As Real ID deadline inches closer, complications from married names still can be an obstacle

  • This sample shows a sample of the REAL ID license, with a star in the upper right-hand corner. REAL ID will be reuqired for flying as of Oct. 1. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 2/22/2020 10:30:56 PM

Even as officials ramp up preparations for the day when Real IDs are required to board any airplane, some married women are still facing problems because they took their husband’s name years ago.

“This is my sad but true story with my DMV Real ID fiasco,” is how Darcy Chase Hoisington puts it. “You wouldn’t think that an almost-70-year-old woman who wants to fly to visit her grandchildren would pose such a threat to the security of New Hampshire.”

Hoisington, who got married 48 years ago, contacted the Monitor after seeing previous stories about women facing obstacles because they took their husband’s last name and spent years using it on multiple documents, such as regular driver’s licenses, but never got it legally changed.

The issue is of growing importance because as of Oct. 1, Real ID or a passport will be required to board an airplane in the U.S.

Obtaining Real ID requires more documentation than when obtaining a regular driver’s license or similar ID, and officials are concerned that this is proving enough of an obstacle that many people are avoiding the task and will be unable to travel next winter.

New Hampshire has launched a new service number – 603-4-REALID or 603-473-2543 – for people to call to learn about what documents are required and how to get the document. Even so, there are concerns; the head of the industry group for the nation’s commercial airports, for example, is urging Congress to delay the deadline.

The problem for people who changed their name after marriage is that some Division of Motor Vehicle officials have balked at issuing Real ID without a name-change ruling from probate court, which can cost hundreds of dollars.

This isn’t an issue for people who have gotten married in recent years because of changes were made to state law in 2015 as part of the legalization of same-sex marriage. Marriage certificates now provide legal evidence of name change.

But the issue has cropped up many times for women who were married before then. It is common enough, in fact, that the federal government has issued advisories to many states saying that if documents show a “logical connection” between names – for example, if the last name on a birth certificate is the middle name on an adult woman’s driver’s license – then it should be accepted without the requirement of a court-approved name change.

Hoisington’s experience shows that this advisory isn’t always enough, although her situation is particularly complicated because she was born in England, where her Air Force father was stationed.

On her first visit to the Concord DMV office, she says, she was told her 1971 Vermont marriage certificate was not a valid change of name document, and her Social Security card wasn’t enough because it only listed her middle initial, not middle name. She went to Social Security and got a new card with her full name, “without any problem.”

Returning to DMV, she says she was told this new card was not a legal name-change document and couldn’t be accepted. As instructed, she went to probate court and officially changed her name at a cost of $600.

“It is the same name that I have used since I married on all my credit cards, my mortgage, my utility bills and bank accounts while living in various states over the last 48 years. In effect, I ‘changed’ my name from the name I have used since marriage to the same name I am using now,” she wrote in an email to the Monitor.

But on a third DMV trip she was told that still wasn’t enough because officials balked at her English birth certificate, telling her, she said, “it doesn’t look real.” Hoisington has since petitioned the U.S. State Department for a replacement “Child Born Abroad of American Parents” form.

Hoisington said she feels the fact that she had to go back multiple times indicates that many staff have had the issue “dumped in their lap” without enough training.

“They kept putting the onus back, saying, ‘This is a federal program we don’t have anything to do with it.’ … They need appropriate training given across the board for every contingent. What happens if a person comes in with a foreign birth certificate, if a person comes in with naturalization papers, what is a replacement form if their form is so old we don’t accept it, what should they do.

“I’m willing to jump through hoops, willing to fill our paperwork, but having to go back time after time is unacceptable,” she said.

Hoisington added that the problem is particularly irritating because it only falls on women who bowed to social pressure.

“My husband doesn’t have to present a marriage certificate to get a Real ID, why should I?” she said. “It’s telling all those women out there … who changed their last names, this is being held against you.

“If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have kept my name.”

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)



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