TN 2 (07-07)

PR 02707.053 Washington

A. PR 11-158 SUPERSEDING OPINION - Validity of Name Change Under Washington’s Revised Domestic Partnership Statute

DATE: September 16, 2011

1. SYLLABUS

A Certificate of Registration of a Domestic Partnership Agreement, entered in the State of Washington, is not proof of a legal name change. Registration of a domestic partnership in the State of Washington does not provide a basis to change the name on the SSN record. This opinion supersedes PR 11–062 (2/16/11) and PR 07–169 (5/18/07).

2. OPINION

INTRODUCTION

This opinion supersedes precedent opinion 11-062, dated February 26, 2011, Program Operations Manual System (POMS) PR 02707.053.

QUESTION

You asked whether registration of a domestic partnership in Washington can provide a basis for a Social Security Number (SSN) name change after December 3, 2009, when amendments to Washington’s registered domestic partnership statutes took effect.

SHORT ANSWER

No. Registration of a domestic partnership in Washington does not effectuate, or yield proof of, a legal name change recognized by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

SUMMERARY OF EVIDENCE

In 2010, H.L.D. and G.L.R. signed a “Domestic Partnership Statement of Change” form, indicating a name change of a partner of a previously registered domestic partnership. The partners filed the form with the Secretary of the State of Washington. The statement of change form provides that G.L.R.’s registered name is to be G.L.D. The Secretary of State issued a new certificate of state registered domestic partnership to H.L.D. and G.L.D., dated in 2010. G.L.R. completed a Form SS-5 application for a Social Security card to bear the name G.L.D.

ANALYSIS

In Washington, a person desiring a name change may obtain an official district court order attesting to the name change. Wash. Rev. Code § 4.24.130; Attorney General Opinion 1985 No. 10. Washington also recognizes adoption and dissolution or invalidity proceedings as bases for a name change, in that Washington statutes provide mechanisms to obtain a judicial order reflecting the choice to use a new name. Wash. Rev. Code §§ 26.09.050(1), 26.09.150(3), 26.33.250(1). In addition, in Washington, “Under well established principles of common law, a person is free to adopt and use, absent a statute to the contrary, any name that he or she sees fit so long as it is not done for any fraudulent purposes and does not infringe upon the rights of others.” Doe v. Dunning, 549 P.2d 1, 3 (Wash. 1976) (citing Attorney General Opinion, Jan. 30, 1928). However, SSA does not follow common law to determine whether a document is sufficient to support an SSN name change. POMS RM 10212.015.B.

A person’s right to adopt and use a new name is not conferred by Washington’s registered domestic partnership statutes, as amended. Wash. Rev. Code §§ 26.60.010-26.60-901. Rather, registration of a domestic partnership, like marriage, is simply an opportunity for a person to memorialize the use of a new name with the state government. Wash. Rev. Code §§ 26.04.090-105, 26.60.040; Doe, 549 P.2d at 3.

CONCLUSION

Registration of a domestic partnership in the State of Washington does not provide a basis to change the name on the SSN record.

This opinion can be used as precedent for other SSN name change requests based on registration of a domestic partnership in Washington.

B. PR 11-062 Validity of Name Change Under Washington's Revised Domestic Partnership Statute - REPLY  

DATE: February 16, 2011

1. SYLLABUS

Registration of a domestic partnership in Washington does not effectuate or yield proof of a legal name change. However, a Domestic Partnership Statement of Change form filed with the Secretary of the State of Washington that indicates a name change of one or both partners of an existing Washington registered domestic partnership provides the basis to change the name on the SSN. Furthermore, a certificate of registered domestic partnership issued in the new name in response to the filing of the statement of change form may serve as evidence of a name change. This opinion supersedes PR 07-169 (5/18/2007).

2. OPINION

QUESTION

You asked whether registration of a domestic partnership in Washington can provide a basis for a Social Security Number (SSN) name change after December 3, 2009, when amendments to Washington’s registered domestic partnership statutes took effect.

SHORT ANSWER

No. Registration of a domestic partnership in Washington does not effectuate or yield proof of a legal name change. However, a statement of name change form filed by the partners to an existing Washington registered domestic partnership provides the basis to change the name on the SSN. Furthermore, a certificate of registered domestic partnership issued in response to the filing of a statement of name change may serve as evidence of a name change, but in such circumstance, additional evidence of identity is required in order to process the name change. Based on the foregoing analysis, we conclude that the evidence you submitted is sufficient to support a name change on the applicant’s SSN.

Summary of Evidence

In 2010, H.D~ and G.R~ signed a “Domestic Partnership Statement of Change” form, indicating a name change of a partner of a previously registered domestic partnership. The partners filed the form with the Secretary of the State of Washington. The statement of change form provides that G.R~’s registered name is to be G.D~. The form also states G.R~’s date and place of birth. The Secretary of State issued a new certificate of state registered domestic partnership to H.D~ and G.D~, dated in 2010. G.R~ completed a Form SS-5 application for a Social Security card to bear the name G.D~.

Analysis

Name Change Rights Under Washington Law

“Under well established principles of common law, a person is free to adopt and use, absent a statute to the contrary, any name that he or she sees fit so long as it is not done for any fraudulent purposes and does not infringe upon the rights of others.” Doe v. Dunning, 549 P.2d 1, 3 (Wash. 1976) (citing Attorney General Opinion, Jan. 30, 1928). A person desiring a name change may obtain an official district court order attesting to the name change, but the procedure is not required to effectuate the name change. Wash. Rev. Code § 4.24.130; Attorney General Opinion 1985 No. 10. Thus, no formal process is required for an individual to change his or her name under Washington law. Although a person’s right to adopt and use a new name is not conferred by Washington’s registered domestic partnership statutes, registration of a domestic partnership, like marriage, presents an opportunity for a person to record a new name with the state government. Wash. Rev. Stat. §§ 26.04.090-105, 26.60.040.1

Application of SSA Policy Regarding Legal Name Change Evidence Requirements

In order to process a name change based on a domestic partnership, SSA requires evidence of a name change event, and the SSN holder’s new name and identity. Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RM 10212.055, 00203.210(A). The statement of change form submitted by G.R~ contains all the information required to process a name change on the SSN. The form reflects G.R~’s decision to adopt a new name and contains the requisite identifying information: G.R~’s old name, place of birth, and date of birth.

Your question contemplates the scenario where a domestic partner submits a State of Washington declaration or certificate of registered domestic partnership to support a name change to SSN records. See Wash. Rev. Code § 26.60.040. A declaration of registered domestic partnership provides no basis to sustain a name change to SSN records because it does not reflect a partner’s decision to use a new name. See http://www.secstate.wa.gov/corps/domesticpartnerships/declaration%20draft%209.pdf (accessed on May 17, 2010). A certificate of registered domestic partnership will reflect a partner’s new name if issued in response to the filing of a statement of change form such as the one submitted by G.R~ In contrast, a certificate issued in response to the filing of a declaration of registered domestic partnership will not reflect a partner’s new name. SSA may accept a certificate of registered domestic partnership as evidence of a name change if the certificate reflects the partner’s new name. Such a certificate may lack required identifying information reflected in SSA records such as the partner’s old name and date and place of birth. In this circumstance, SSA policy requires that the partner furnish additional documentation of identity in order for SSA to process a name change based on the certificate. POMS RM 10212.015(D), 00203.210(A).

CONCLUSION

Registration of a domestic partnership in the State of Washington does not provide a basis to change the name on the SSN record. A statement of name change form filed by the partners to a registered domestic partnership contains all the information required by SSA to process a name change on the SSN. A certificate of registered domestic partnership issued in response to a filed statement of name change may serve as evidence of a partner’s new name, but lacks required evidence of identity. Therefore, when such a certificate is used to prove a name change, SSA policy requires evidence of identity in order to process the name change on the SSN.

G.R~’s SSN record should be changed to reflect her new name, G.D~.

This opinion can be used as precedent for other SSN name change requests based on registration of a domestic partnership or filing of a domestic partnership statement of name change form in Washington. This opinion supersedes the opinion dated May 18, 2007, in POMS PR 02707.053 (Washington).

C. PR 07-169 Validity of Name Change Based on Washington's Domestic Partnership Statute- REPLY

DATE: May 18, 2007

1. SYLLABUS

A Certificate of Registration of a Domestic Partnership Agreement, entered in the State of Washington, is not proof of a legal name change. In order to obtain a legal name change, the proper legal proceedings must be initiated resulting in the entry of an order for a name change. However, each situation presents its own unique facts and the law should be assessed in consideration of those specific facts. Therefore, any requests by a claimant to change his or her name under the Washington Domestic Partnership Statute should be submitted to OGC for an official legal opinion. A complete description of the documentation and facts of the case should be submitted along with the request.

2. OPINION

QUESTION

You have asked for an opinion as to whether the recently passed legislation in Washington state establishing a Domestic Partnership Registry grants those who register as a Domestic Partnership the right to legally change their names based on that registration.

SHORT ANSWER

No, in contrast to the Washington marriage laws, the Domestic Partnership Registry Act (Act) does not grant the right to legally change one's name based solely on the fact of registration without going through the legal name change process in the state District Court.

Analysis

1. Washington State Law Regarding Name Changes

Washington recognizes adoption, marriage, annulment, and divorce as legal bases for a name change. WASH. REV. CODE §§ 2.28.010, 46.20.205. To change one's name for any other reason, the applicant must go through a legal proceeding with the district court in the judicial district where he or she resides. WASH. REV. CODE § 4.24.130(1). The court, in its discretion will order a change of name. Id.

2. Washington State Law Regarding Domestic Partnership Registry

The Washington state legislature enacted Substitute Senate Bill 5336 to grant same sex couples the same access that married couples have to certain rights and benefits, such as those associated with hospital visitation, health care decision-making, organ donation decisions, and other issues related to illness, incapacity, and death. S.S.B. 5336, § 1, 60th Legislature, Regular Session (2007). The Act also seeks to extend the same rights and benefits to different sex couples in which either or both of the partners is at least sixty-two years of age. Id. The Act recognizes that, while these couples are entitled to marry under the State's marriage statutes, some social security and pension laws nevertheless make it impractical for these couples to marry. I