XENIA — A piece of legislation drafted by Greene County’s probate judge and handed over to local legislators would simplify the name change process for Ohioans.
Judge Tom O’Diam and the court’s Chief Deputy Clerk Amy Shumway proposed changes to the Ohio Revised Code that, if approved by the Ohio legislature, would make changing or correcting a name easier, faster, and less expensive.
O’Diam said it’s not uncommon for him to have six or seven adult name change cases in a day — a sharp increase in what he was doing 18 months ago. The uptick, he said, is a result of the new requirements now in place for obtaining a federally compliant driver’s license or state identification card through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).
“When they go to the BMV to get a federally compliant driver’s license, the BMV finds out there’s differences in their name on different important documents,” O’Diam said. “Their birth certificate might not match their Social Security card, or their Social Security card might not match their marriage license. Then they have to come to probate court to do a name change.”
Due to COVID-19, the deadline for obtaining compliant identification has been extended to Oct. 1, 2021 — so those cases are far from over. But the increase has already exposed the impediments of a complex procedure.
Currently, the process requires the person to have been a resident of the county in which they are applying for at least one year. O’Diam said this is a problem especially in Greene County, home to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and many military families.
“They’re kind of left hanging,” he said.
The statute also requires probate court to hold a hearing and the person must have notice of that hearing published in a county newspaper.
“The process is really, really cumbersome,” he said. “People have been rightfully extremely frustrated by how long it takes, how expensive it is, just to [be able to] get a driver’s license.”
If passed, the new law would shorten the time of county residency to 30 days, make the hearing requirement discretionary, eliminate the publication notice mandate, and grant probate courts more discretion to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
What now costs “several hundred dollars” and takes 60 days to complete, O’Diam said, would cost half of that and could be approved within a day.
A final change would provide a name conformity procedure, giving the court the power to correct specific errors — “a misspelling, inconsistency, or other error” — across a person’s chain of identity so that all of his or her official identity documents show the same legal name.
O’Diam and Shumway sat down with Reps. Rick Perales and Bill Dean and Sen. Bob Hackett last week to tweak the language in the proposal. They hope to have it approved by the legislature by the end of the year.
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