How hard can it be to prove who you are?

The Indiana Lawyer,  October 17, 2019

It may not be as easy as you think to prove someone’s identity. From what we in the courts have seen, those having the most difficulty are the elderly (born when births may not have been as carefully documented), women (who often have changed names with marriages and divorces) and those born in foreign countries or Puerto Rico (who may have originally been given surnames from both mother and father).

Problems arise when the identifying documents don’t line up. For example, a name on a Social Security card and current driver’s license may not exactly match. Or, a birthdate on a marriage certificate may not be the same as the one on a birth certificate. These discrepancies are somewhat common, but until now, they have not kept citizens from getting Social Security cards, driver’s licenses or passports. With the Real ID law, that has changed, and people are looking to fix these discrepancies with the help of the courts.

Just in our own court, we have seen countless people caught by surprise when they tried to get a Real ID, such as the middle-aged woman who just learned her birth certificate lists her first name as “baby girl.” Or the 80-year-old woman whose now-deceased parents believed their church records were legally sufficient. Or the elderly man who came to court after discovering his birth certificate lists his mother’s name where his should be. Or the petitioner who was told her entire life that her stepfather had adopted her, only to learn that no legal adoption ever occurred.

By Judge Marissa McDermott

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