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MAHONING COUNTY Appellation alteration: namely, it's a new tag

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Nearly 70 people had their names changed last year.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Essie Faith Casey is a thing of the past, and Faith Ina Casey couldn't be happier about it.
"I should have done it a long time ago," said Casey.
Essie Faith Casey was born 64 years ago in Chicago, and her family eventually moved to Youngstown. But the only name she knew all her life was Faith Ina.
"That was the name my mother said she gave me," said Casey. "I never thought a thing about it."
Then about 10 years ago, the East Side woman found her birth certificate and discovered her name was really Essie Faith.
"Which I didn't like," she said. "I don't like that name at all."
Less trouble
So rather than going to the trouble of having all her personal documents changed to reflect her true, given name, Casey went to court and had her name changed to the one she'd used all her life.
She was one of nearly 70 people who had their names legally changed last year in Mahoning County.
Now it's official. She is Faith Ina Casey.
"When my mom had me, she was undecided about my name," Casey said, laughing. "There was some confusion and I guess it came out to be Essie Faith on the birth certificate."
She said her mother was upset when she realized the wrong name was on the birth certificate, but didn't know how to go about changing it. So rather than change the document, she just started calling her daughter by the name she ultimately decided to give her, and it stuck.
Probate court records are filled with cases like Casey's, with people who wanted a new name for a variety of reasons. Some, like Casey, had used the wrong name nearly all their life. Some changed names for professional reasons and some just because they wanted to start a new life with a new identity.
Many name-change requests were filed by women who had gotten divorced and wanted to return to using their maiden name, and some were filed on behalf of children who wanted to adopt their stepfather's last name.
A 19-year-old Youngstown woman simply wanted to add two letters to the end of her first name.
"I have a twin," she wrote in court records. "Our names are spelled too much alike."
The numbers
According to probate court records, 88 name-change applications were filed in 2003; 57 for adults and 31 for children. Seven of those still are pending and eight were either denied by the court or withdrawn by the applicant. The rest were approved.
Judge Timothy P. Maloney said there is little in the law to prevent someone from changing his or her name to pretty much anything they want -- within reason.
"For the most part, with adults, as long as they are not trying to avoid criminal prosecution or a civil judgment, there is no reason to deny it," the judge said. "Some people just don't like their name. Others have a deeper reason for doing it."
He recalled one man a few years ago who changed his first name from Joe to John.
"He said he was tired of having people come up and say, 'Hey Joe, what do you know.' That was his only reason," the judge said.
Judge Maloney said he generally grants name-change requests, but there are certain cases that raise a red flag and often are denied.
"I get requests from people who want to change their name to Kris Kringle or Santa Claus or something like that," he said. "We don't allow those."
A woman wanted to change her name to include 15 names, which he also denied.
Requests from divorced adults who want to change a child's last name are scrutinized to make sure they are not circumventing the adoption process.
Requests from men who want to adopt a woman's name, or vice versa, are pretty much dismissed out of hand.
"They're looking for a way to change their [gender] identity by changing their name," he said. "Then they come back a year later to get a marriage license."
The judge said he carefully watches to ensure such a name-change request isn't really a precursor to a same-sex couple's trying to stay under the radar. He had one such marriage license application last year and denied it.
Judge Maloney said the process of changing one's name is fairly simple. The applicant must fill out a form and pay a filing fee of $87.40.
The applicant also must pay for a legal advertisement to publish his or her old name and proposed new name. After that, a hearing is held and a decision is made. The process generally takes four to six weeks.