A Debtor By Any Other Name

I used to think I was being facetious when I told my clients that one of the more challenging things about the whole Bankruptcy process was being asked their name at the First Meeting of Creditors.  You know, strange place, strange people, crowded room, being placed under oath and then being asked QUESTIONS – beginning with, “Would you please state your full name for the record?”  Tough, huh?

Of course, as with many things that seem silly when one is young and foolish I have gained some real respect for the difficulty of this question.  Despite the fact that this sounds like the setup for a punch line, periodically I really do encounter someone who isn’t completely sure what his name is – or isn’t – or used to be.

This issue hit the popular press during last Fall’s elections when a number of States had new voter ID laws go into effect.  A number of people, including quite entertainingly a number of fairly high profile politicians, had difficulty voting because their name wasn’t exactly the same across a number of different documents.

Here are a few scenarios:

  • Woman gets married.  She begins using her Husband’s surname, but she doesn’t change her driver’s license, her Social Security records, and she continues to use her maiden name on her tax returns, because otherwise, her tax return wouldn’t match her Social Security records.
  • Man has a son.  Man names his son after himself.  Son is now John Doe, Jr.  So, Dad starts calling himself, John Doe, Sr.  Really?  Having a child changes your legal identity?
  • Woman gets divorced.  In Oklahoma divorce decrees usually include a provision restoring the woman to her maiden name, or another former legal name, if she has requested that.  So, when the decree is entered, there is an order from a Court signed by a Judge determining that the woman’s name is now legally her former name.  Except that changing your name can be such a hassle.  So, sometimes the divorce is finalized, but months later the woman is still using her married name and just hasn’t quite gotten around to changing anything yet.

It wasn’t that long ago when names were about personal identities and not legal concepts.   This change has been happening for a long time.  Regardless of what we may or may not think or like about that idea, once 9/11 happened there was no going back.

So, if you are thinking you might need to file for bankruptcy, get a passport or vote; it might be time to consider whether or not you know who you are, and whether or not your available documentation supports that opinion.

Elaine

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Categories: Bankruptcy, consumer law, Divorce | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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