and even emotional decision. The post-marriage name change dates back to a time when women were considered little more than a piece of property to be transferred from one man to another. Although I struggled with the idea of losing such a major part of my identity after getting married last fall, my ultimate decision was based on one thing and one thing only: My name — Erica Jackson with no middle name — was utterly generic (no offense, mom and dad).

A quick Facebook search of the name reveals, well, more Erica Jacksons than I care to count. And I'm just going to recommend you skip a Google image search of my name — at least not while you're at work. There was also the time a tabloid mistook me for Chris Brown's latest squeeze and gave me a call; it was really fun to find out that my former classmates believed I was dating the guy who beat up Rihanna.

So I decided to become a Curran. Here's how I did it.

1. Head to the courthouse to get a certified copy of your marriage license for $5. You'll need cash or a money order to do it in person, or you can do it by mail if you get a money order made out to Probate Court. You can download the form in advance at charlestoncounty.org to speed along the process.

2. Take your freshly stamped document and head to the DMV. Tell the person you're changing your name, they'll hand you a form to fill out, and you'll wait your turn to get your new license with your new name. You'll also be taking a new picture, so make sure you look presentable. This will cost you $10.

3. Change your name with the Social Security Administration, and you don't even have to go into the office to do this. Pop a copy of your marriage license in the mail, fill out the application from ssa.gov, and mail them to your local Social Security office. Within a few weeks, you'll have a fresh new card with your new name. This won't cost you a thing.

4. Now you just need to let everyone else in the world know your new name, from your bank to billing agents to your boss to your poor, poor parents. So long, Catnip Moonbeam.


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