Legally Changing Your Name After Marriage

Many people believe that in an opposite-sex marriage a woman is required to legally change her last name to her husband's last name, but that's simply 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 altogether. As long as the name change isn't done criminally or fraudulently, any of these options would constitute a legal name change. These same lax rules also apply to name changes in same sex marriages.

This article covers the process for legally changing your name after marriage and will address the following:

  • Changing your name to your spouse's last name;
  • Changing your name to something other than your spouse's last name; and
  • Informing people of your new name.

Before considering any name change after marriage, it's always important to first make sure you're happy with whatever name you choose.

Legally Changing Your Name After Marriage: Using Your Spouse'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 when you 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 legally change your name after marriage; be sure to remind them of that if they're 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 the marriage doesn't work out, you have the freedom to change back your name after the divorce.

Legally Changing Your Name After Marriage: Not Using Your Spouse's Last Name

Changing your name after marriage to something other than your spouse's name is completely acceptable. However, it sometimes requires more than just the marriage license; usually a court order is needed. 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 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.

However, you should be aware that some states require a 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 requirement.

Informing People of Your New Name

The best way to let people know that you've changed your name is to start using it. Telling friends, family, and coworkers is easy and doesn't require any kind of formal process. Other entities, such as government agencies and financial institutions, will usually require proof of your name change, which can be provided with a marriage license or court order. The entities that should be notified of your name change include:

Keep in mind that even if you haven't officially changed your name with the DMV or Social Security Office yet, it's perfectly fine to update your name on social media and your email signature at work as soon as you're married.

Need Help Legally Changing Your Name After Marriage? Talk to an Attorney

Changing your name is an exciting and important part of getting married, but it's important to do it right to avoid headaches down the road. You should consider talking to a family law attorney who can help you with name change forms to simplify the process of changing your name after marriage.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified family law attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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