Many people are under the assumption that a woman must legally change her last name to her husband's last name. This is not the case. She is free to keep her own name, hyphenate her name with her husband's name, take her husband's name, or come up with a completely different name. If the couple agrees, they can even adopt the woman's last name. As long as the name change is not done criminally or fraudulently, any of these options would constitute a legal name change. Before considering changing your name after marriage, be sure you are happy with whatever name you choose.
Changing your Name After Marriage to your Husband's Last Name
Changing your name after marriage to your spouse's name is quite easy. All you have to do is begin using that name. Use your new name in social settings, with family members, when you notify of a change of address, and to open new accounts and memberships. You can also call different entities you have accounts with to change your name. Most places are pretty amenable to this, but because of the threat of identity theft and fraud, many financial companies require documentation of your name.
Your marriage certificate should suffice, but if it doesn't, ask to speak to a supervisor. You have the right to change your name; be sure to remind them of that if they are difficult to work with. In addition to your financial institutions, be sure to change your identification documents such as your Social Security card and driver's license or state issued I.D. To change your identification documents, you will have to present your marriage certificate. In the unfortunate event that you divorce, you have the freedom to change your name back to your former name after the divorce.
Changing Your Name After Marriage to Something Other Than Your Spouse's Name
Changing your name after marriage to something other than your wife or husband's name is, as mentioned, completely acceptable. It sometimes requires more than just the marriage certificate, however. You will need to get a court order for your name change. Each state is different about what they require, so be sure to check your own state's laws on the topic.
Most states simply require you to file different forms in court. State government websites have forms online that you can print and use. The questions on the forms are very straightforward, and may include your old name, new name, Social Security number, reason for your name change, and a promise that you are not changing you name to commit fraud or to escape debt or criminal liability. The same forms are generally used to change your name back after divorce.
The most commonly required forms include a petition to legally change your name, an order to show cause for legally changing your name, and a decree to legally change your name. Once you have these forms filled out, simply take them along with your state's required filing fees, to the court clerk and file them. In most cases, a judge or magistrate will review your forms and grant the name change. Some states require a more formal advertisement of the usage of your new name, which is done simply by posting notice in the local newspaper. When changing your name after marriage, an engagement announcement in the newspaper is usually sufficient to fulfill the formal advertisement of your new name.
Entities to notify of your legal name change include:
Thinking About Changing Your Name? Consider Legal Counsel First
Changing your last name, which by many standards is a part of your identity, is a big step. Remember, each state has its own laws and requirements for legally changing your name after marriage, divorce, or other life events. Before trying to do it on your own, speak with a qualified family law attorney in your area to get some peace of mind.