DRACONIS VON TRAPP | Intern
When two people enter into a legal Texas marriage, the paperwork gives them the option to change their last name. But in Texas, even the most devoted same-sex couples don’t get this luxury.
In order to do the traditional surname change, same-sex couples have to file a separate petition.
As a young transgentleman starting school soon, I didn’t want any more school experiences where roll was called and I had to answer to “Alora Clemmons.” Of course, they would use my nickname if I asked them to. But I would still be in their databases — and their minds — as “Alora.”
This was simply not going to happen. So I set out on the journey of legally changing my name.
The process of legally changing your name is tedious and difficult. I had next to no help on this journey, and making your way through the Dallas legal system is the equivalent of trying to swim through molasses.
To start, you have to actually have the paperwork. I Google’d my fingers off trying to find specific step-by-step directions, But since the procedure is different for every state, there were very few specifics available on legally changing your name, as an adult, in Dallas.
I considered hiring a lawyer. The one I contacted — who had legal name changes specifically listed on his website as something he was amazing at — said he’d be perfectly willing to give me a hand. If that I paid him $1,500.
Like that was happening.
Many legal websites had the paperwork available for download, all ranging in cost from $50 to $80 per form. While I seriously considered this option, I kept thinking to myself, “There’s gotta be a better way.”
Luckily, my gender therapist, Feleshia Porter, had a link on her website to the papers I’d need, for the low cost of about $10. That seemed perfectly reasonable and I eagerly downloaded the papers and printed them out.
You get two documents: The petition and the order for a name change. The order pretty much asks the same stuff as the petition, but with slightly different wording to make sure all the information in your petition is true.
The petition has to be notarized. They’ll do it at the court building for $8, but it’s usually free at your bank. Make sure you get copies made of both the petition and the order.
The Dallas County District Court is located downtown at 600 Commerce Street, and parking is almost impossible. It may be easier if you just have someone drop you off and pick you up, or else you risk having to pay for parking, having to parking 10 blocks away, or getting towed for accidentally parking on the wrong half of the street.
Assuming you’ve got all the papers filled out and notarized, the clerk will ask you to pay a filing fee, which is about $240. They don’t take credit or debit cards, so make sure you have cold, hard cash or your checkbook handy.
Once that’s done, they’ll give you a copy of the petition with your case number and a stamp that says “303rd District Court.” The clerk will tell you where to go, which is just up a few floors to the courtroom.
Find the door that has “303” written on it and go sit inside. If the judge isn’t already dealing with another case, you just wait patiently for the judge to call you up.
This part is relatively painless. Assuming you’re not changing your name to Tom Cruise or Superman, the judge will give you the OK, and you get a packet including the step-by-step process of legal name changes and a fingerprint card for a criminal background check.
You can take this card to any police station and they’ll fingerprint you for about $10. The return address will already be on the fingerprint card so you can send it back to the 303rd District Court.
After you wash the ink off your fingers, you’re going to have to mail off a payment to the DPS to process your fingerprints. This costs about $40 and payment must be either a cashier’s check or a money order. Include this in an envelope with your fingerprint card and mail it off to the address listed in the name change paper.
The turnaround time for a name change is between one and three months, but usually it doesn’t take longer than one month. However, you have to call the court and ask about the progress of your background check because they won’t call you.
When it’s gone through, they’ll give you a hearing date. Bring in the copies of your order and address the judge as “Your honor.” Once you get the OK from there, you’ll be sent to another judge to get the ball rolling on changing your driver’s license and all that business.
It’s complicated and painful, but legally changing your name can be done. It’s most definitely worth it, though, if sharing the surname of your partner is special to you.
Just be sure to have a good copy machine and a checkbook.