This past year I decided to shorten my last name from Cynthia Mahon-Southern to Cynthia Southern to celebrate my tenth wedding anniversary on 07/22/10. I have been married to my wonderful husband, Vern Southern, for ten years and decided to keep only his last name.

I decided to hyphenate my name when we got married in 2000 to honor my late husband, Robert Mahon who passed away in 1999. It sounded like such a good idea. After all, I did not fall out of love with him just because he died.

What I did not realize at the time was that when I called a store about an order, made an appointment or made a reservation at a restaurant I would have to explain to someone about my name and most times I would have to spell it out. It seems many people have a problem wrapping their brains around the idea of a hyphenated name.

It was time for a big change! This meant so much to me and I was willing to put up with whatever and to pay however much to make it possible. I also was tired of every clerk in every office and bureaucracy who couldn't figure out how to spell my hyphenated name or find my file, prescription, order, etc.

My husband told me that changing one's last name would be a relatively simple process that could be done in a short period of time. Little did I know that he had not researched this process and really had no idea what it took to change a person's name. He knew someone twenty tears ago, in Los Angeles, who changed their name and was told by them that it was easy and had cost only $50.00.

Because our wedding anniversary was July 22, I started the process in May figuring it would be finished in time to use my new name for our tenth anniversary wedding renewal services to be held at a 100 year old church in Silverton Colorado.

There are many steps involved. The first involves researching this online as I had no idea how to go about it, WOW! Was I surprised when I found out!

I had to have the FBI and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation run background checks on me to satisfy the requirements of the Denver County Court who handles name changes. To do a background check one needs to be fingerprinted. I had to obtain two fingerprint cards and get fingerprinted at the Denver Police Department on 05/26/10.

I could not request both background checks at the same time so after being fingerprinted I requested my background check from the FBI and received it on 07/23/10. I then had to request my Colorado background check which took another two weeks. It was now August 12, 2010. Our wedding anniversary had come and gone.

It was now time to fill out my name change documents and go to Denver County Court on 08/19/10. I also found out that name change hearings are done only between the hours of noon to 4:00 PM so I had to take time off work just to fill the papers. I turned my documents in, paid the court fee and saw a judge who approved my name change petition. By the way, I have no criminal history or I couldn't have changed my name.

The judge let me know that there was one more step involved before I was given my final name change decree. I had to publish my name change in a local newspaper two weeks in a row. I chose The Colorado Statesman, the cheapest one ($29.00) on the list of newspapers I was given. The Denver Post was the most expensive (Over $100.00).

I had to pay for the newspaper ad then wait for my name change to be published in the 08/27/10 and 09/10/10 Colorado Statesman issues. After my name was printed in the 09/10/10 edition of The Colorado Statesman I received the document from them to take to court so I could pick up two copies of my final name change decree upon giving this document to the court.

I returned on 09/14/10 to pick up two copies of my final name change decree. It was legal and I was almost done. There was one more step involved. I had to take the name change document to the social security office which I did on 09/20/10 and wait for two hours to see a clerk. He approved my application and I received my SSI card 3 days later.

I then had to change the name on my lease, with my employer, with the electric and cable companies and so on. Fortunately my driver's license was already under the correct name so no worry there. Within a few weeks everything was changed and the process was complete. Total time for the whole process: 05/26/10 thru 09/30/10 (four months).

Total costs:

  • $1.00 for four fingerprint cards even though two were needed...just in case.
  • $15.00 for fingerprinting on two cards.
  • $7.00 to park near the Denver Police Department
  • $18.00 for a FBI background check
  • $16.50 for a Colorado Bureau of Investigation background check
  • $160.00 for court fees to change my name
  • $29.00 to publish my names in the newspaper plus one copy of the paper.
  • $2.00 to park twice near the Denver County Courthouse
  • Other money spent on parking for this process that I can't remember now. Not to mention finding parking spots. I did find one in front of the court house once!
  • Lots of time spent waiting in the social security office and waiting for the whole process to be complete. Of course I had to take time off work for this also.
  • 3 days taken off of work total to get fingerprinted, go to court, go to the newspaper and wait in the social security office.

Total costs: $248.50 and lots of time (PRICELESS: BECAUSE I LOVE MY HUSBAND)

Postscript: I just filed my taxes and learned that the Social Security Administration hadn't forwarded my name change info for my social security number to the IRS so I had to file my tax returns under my old hyphenated name! I still have to notify the SSA that this hasn't been transferred over.

So really it isn't over yet, I just thought it was. I hope I don't have to write a Name Change Process Part 2. Phew-wee, I don't think I could take it…