Road to a Name Change: Part 2

[This post is the second in a multi-part series about the process of changing my name. Read Part 1 here.]

When I decided to commit to publicly changing my name, I knew the right decision for me would be to legally change it as well. Not everyone who changes their name (for any reason) makes the same choice—some don’t find it its important for their own lives, some would prefer not to upend their identity paperwork for the rest of time immemorial, some are disallowed from doing so because they are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated, some find it too risky to share the information with the United States government, and (the big one) a TON of folks would like to but can’t afford it.

Fees and processes for name changes vary widely by jurisdiction, typically down to the county level—for instance, if I lived in Tucson, I would’ve had a slightly easier time of it than I did in Maricopa County. Even before you can schedule a hearing, just filing a petition for a name change here costs $333. It’s also impossible to e-file; you have to physically visit the Superior Court location nearest you (assuming that location handles name changes; not all do), wait to see a clerk, sign the forms you’re submitting in their presence, and pay the fee. (They also don’t take personal checks!)

So on top of the hefty filing fee, you also have to be able to travel to the courthouse and potentially take time off work just to file. Depending on your household, you might also need to arrange childcare or other services for while you’re out. I’m incredibly fortunate that, due to the long-term benefits of generational wealth and the fact that my partner and I were making more money than we ever had last fall, I could commit to the filing fee—but it was still something we had to sit down and talk about, because it was a financial stretch. (And, as you might have guessed, this was far from the last expense related to the process.)

But that all happened once I figured out what the hell I was even doing, because the procedure for a legal name change NOT due to marriage is COMPLETELY different than the one folks go through when entering the legal bonds of matrimony. The two processes don’t share forms or step-by-step instructions, so if you’re reading this and going, “Oh, I’ve been married. I know what it’s like,” I can confirm: this is not that process. (Everywhere you can find information for non-marriage name changes, the first thing you see is some iteration of “THIS IS NOT FOR MARRIAGES, YOU DON’T NEED TO GO THROUGH ALL OF THIS, PLEASE CLICK HERE.”)

An excerpt of the submission materials for a name change in Maricopa County, Arizona, as I filled it out in 2021. It reads as follows: "REQUESTS TO THE COURT: 1. I ASK THAT MY NAME BE CHANGED TO: First: Eris. Middle: [redacted.] Last: DeJarnett. 2. I ask that the birth records be ordered changed to reflect the new name requested above. STATEMENTS TO THE COURT (REQUIRED BY ARIZONA LAW (A.R.S. 12-601(C))): Under Penalty of Perjury, I state the following as true: (Check the boxes that indicate a true statement.) (For "4", explain.) 1. I submit this application solely for the benefit and in the best interests of the person for whom the name change is requested. 2. I understand and acknowledge that this change of name, if granted, will not release me from any obligations incurred or harm any rights of property or action in any previous name." More text continues below but is mostly obscured. All boxes visible have been checked.
y’all can find out my middle name situation some other time.

So before I could even contemplate a filing fee, III spent an afternoon rooting around on the Maricopa County Superior Court website, where II found some (but not all) of the paperwork, got stuck looking for procedural information, and thanks to the invaluable help of a real person on the other end of the Live Chat interface was finally redirected to a webpage with everything I’d need—including a step-by-step checklist outlining the process. (Thank you, wonderful assistant! It worked!)

At this point, I realized that wow, it’s a really good thing I haven’t married anyone at any point previously, because any current or former (legal) spouses must be contacted and consent to your name change. There’s procedures for what to do if you can’t get ahold of them, but if you do get ahold of them and they don’t agree with your decision, they get to come testify against you and can potentially keep you from ever legally changing your name.

I also had a couple questions for the clerk when the time came to submit my petition, because there’s a form that you’re supposed to fill out and submit to anyone else with a vested interest in your name change so they could consent as well. In Arizona, a state becoming more anti-trans with every passing moment, would that interest extend to my employer? What would happen if it did and they didn’t consent?

I arrived at my local courthouse on a Thursday afternoon during my break between classes, anxious but ready to get the process going. My Snapchat group chat of CBSS folks was ready and waiting to support as needed, and I was armed with copies upon copies of everything the county had requested. I made it past the metal detectors, took a number, and waited my turn to speak to a clerk. It was only five minutes or so, but in the wake of all the decisions I’d made so far, it felt like an eternity.

A stack of papers sits on top of a manila envelope. Some information from the first lines has been redacted, but a great deal of text can be seen, starting with two checkboxes to denote "Petitioner OR Respondent." Further text reads as follows: SUPERIOR COURT OF ARIZONA IN MARICOPA COUNTY. Case Number: CV [blank space]. APPLICATION FOR CHANGE OF NAME FOR AN ADULT (A.R.S. 12-601)." Further mostly obscured text appears near the bottom, some of which asks for information from a birth certificate. Atop this page sits a small scrap of receipt paper which reads: "Welcome to the Clerk of the Superior Court, Maricopa County: C364, 01:11 PM." Also included is information about the language service will be provided in (English).

Thankfully, the clerk met me with answers and reassurance as she processed my application. No, I wouldn’t need my employer’s approval, and since I’ve never been married and have no children, I wouldn’t need to notify anyone else, either. I did have to re-sign all my documents in front of the clerk—that particular instruction wasn’t on the sheet, but it makes sense in hindsight for “please confirm your identity” purposes.

So, $333 lighter and half an hour later, I left the courthouse with a receipt, a case number, and instructions on when and how I could schedule my hearing. Oh, yeah: because of COVID, the hearing was going to be online, so the remaining process would be slightly different than the in-person instructions on the website had specified. But there I was, setting up for my first-ever appearance in court and finally realizing that this ridiculous plan just might work out.

That is, once I got a hearing.

Name change expenses in this section:

  • Filing fee: $333
  • Gas to/from courthouse: approx. $3

Total this section: $336

Running totals:

  • Part 1: $0
  • Part 2: $336

Total so far: $336

This is Part 2 of an ongoing series in which I document the process I underwent to legally (and publicly) change my name. I’ll take you through a different part of the process every week, until we get as close to the end as we realistically can. (Truly, I think it never really ends.) Check back in next week for the next installment!

Thanks for reading! If you learned something from this post and would like to tip me, head on over to my Ko-fi page. For more analysis and commentary like this in your life, come back every Saturday at 8pm MST. To support the long-term work I do as an artist and advocate, you can find me on Patreon and @honestlyeris on Instagram.