Family Law

Name Changes and Document Updates After Marriage

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When you get married, changing your name isn't required and social conventions have changed a lot so you aren't bound by any particular format. You have many options. You may:

  • Take your spouse's name - either husband taking wife's last name or wife taking her husband's
  • Create a combination of your name and your spouse's name (for example, a hyphenated name)
  • Create a completely new name

After filling out the paperwork to change your name, be sure to update your records with people, businesses and government agencies needing your new name.

Two Methods of Changing Your Name after a Marriage

Common usage. You can change your name by consistently using the new name after the marriage. This is called the common usage method, and no formal legal action is required.

This method should only be used by a wife who wishes to adopt her husband's last name. For any other type of name change, you should get a court order. If you choose the common usage method, you should take the following actions:

  • Make sure your new name is on your marriage certificate.
  • Get a new driver's license and Social Security card with your new name. The Department of Motor Vehicles and the Social Security Administration will probably want to see your marriage certificate as proof of your new name.
  • Update your records. Contact your employer, bank, creditors, insurers, telephone company, and any other entity with whom you do business, and inform them of your new name. In addition, notify government agencies, such as your local post office, and state and local taxing authorities.

Court order. You can go to court to change your name. The legal process is simple and inexpensive. You can hire a lawyer to change your name, or you can do it yourself.

If you decide to do it yourself, you may want to start by calling your local city or county courthouse for instructions, or you can learn about the process online or at a law library. Most states post instructions and legal forms on the Internet. After you obtain a court order changing your name, you should:

  • Request a new driver's license and Social Security card with your new name. The court order is proof of your new name.
  • Update your records. Contact the same businesses and government agencies listed above under the common usage method.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Can a judge deny my name change if I go to court to change it?
  • What if my passport has my birth name, but my driver's license has my new name. Do I need additional identification?
  • What if my employer doesn't accept my new name without a court order even though I used the common usage method?
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