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Ohio Law Update Makes It Easier For People To Change Their Names

An informational poster from the Dept. of Homeland Security advising people to look up how to get a REAL ID. The image is of a woman holding her driver's license.
Department of Homeland Security
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Department of Homeland Security

A change in Ohio law has made it easier for people to change their names, fix past errors, and get federally compliant REAL ID driver’s licenses.

That change in law was initiated through efforts of the Greene County Probate Court.

Probate Court Judge Tom O’Diam says before the law change, the process to change or fix errors related to a citizen's name was cumbersome, costly and fairly time consuming.

“If you came in and filed for a name change, you might not have your hearing for six weeks. Plus, there was the added expense of having to publish the notice in the newspaper," he says.

O'Diam says the court could only fix names going forward but couldn't help with some errors like those related to birth certificates or divorces.

The judge credits his Chief Deputy Clerk, Amy Shumway, with suggesting that they set out to change the existing process.

"She was the one who really approached me and said, 'Hey, this doesn't work. We're screwing up more names than we're fixing.'"

O'Diam took the suggestion to the Ohio Judicial Conference, whose members readily agreed that the process could be improved. They then began working with state legislators and the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and eventually get rid of the requirements for hearings and public notices.

He says the change has unexpectedly reduced the average filing fee on name change requests by 45 percent in Greene County.

“I think it's a great example of how courts and the legislature can work together to improve public service, because we took a system that did not work and we made it into a system that not only works, but it's more efficient, and less expensive.”

O’Diam says it took almost two years to get the law changed but it took effect last month and is now it’s paying off for the citizens of Ohio.

It will also help residents to obtain federally-compliant driver licenses and the so-called REAL IDs that will be required to fly within the U.S. in 2023.