A woman of many names

All Woman

Dear Mrs Macaulay,

I have been having issues using my high school qualifications during job interviews due to the certificates having my middle name and my mother's married surname. I adopted the surname of my mother's husband, who never adopted me. I had a deed poll done to add the surname to my birth name, along with switching my middle and first names. So, for example, I was born Mary Lee-Sue Brown, but I adopted my stepfather's name, eg Hall. So during the first five years of school I used Mary Lee-Sue Hall, later just Lee-Sue Hall. So all of my high school qualifications are in the name Lee-Sue Hall. I thought getting a deed poll through the Registrar General's Department (RGD) would help since it also has a statutory declaration attached to my deed poll and birth certificate (which has Mary Lee-Sue Brown), and the deed poll (which has Lee-Sue Mary Brown Hall) as my current legal name.

So I am wondering what I should do since I have been out of school almost 10 years. I even tried contacting the education officials for where I used to live to see if I could get my name changed on my certificates, but they're unable to help since it has been a long while since I completed high school. Most jobs here require having at least three subjects. Do I need to draft another statutory declaration for the school qualifications since it seems the deed poll and statutory declaration for name change is not sufficient to rectify the name difference?

Let me relate what I understand is your position and then I shall explain the legal position to you and advise you how to overcome the difficulty you are experiencing.

I understand that after your mother's marriage, her husband, your stepfather, did not adopt you, but you decided to take his surname in place of your own birth surname. You did this by deed poll, and at the same time that you assumed his surname, you also changed your middle name to your Christian name, and your birth Christian name to your middle name. Your deed poll was processed at the RGD and duly recorded and you used your new legal names for your first five years of high school, and then you later dropped your first legal name and only used your legal middle name as your only Christian name. You did this for the rest of your years at school.

You say that as a result of the above, all your certificates of your high school examination results and achievements are not in your legal name, but rather in your assumed name. You see, you chose to ignore the names you had recorded for your legal identification in your deed poll and used another configuration of your name, and so did others, including the school and examination authorities. You wrote it, answered to it, and gave it orally as your name. By doing this you caused your certificates to be issued in your assumed used name and not in your legal name. You therefore made it impossible to prove that the person named in your certificates is you, because your provable legal name is different.

If you are required to produce your birth certificate, you would in the circumstances of having had your name changed by deed poll, have produced both and that would have been sufficient and definitive in proving that you are one and the same person. The fact that you also later did an informal change of your names which you used for all purposes and which found their way onto your examination certificates placed you in the invidious position of being unable to prove that the person on your birth certificate, in your deed poll and in your certificates are one and the same person. To use your example, Mary Lee-Sue Brown became Mary Lee-Sue Hall by deed poll, then in high school, she chose to be Lee-Sue Hall and this appears on her certificates. You have no means of proving that Lee-Sue Hall is one and the same person as the others in your birth certificate and you deed poll. You claiming to be so, is not proof.

So what can you do now to rectify the position that you are in, whereby your certificates can be used by you in the job market? My advice is another deed poll to encompass your birth names, your first deed poll one, and then your current names as they appear on your examination certificates. Once you produce a duly recorded deed poll, you should be able to use it with your certificates successfully. You can ensure that it is specified how long you used the first change of name and how long you had and have been using that which is on your certificates. There is no reason you should not be able to obtain a deed poll in the name on your certificates and which you decided to be known by, as per your example, being Lee-Sue Hall.

One further bit of advice — please stick to your names in your certificates once you obtain your new deed poll, for goodness sake! Do not create another mix-up with your identity by changing your use of names again. I am sure that you have learnt the lesson of the obstacles you can cause in your life plan by changing your names and not abiding by the change. So please do your deed poll, change your names to those in your certificates, and keep those forever, unless you marry and decide to use your husband's surname.

All the very best.

Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to allwoman@jamaicaobserver.com; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.


The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.




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