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. 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. These same lax rules also apply to name changes in same sex marriages. This article covers how to change your name after marriage, including:
Before considering changing your name after marriage, the first step is to make sure that you're happy with whatever name you choose.
1. Changing Your Name After Marriage to 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 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 the marriage doesn't work out, you have the freedom to change back your name after the divorce.
2. Changing Your Name After Marriage to Something Other Than Your Spouse's Name
Changing your name after marriage to something other than your spouse's name, as mentioned, is completely acceptable. But it sometimes requires more than just the marriage license, usually a court order. 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:
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. 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.
3. 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.
Get the Forms You Need to Change Your Name
Changing your name (if you choose to do so) is an exciting and important part of getting married. But it's important to do it right. You should consider using FindLaw's name change forms to simplify the process of changing your name after marriage.