Real ID Act prompts name change clinic

District court sees big increase in filings for name change

Joshua Kellogg
  • The bill signed by Gov. Susana Martinez put the state in compliance with the federal Real ID Act.
  • Former district judge William Birdsall will help run Tuesday's clinic.
  • Birdsall will provide information to help people possibly avoid costs and issues associated with changing their name.

FARMINGTON — The 11th District Court is presenting a name-change seminar Tuesday to assist residents seeking a Real ID-compliant driver's license or identification card.

The district court has seen an increase in court filings for name changes filed this year, according to 11th district court manager Marilyn Coulson.

A bill signed by Gov. Susana Martinez last year put the state in compliance with the federal Real ID Act of 2005.

"The court has experienced a dramatic increase in filling name-change petitions," Coulson said.

The bill signed in March 2016 and implemented in November allows compliant New Mexico driver's licenses to be used to board commercial air flights and access federal facilities.

Seventy-two name-change petitions were filed in the first four months of this year, an increase from the 29 petitions filed for the same period in 2016, according to Coulson.

"We're seeing this huge increase, and the majority of it is due to the Real ID Act," Coulson said.

She enlisted the help of former district judge William Birdsall to run the clinic. Birdsall will provide information to help people possibly avoid costs and issues required with changing their name. Those costs could include approximately $170 in court fees and additional expenses for publishing a legal notice for three weeks in a publication, including a newspaper.

Birdsall said the increase in name-change court filings is due to people trying to establish a link between the name on their birth certificate and the name by which they are currently known.

The birth certificate is one of several documents that can be used to establish proof of identity and age, according to the New Mexico Vehicle Department website.

Issues could arise if a person's name changed after getting married or divorced, or if they had a slightly different name on their Social Security card, according to Birdsall.

"(It's) a situation where people are resorting to name changes to try and create the patch they need to establish this chain of evidence about who they are," Birdsall said.

He'll discuss the proper procedure and what people should avoid when obtaining a name change.

Birdsall said it could be as easy as visiting a New Mexico Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics office and amending your birth certificate.

Navajo- and Spanish-speaking staff members will be available at the clinic.

Following the name change clinic, the district court will host the San Juan County Pro se Clinic from 5 to 6 p.m. Residents will be able to receive a free legal consultation on any legal issue, including name-change petitions, from local attorneys, according to Coulson.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

If you go

What: Name-change seminar

When: 4:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesday

Where: 11th District Courthouse building, 851 Andrea Drive in Farmington

More Info: Call 505-334-6151