Tag Archives: Names

Family Names: Legal Stuff

Nothing much changed here. Laws in the UK and the US don’t seem to have changed much the last few years. If know anything about the laws in other countries, please share in the comments! Revised Jan 29, 2017.

Disclaimer part 1: I am not a lawyer, or more than a moderately competent researcher, please do not consider any info here as legal advice.

Disclaimer part 2: I am surprised and gratified by the international following this blog has picked up. There are readers from several different countries in Europe, England, Australia, Canada and possibly more. That said, I’m an (insert preferred pejorative) American.  I will occasionally (as with the UK below) stretch my research skills to dig up legal info for other countries. In general, legal stuff will be strictly US law.

So, that said, let’s get to the good stuff.

As discussed in the first post on family names,  some polyam family groups want to share a family name. For some families, having a name that they use day-to-day will be enough. Others will want to go the legal route and make their polyam family name official.

UK Name Change Laws

When it comes to name changes, folks across the pond have it sweet  – though not as sweet as it was ten years ago. In order to change your name in the UK, legally and officially, you fill out a ‘Deed  Poll’, sign it before an ‘independent witness’ (which from examples given means someone not related to you) and . . . that seems to be pretty much it. You can have the deed poll written up by a solicitor or by a company that specializes in them. Be careful– some companies’ deed poll documents aren’t universally accepted. Have to admit I’m not clear on that bit.

Anyway, once you have your deed poll, you provide a copy to your bank, the UK equivalent of the DMV, and any other official document organization you need to in order to get all your documents showing your new name. According to UK Deed Poll Service,  you should only need to pay for an updated passport. You’d need to pay UK Deed Poll Service 33 pounds for the first deed poll, and a reduced fee for others ordered at the same time.

There are places on the  internet that claim that a deed poll isn’t necessary and you can just start using a new name. From what I’ve been able to find, that was true up until 9/11, but new laws since then have made the deed poll mandatory.

American Name Changes

Ok, so welcome to confusion and insanity.

  • Federal law and legal precedent give two very contradictory pieces of information regarding changing your name:
  • Any person can change their name at any time, just by starting to use the new name. There’s some caveat’s and quibbles, but that’s the gist.

State’s have the right to determine who is allowed to change their name, and what the process will be.

Welcome to the joys of federation.

As near as I can parse this contradiction, you can simply start using a new name for anything that doesn’t require proof of ID. No one can stop you using whatever name you want. However, the standard proof of ID is issued by the states. So if you want to update your state issued ID (and thus open a bank account, get a job or do anything else that requires ID) under your new name, you need to jump through the state-ordained hoops.

While  these hoops do vary, the general tendency includes filing a petition for name change (and paying a filing fee), going before a judge to  explain why you want the name change (and paying court fees), going  through whatever additional steps are necessary (PA requires you to  publish the change in at least 2 newspapers), finally get the official  court documents saying your name is changed, then going ahead and updating all those legal documents (and paying the necessary fees for  those). If UKDPS is to be believed, our friends across the pond can get everything taken care of in around 3 weeks. Given the fact that court hearings are often scheduled months ahead of time, I think I can stand by my early statement – folks across the pond have it sweet. (And that doesn’t even count the monetary cost).

So how bad is it really?

I  feel like I’m being a bit of a downer here, probably at least partly because in my experience things involving the courts are a royal pain in the ass. That said, from everything I can find, name changes in the US,  while involved and expensive, are usually pretty straight forward. People who have been through it say it’s not much more hassle than getting your driver’s license or registering a child for school.

Name Change Law is a website that has both a list of the steps required in all 50  states (and D.C.) for changing your name and will (for a fee) supply an appropriate name change document that you can fill out for yourself.  For an additional fee, they’ll fill it out for you. All hail capitalism.

Or,  of course, you can start using a new name tomorrow, as long as you don’t mind you’re old name being on all your legal documents.

 

Family Name – Decisions, Decisions

This post really reflects my original bias towards highly entwined group relationships. The original was also heavily heteronormative. I think I’ve managed to remove all the heteronormativity, but the focus on entwined group relationships is kind of built into the topic. Also the usual grammar and readability fixes. Revised Jan 17, 2017.

As seems to be frequently the case, writing the last post – about picking names for a new baby – reminded me of other stuff. For instance, the discussions I have been in, and had with others, about everyone in a polyamorous family wanting to share the same last name.

It’s kind of ironic. Women are increasingly enforcing their equality and independence by keeping their maiden names, making families with two last names common. At the same time, some polyam families sometimes put great importance on sharing the same last name.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that some polyam families want very much to have the same last name. A shared last name is still the most recognized indication of family relationship. And having our relationships recognized and acknowledged is a pretty big deal for a lot of polyam folk.

Next week, I’ll tackle the legal stuff involved with name changes and what not. (Recently I learned something that has me seriously envying UK polyam folks on this one!) For now, I’ll toss out some thoughts for polyamorous families that want to share a last name.

Picking a Family Name

Everyone taking one person’s name would be the culturally traditional choice, in as much as monogamous culture works applied to polyamory. And in this case, it often doesn’t. A hinged triad might all take the last name of the hinge partner. A leather family or D/s family where there is one person in charge, everyone taking that person’s name might be generally acceptable. But in many polyam families, whose name would people take? There isn’t often a clear answer.

Picking a new name is an option. Possibilities range from smashing together the first syllables of everyone’s last name to baby-name type brainstorming. Toss out ideas, talk about them, and see what sticks.

And once you’ve decided on a name, what then do you do with it?

New Naming Conventions?

Everyone changes their name: this would be the obvious answer. It has some social advantages, and all the professional disadvantages of a woman changing her maiden name (all you documentation, diplomas, etc will be in the old names). Taking a new name might upset extended family and involves much legal hassle.

-Name: I loved this idea in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – everyone who married into the line family added the family name as a hyphenated name. This has a very nice bonus of allowing everyone to keep their old family name, which can be very important to some people. It may be possible to hyphenate the name informally and keep your family-of-origin name as your legal last name, saving on legal fees and hassle.

This one comes from the wonderful Poly Mom, and I would love to have heard of it years ago. Polly is in a triad with two men, when she legally married one, she took his name, and she is getting her name hyphenated with her other husband’s name. Apparently, there was talk of the men hyphenating their names as well, but even if they don’t, this is a neat idea. I could see this working for a quad as well as a triad, though any bigger than that and there may be problems. Neat tip: in some states, when a woman gets married, she can change her name to anything, not just her husband’s name, and it is automatically her legal name. So you can get legally married to spouse1, and make your name Spouse1-Spouse2 and avoid all the hassle of the usual insane process for getting a name change.

 

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Pregnancy and Polyamory: Picking Baby Names

Did my best to removed gendered language and fixed some really poorly written sentences. Other than that, it’s much the same as it always was. Revised 1/16/17.

Picking baby names is one of the great joys of pregnancy. Also a real pain in the you-know-what. There are two extremes of name picking: those who have known the names they want for their children since they were children and those who don’t figure it out until after the baby is born. (I had a friend in high school who was named after a brand of soap. The hospital wouldn’t let them leave until her mother picked a name).

In between the two extremes are things like those who pore over baby-name books for hours, folks who want to name the baby after a relative, and the stereotypical ’run every possible name by your best friend to see what they think’. Oh – and don’t forget some families have naming traditions!

Like everything polyamory, if a decision is hard for two people, it is ridiculous for more people.

But why does it have to be more than two people? Why not just have the bio parents pick the name? First, you won’t always know who the second bio parent is. And some people may want to involve their polyam family in the decision, especially if everyone in the family is going to raising the children as parents. So, if you know for certain who the bio parents are, and it works for you, then certainly the bio parents can decide on the name themselves. If not . . . well, the ‘if not’ is why I wrote this blog post 😉

When my first child was born, I was in a triad. We did not know who the father was and we decided not to find out the assumed gender until the birth. One of my husbands didn’t want to discuss baby names. When he was born his parents had been arguing between two different names. They saw him and immediately knew which was the right one. So he was convinced that as soon as he saw the baby the perfect name would come to him. (He somehow didn’t notice the difference between picking one of two names and picking a name out of the blue). I wanted the three of us to go through baby books, rate names, make lists, and generally bored both of them to tears. My other husband seemed at least a little interested in the baby name books and my lists, but he wasn’t good at speaking up and voicing his opinion.

When my second child was born, we found out the assumed gender, boy, and the name was pretty much automatic. Both my family and one of my husband’s families have naming traditions for boys. And we were so focused on that, it didn’t even occur to us it left my other husband out of the discussion entirely. Much hard feelings from that.

Unfortunately, and as I’m afraid seems to be common for this blog, I don’t have any concrete suggestions on this one. It will be different for each family and each child. The usually polyam stuff of communication, honesty and respect will probably get you through somehow.

Last Names

Of course, as difficult as it can be picking the first name for your child, it kinda pales in comparison to how high feelings run when you are discussing last names.

It is traditional, in America, for a child to have their father’s last name. It is becoming more and more acceptable (if unwieldy) to hyphenate both parents’ names. Either of these options works well when the bio parents are known.

But what if you don’t know the second bio parent? Oy oy oy this one can be a real problem. For once, though, I actually have a few suggestions, none of which are perfect, but all of which can work:

  •     Use the mother’s name for the children: nice and simple, can work for all relationship configurations, and drs, teachers, etc won’t even blink at it.
  •     Hyphenate everyone’s name: not even gonna go into the problems with this one, but in a triad, especially if two members of the triad are legally married and have taken the same name, it is actually feasible
  •     Middle names: it is somewhat common to use the mother’s maiden name as a middle name for a child. There is no reason this can’t be adapted to polyam. And I have a cousin (child of a mono relationship) with three middle names and a last name, I’ve heard of people with more. So everyone can be included.
  •     Combine names: this one . . . is a stretch. But, if you don’t mind going for the odd and unusual, you can combine syllables from everyone’s last name to create a new name. Can’t say I like this one, and socially would cause a lot of problems, because it’s expected that a kid will have the same last name as at least 1 parent. But, it’s an option.

If you’ve had a child in a polyamorous family, how did you pick a name, and what was done for a last name?

Etiquette for Polyamory Partners and Children

I talked about interactions between poly partners and children a couple of times in the Raising Children in a Poly Family blog series. But this apparently an issue a lot of people stress about, so I’m going to pull it all together in one place.

This article assumes that you want your children to meet your poly partners. If you don’t, that’s okay. Do what works for your family and relationships. (Should I be out to my children?)

The First Rule is KISS

Keep It Simple, Stupid. This rule will get you through large parts of life and especially large chunks of parenting. Kid’s are smart. But they are also…let’s go with focused. They don’t care about the details of your job (unless they are planning on going into the same field). They don’t care about what you and your friend do when you go Tuesday nights. And they don’t really care about the details of your relationship with your poly partners. Answer the questions they ask–the exact questions they ask–as simply as possible. Then stop. If they want to know more, they’ll ask.

Introducing Your Poly Partners to Your Children

Short version: Follow the same general guidelines as introducing anyone. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Your poly partner is another adult friend of their parents, of no immediate interest to your kids unless you make it a big deal.

The long version is here.

What Should my Children Call my Poly Partner?

Short version: Let the kid decide. If you are in the closet and worried about the kid outting you by calling a poly partner “Aunt” or “Mom 2,” then this is a good time to teach them about formal and informal interactions. This is a useful tool in other areas of life, such as dealing with their boss at work or teachers at school. Some situations are informal and we can call each other nicknames, some situations are formal and we use formal names or Mr. and Ms.

The long version is here.

How Should I Interact with my Poly Partner’s Children?

Keep it relaxed and casual. If you want to keep a bit of distance in your relationship, treat them like a co-workers children. Polite, but don’t interact beyond basic courtesy:

Poly partner: Jason, I’d like you to meet my friend [you.]
Jason: Hi, [you].
You: Hi Jason, nice to meet you. [Poly partner], are you ready to go?

If you want to interact with the kid directly, and maybe develop a relationship with them, act like a family friend:

Poly partner: Jason, I’d like you to meet my friend [you.]
Jason: Hi, [you].
You: Hi Jason, nice to meet you. Cool shirt.

(next time you bump into each other)

You: Hi Jason, how you doing?
Jason: I’m okay. School sucks, though.
You: Yeah, I always hated math class. (pause, let Jason respond more if he wants, if not) I’m supposed to be picking up your mom. Do you know if she’s ready?

When you see the kid, engage a bit, ask how they are doing, what’s going on. If they mention one day they are practicing guitar, the next time you see them ask if they learned to play any new songs. This shows that you paid attention and are interested in what they are doing.

Do NOT force a conversation when the kid isn’t interested. Don’t let things get awkward. If the kid doesn’t respond to something you say or seems like they want to be doing something else, give them a graceful escape and return your focus to your partner.

When Your Relationship With Your Poly Partner Changes

A lot of emotional upset gets spent on how traumatic it can be for kids when their parent’s poly partner leaves their lives. The mistake in this is that adults kids like and relate to leave their lives all the time. That teacher who changed your life in fourth grade? Were you really traumatized when you moved onto fifth grade and she wasn’t your teacher anymore? When I played softball as a kid, we had a different coach almost every year. Some of those coaches I really connected with, but when the season ended, the team split and I didn’t see the coach until next year–if I saw them again at all.

I can’t say I was particularly traumatized by most of the adults who moved in and out of my life. The only one I remember with any real hurt is a priest who had a big impact on me. He left my life (moved to a different congregation) and when I ran into him years later he didn’t remember me. His leaving didn’t hurt-his forgetting did.

If you are going to leave the lives of your partner’s kids, here are some guidelines for how to make it work:

1) Give them some warning and a timeline. Yes, it is hard to do this when a relationship with a poly partner is changing or ending. But you and your partner can still say “This isn’t working anymore. Let’s stop seeing each other gradually over the next two months.” Which gives you and the kids time to adjust.

2) Give them some way to stay in contact if they choose to.

3) Allow them to be hurt or upset.

You: Hey Vanessa. I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with you and talking about your artwork. I need to let you know that my relationship with my parent is changing. After the next few months, I probably won’t be coming by anymore. Here’s my phone number. If you ever need to talk, you can give me a call okay? And I’ll still be around for a little while longer.
Vanessa: But…I’m gonna miss you.
You: I know, I’m going to miss you too. We can cry about it a bit. Change is sad. I won’t stop caring about you just because I’m not coming over a lot. And like I said, you can always call me.

If you and the child in question wants, changing your relationship with their parent doesn’t need to change your relationship with the kid. If you have taken on a large role in the kid’s life, this can be an important option.

1) Tell them about the change in your relationship with the partner

2) Reassure them that it doesn’t change your relationship with them

3) Give them a way to control how your relationship develops from there.

You: Hey Vanessa. I’ve got some tough news. Your parent and I aren’t going to be seeing each other anymore.
Vanessa: Does that mean you won’t come hang with me?
You: Of course I’ll come over if you want me to. Parent and I are changing our relationship, but you and I can still be (friends/family/what have you).
Vanessa: Good. I don’t know what I’d do if you didn’t come to my art show next week.
You: I’ll be there. And you have my phone number. Anytime you want to get together, just give me a call.

(For younger kids: Parent has my phone number. Anytime you want to hang out, ask them to call me.)

This post is part of the Polyamory Etiquette blog series.

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