NEW MEXICO REAL ID DRIVER’S LICENSE QUALIFICATION
At the end of October, 2020, all New Mexico driver’s licenses must be be REAL ID compliant. This is as a result of the regulation, mandated by the Federal Government and Homeland Security in response to 9/11 and other terrorist security threats. To be issued a REAL ID requires much more than the documentation now required to apply for a driver’s license or state-issued identification card. The effects of these new requirements are already being felt by countless New Mexico license applicants as they attempt to renew their current driver’s license. Many are being told by the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) agents that their required supporting documentation does not satisfy the REAL ID requirements. A list of the new REAL ID requirements can be found here: http://www.mvd.newmexico.gov/real-id-information.aspx
There has been one issue in this new and more complicated process that has caused more grief for applicants than any other. That issue is the discrepancy that is found between the name that is found on a person’s birth certificate or passport and the name that is on a person’s pay stub, on his/her utility bill, on his/her social security card, on his/her property tax statement, or on any of the other acceptable documents that the MVD now asks that you bring to prove identity and place of residence to get a REAL ID. Here’s an EXAMPLE: your legal name on your birth certificate is William John Sanchez but you go by the name Bill, so when you got your old driver’s license, it was issued in the name Bill J. Sanchez. The problem now, however, is the MVD is no longer issuing new or renewed licenses to parties who do not possess a birth certificate or US Passport that matches their current driver’s license name. The only solution to this problem is to file with the district court in the county in which you reside for a judicial order changing your legal name and directing the agency that issued your birth certificate (Bureau of Vital Statistics and Health Records in New Mexico) to amend your legal name. This sounds like an intimidating process, and it can be, but an attorney experienced in the REAL ID procedure can assist you in navigating the courts and agencies you will encounter in your efforts to legally change or clarify your name.
NEW MEXICO NAME CHANGE LAWS GENERALLY:
The laws of the state of New Mexico, , allow any person who has been a legal resident for at least six (6) months to change their name to whatever they may wish with only a few exceptions, and they are:
- No person may legally change their name for the purposes of defrauding creditors, the public or the government.
- The petitioning party is not seeking to avoid criminal or legal actions against them.
- You may not change your name to something that is considered to be a racist or obscene slur, nor can you create a name that is deliberately confusing or misleading.
The process requires that you publish notice of your intention to change your legal name for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper outlet that is local to your county. The entire process of legal name change in New Mexico will take at least five (5) weeks, from the date that you file your petition to the date of your hearing before the judge. The process is formally completed by the Judge signing a final decree/order that directs your birth certificate to be amended. A New Mexico legal name change attorney can guide you through the intricacies of this process to ensure a positive and speedy result.
LEGAL NAME CHANGE IN NEW MEXICO; THE PROCESS
Any person in New Mexico, who is at least 14 years of age and has been a legal resident for at least six (6) months, may file a ‘Petition to Change Legal Name’ in the district courthouse in the county in which they reside. The filing party or Petitioner, must state a valid reason why they wish the courts to change their legal name and they must declare in their Petition that they are not seeking to avoid creditors or criminal or civil charges in any court or jurisdiction. Once they have paid the court’s filing fee ($174 at present) they can request of their assigned judge a date for their hearing. Once the judge or their assistant has issued a Notice of Hearing, the applicant must then have that notice published in a newspaper that is local to their county. This publication must run for at least two consecutive weeks. At the end of that two-week term, the newspaper should issue the applicant an Affidavit of Publication. This affidavit must then be filed with the clerk of the court under their case number.
All that remains at this point is to attend the scheduled hearing before the judge and court. The judge will confirm, on the record, your reason(s) for wishing to legally change your name, as well as confirm that the petitioning party is not trying to avoid debts or court actions against them. The judge will then ask the courtroom if anyone is present to contest the Petitioner’s wish to change their legal name. Assuming that no party has appeared to contest the Petition, and if the judge agrees that all the requirements of the New Mexico Legal Name Change Statute have been met, they will then sign the final decree/order changing the Petitioner’s legal name in the eyes of the law.
But the process is not completed yet! The Petitioner must then take the newly signed order and have it filed with the clerk of the court. This act of filing the order with the court finalizes the court’s requirements. However, the applicant will need at least one (1), though we always recommend purchasing at least three (3) certified copies of that signed and filed/endorsed order. This is the document the applicant will need when next dealing with the agency that issued their birth certificate in order to have an amended certificate issued. Once this step is completed, and it can take quite some time if the Petitioner was born in another state, thus requiring mailing and waiting times, plus additional filing fees, the Petitioner can then visit the Social Security Administration to amend their card, if necessary. After all of these steps are completed, the applicant is then ready to return to the MVD with all of their new paperwork, and legally obtain a new or renewed driver’s license or other state identification.
It is important to note that the above description of this legal name change process in New Mexico deals with the most simple and most common issues relating to name changes. There can and often are other factors that come into consideration that are very specific to the applicant or Petitioner’s case and circumstances. Only licensed and professional New Mexico name change attorneys are properly qualified to assist people in the courts with such issues and legal procedures. Hiring an attorney for a process that can, theoretically, be completed without legal counsel, is a decision that will not only increase the likelihood of the applicant’s success in the process, but also prevent loss of time and efficiency due to mistakes in the myriad of details built into the process itself. This is particularly important when the applicant is under immense time pressure due to the expiration date of their current valid driver’s license.
LEGAL NAME CHANGE OF A MINOR (under 14 years of age) IN NEW MEXICO
The process is essentially the same as above for the legal name change of a minor in New Mexico, with the following exceptions:
- The Petitioner/applicant is one of or both legal parents/guardians of the child, not the child or children themselves;
- Both the child’s father and mother must sign and file with the court a consent to name change form, indicating their approval of the requested name change;
- Direct service of process, in addition to the publication of notice of the hearing, must be accomplished for each of the child’s parents and/or legal guardians; and
- And an additional statement about not seeking to hide the minor child from any other parent or party retaining legal rights over the child must be included.
At the scheduled hearing, if one parent or legal guardian objects to the name change, the courts will usually schedule another evidentiary hearing to determine whether or not the name change is in fact in the best interests of the child. If the Petitioner is not able to locate the child’s other legal parent or guardian, they must be prepared to fully explain to the court their efforts in locating and serving them. The court will always have to power to force the parties to re-file and put forth a better effort in terms of locating the other legal guardian/parent. Often times, clients seek legal representation only at this point in the process and are surprised to find out that the costs of that representation are virtually the same as if they’d hired the lawyer to handle the entire problem from the very beginning. This is directly do to the fact that the same amount of time and costs will have to be employed to accomplish the same goal of legal name change. Again, a New Mexico licensed lawyer with experience in this very specific practice area of legal name change can alleviate many of the issues and anxieties that are part of this legal process.
SUMMARY AND HELPFUL LINKS
IF you have already applied for a REAL ID and have discovered that you have a name discrepancy problem that is preventing you from obtaining a REAL ID or
IF you are afraid that you might have a discrepancy problem . . .
We can help.
A legal name change may well be your best, or only, path to obtaining a government accepted REAL ID. However, before you take that significant step, contact us. Let us review your situation to determine if you have any alternatives. Or, if a legal name change is your best option, we can walk you through the process. If time is a factor in your decision, be advised that it will always take AT LEAST 5 weeks to legally change any person’s name in the State of New Mexico. We have experience in this area of the law and can guide you efficiently through these procedures and represent you at your court hearing before the judge, drastically increasing the likelihood of success on the very first attempt. This saves you, the applicant, both time and a tremendous amount of stress.
For further information or if you have specific questions that are not clearly addressed above, contact your local legal name change specialist attorney in New Mexico today. Additionally, more information and detail may be found at: