“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

The Design of changing your name

It seems that people have responded to my name change and want some more info about it. I thought I’d discuss service design and my name change. Might even be helpful to folks. As a summary, the following agencies or types of agencies are required for changing your name. Most of these are what a woman traditionally goes through if they take their spouses name. I had the added luxury of having to deal the county Kings County (Brooklyn) Civil Court. So here is the fun list:

  • Social Security Administration (If you live in Brooklyn please read below; it will save you a day.)
  • Passport Agency (Department of State)
  • Department of Motor Vehicle of New York
  • Department of Health of New York State (hint: if you were born in New York City they have their own Department of Health.)
  • Credit Cards
  • Banks
  • Frequent Flyer Programs
  • Berkeley Alumni Association (Go Bears!)
  • Professional Association Memberships
  • Sports Club
  • Rental Lease
  • Renters Insurance
  • No Car for me, but if you did
    • Registration
    • Car Insurance
    • Dare we say AAA
  • Cell phone
  • Utility bills (fortunately for me, most of those are in my wife’s name already, so there aren’t that many)
  • Library Card
  • Work Stuff
    • User ID
    • Email Address
    • Email Signature
    • Medical Insurance
    • Dental Insurance
    • 401k
    • Corporate Card
    • Extranet Account
    • Payroll Hosted Service
    • Expense Management System
    • Help Desk Ticket request
    • Paid Time Off Tracking system
    • RSS Token ID
    • Picture ID (Building Access)
    • Travel Agency Service Profile and Credit Card info (see below)
    • New Business Cards
  • Personal Electronica
    • Name on Web site
    • Reference on Email accounts (10 email accounts)
    • All e-mail signatures
    • Profiles (Flickr, Yahoo, Google, etc.)
    • eCommerce accounts – When you get your new credit cards you have to update every profile where you left that card, because the “Name as Printed on your Credit Card” will have to change.
    • Travel Site Profiles

Ok, that’s quite the list and after a bit, I’m sorta giving up on trying to find more items that will require my attention, though I’m sure I’ll come up with something. Continue on to read my little critique of the various types agencies I’ve had to deal with thus far.

It all starts in court

Wait! You are taking your wife’s name. Why did you have to go to court?
The simple answer here is that its been 3 years since I married my wife in the beautiful country of Grenada. So my options were, go to Grenada and get a new Marriage License or change my name as if I was becoming the next Bob Dylan.

The fun part
Yes, I could have changed my name to anything I wanted.

  • I could have gotten rid of my middle name
    I didn’t want to because I wanted to keep something my parents gave me.
  • I could have changed my first name from David to Dave
    While it is true I have really become “Dave” to many in my life, I find it in formal situations to feel inappropriate, so I really wanted to keep it.
  • Adding more names
    There are no limits to how many names you can add and when I thought about removing my middle name I also thought about adding new ones. Like the first names of the people I respect most: John (Lennon), Bono, Martin (Luther King Jr.), Karl (Marx). I did notice that I limited myself to men. :(

But alas I chose boredom. I really do hate my middle name and the urge to just remove it, was very strong. It was my wife who strongly suggested that I keep it.

What am I supposed to do anyway …

I really had no clue what to do. I sent out a request for help for people who have done this from a community list that I belong to called QuentinsFriends. Most people assumed that since this was a marriage related thing that you go through the county clerk (I didn’t give them ALL the details).

At least I had a starting point, did a Google search and had a phone number in seconds. They immediately figured out that I had to go to the Civil Court and gave me a number to call an address, etc. I did just that and was told that I had to go to the court to pick up the papers.

Now, I consider myself IN the process
While using the Web to find out what to do felt impossible, though I did find some sites about taking a spouses name, I didn’t find them confidently useful. I’m sure someone will say the same thing about this site.

Once I found out what to do though, I feel I should’ve been able to just “coast” a bit more. Things I expected considering it is a post-dot-com world:

  • Being able to find a web site easily for the Civil Courty – CHECK
  • That site having clear information of the process for going through a name change – XXX
  • The last one also included the ability to download all the possible forms with detailed instructions that I could possibly imagine, including a list of all documentation that I would have to include with said forms – XXX
  • How about a phone number and address with business hours? – CHECK

The IA of the Civil Court web site was circa 1998, maybe!! I won’t even go into the interaction and presentation design. Check for yourself. Please notice that the link here is an anchor on a long scrolling page. The original link is at the top of the page and pretty darn small. AND there is a more prominent word under “Supreme Court” with the word “CIVIL” in it with a link. Uh, that is so not helpful for you. At least the address
is “wrong” and I had the address already from the phone call with the County Clerk.

Ok, so I leave my comfort zone of going to the web route and I pick up my damn phone. I don’t have to wait long–no hold–and a person like the County Clerk person, who was very nice though in a curt manner explained that I had to come in to pick up papers and at that time they would give me more instructions. I was told the hours, and I was re-told the address.

Entering the court building

Maybe I’m old fashion, but a court building should, well, look like a court, no? The building here well, looks like … well you can see the roof here. It looks like an office building that Dilbert would sit in, if Scott Adams was cool enough to live in Brooklyn, instead of in the Tri-Valley Area. (I can joke, because that’s where I lived and worked before I moved back to NYC.)

Something that does tell you that this is a court is the level of security. I’m not sure if you can make it out, but in the satellite photo in the Google Maps link above, you can make out the cement barriers. But also on the inside when you enter, you have to do the obligatory post-9/11 scanner hustle. I do have to say that while they were very prepared for long lines, I never faced a single long line. It just isn’t the most welcoming presence in the world.

The office space and experience
Ok, so you can’t download the forms, and no one really ever tells you what the whole process is, and this is all done in one of the scarrier institutions–county court. Well any court is scary. I mean this place is just filled with lawyers!!!Well, you are told where to go, but there are no signs saying this room number is here or that one is there, so you make guesses and meander through the unlabeled halls with faith on your side. You see a big hall (BTW, none of these buildings allow cameras and some even confiscate them on entry, but seldom if ever a cellphone camera.) with no indication that there might be more rooms in there, but since it is the end of the line and the building was feeling smaller on the inside than it looked on the outside, you take a chance and enter and turn the corner and voila, you see your room number with title on it that you don’t recognize.

There are people waiting outside that door, but no signage telling anyone to pick a number like there is in the bigger hall that the room is adjacent to. Finally you are able to crain your neck enough (for those that never met me, I’m 5′ tall) to see that there is a sign-in sheet, so you push your way through the crowd and see that it says, “Name Change ONLY”. It also has a place for your name and a row of checkboxes related to what stage you are: Picking Up, Submitting, Appointment (and something else I can’t remember right now). And you say to yourself 2 things, “Wow! they do have a system;” and, “Oh my G-d! How many times am I going to have to come back here?”

I didn’t have to wait very long, and I was able to sneak reading my e-mail on my cellphone, which you are not allowed to use. (I learned that this is not b/c of the noise as people yack away all over the place, but cellphones have cameras.) A nice officer of the court gave me papers and explained what I need to fill out and to bring the papers and other materials back upon my return:

  • Paper work, which includes the request and a consent from my wife–both needing notary. (3 signatures; but in New York City Commerce One Bank does notary signatures for free for everyone.)
  • Certified Copy or original Birth Certificate (It has to be embossed with the state/city seal.)
  • Orginal & Copy of your driver’s license
  • Original & Copy of your marriage certificate (This is because I was taking her name, thus the permission above, too.
  • There could be other materials needed depending on your history, i.e. naturalized citizen, bankruptcy history, etc.
  • CASH – This costs money, mulla, dinero. $65 for the name change fee, and $6 per certified copy of the court order authorizing the change. I got 5 of them. (There is another big
    cost coming later in the game.)

So again, besides knowing that I have to come back with signed stuff and more paper, I really didn’t know what path I was walking down. There were no lights in this dark tunnel and really no reason for the darkness, because the process is pretty darn straight forward. Any windiness in this article is to make you feel like what I went through.

Getting a notary is easy enough. Even found luckily a time for my wife and I to do this together over lunch with relatively little time passing. She’s the one who knew about the Commerce bank thing. BTW, I found the bank closest to me using my Vindigo on my Treo. (I’m a geek and its part of the MY story.) G-d! I love Vindigo. I use it like once every 2 months or so, but I love it when it works, and hate it when its useless, which is way too often.

When I went to the court the first time, I went during lunch and was caught in a line (all be-it short). I don’t like lines, so I thought when I returned that I would arrive EARLY, real early and get ahead of the pack. Well, this was a mistake. The office is supposed to open at 9a. I got there at 8:15, which was 15min. earlier than I wanted to. Well, there is only one person who deals with name changes, and while the office in question opens at 9a (semi-sharp), he doesn’t come in till 9:30a. But my name was first on the list when he did come in.

After he came in the morning it was kind weird and frantic. The following things happened:

  • We reviewed my submitted materials
  • I signed a form that he filled out. This turned out to be the final court order that the judge would sign.
  • He made triplicate photo copies of all forms and materials.
  • He sent me to the Clerk’s office (6 flights down) to pay my fee. They stamp the doc with “Fee Paid”.
  • From there I went to the court, which is an intersting process in and of itself:
    • Tell the ballif you are there, and submit your paperwork.
    • Wait, standing up because there aren’t enough seats. Yet it seems there is a special gallery area in teh courtroom for the lawyers.
    • Race to get a seat, because I’m flat footed and in pain when I stand too long.
    • Miraculously, the clerk calls my name in under 20min. and says, “Here the judge signed your papers. You can go back upstairs now.” Ok, I was told he (in this case, he was a “he”) was going to ask me questions and wonder why I was changing my name. “Was I avoiding the mafia or something?”
  • I go back up stairs and get my next directions:
    • Submit a request for a legal notice announcement in a local newspaper (cost $50). Is this a racket, or what?
    • Send copy court order to other agencies.
    • Return with the following:
      • notarized afedavit from the publishing newspaper
      • Receipt from Certified mail sent to other agencies
      • Cash, again, but this time to get the copies of the court order mentioned above (copies with embossed stamp).

image I immediately went off to the prescribed newspaper and submitted my request for a legal notice. The receptionist at this small paper, knew exactly what to do and was fairly efficient. Of course the paper was in Dumbo which is not the easiest place to get to and walk around. But I survived.

This being printed, is the sign that I’m a new person.

When I come back to the court the last time a week later, I prayed this was so, but I didn’t really know. I had everything done mentioned above. I come back at 9a instead of 9:30; of course he was already there. I was done quickly.

But this part hurt a bit, because I was so unsure about what I was supposed to do next. They didn’t supply a checklist of things to do once done. I had to find it all out myself.

Well, this seemed like a lot, so I’m going to stop here with this chapter, and tell you all more in the next segment. So stayed tune to hear about the side of government bureaucracy that most of us seldom see and how surprisingly in some cases it is more together than the private sector.

Well, if any of your are doing design for the gov’t sector I suggest you try to go through this or a similar process with eyes wide open, because mine are definitely more open than ever.

More coming to you soon. …

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