515 Comments

Congratulations on deciding to get married! You are in for… okay, we can't lie. While being married is great and wonderful, the act of getting married can be quite stressful. There is the planning of the ceremony itself, the merging of two households (if you don't already live together) and all of the details involved with that. You also have to take the time to apply for your marriage license and then decide whether or not you are going to keep your name or change it.

This is where a lot of people have trouble. Once upon a time, it was just customary for a Bride to take her Groom's last name as her own and abandon her maiden name completely. The act of keeping her own name was considered taboo and people's eyebrows would raise right off their faces when they found out that the Bride was even considering something so radical. Over time, though, more and more women are deciding to keep their names.

There are a lot of reasons to want to keep your own name. Hopefully you have a supportive Groom who understands why this idea is the most appealing to you. A lot of times, though, the act of keeping your name is still something that causes concern… even if your Groom is fine with it, his family (or your own) might not be so understanding.

There are a couple of ways to compromise on the whole "you wanting to keep your name and your Groom hating the idea" problem. You could choose an entirely new last name for the two of you to share. This way neither of you gets "your" way and you both have to deal with the legalities of going through a name change. Most of the time, though, the most popular compromise is to hyphenate your last name and the last name of your Groom.

For example, if your Groom's name is John Smith and your name is Kate Jones, you would name yourself Kate Jones-Smith or Kate Smith-Jones.

This allows you to keep going by your own last name while legally adopting your husband's surname at the same time.

Why Is Hyphenation a Good Thing?

The compromise is the biggest reason that so many women choose to hyphenate their last names. It is a way of you keeping your own identity while also keeping your future husband happy

It allows you to stay connected to accomplishments that you achieved before you got married. For example, many women who choose to hyphenate do so partially because they have earned higher educational degrees and certifications under their maiden names. They might have also had things published or publicized and want to stay connected to that identity.

It helps you stay obviously connected to your children whose names might not be hyphenated and who have been given your husband's surname.

It can help you bridge the gap between your personal and professional life. Many women who opt to simply keep their own names do so because they don't want to give up all that they have accomplished professionally. Unfortunately this makes it hard for them to claim ownership of these accomplishments personally because they happened under their "other" name.

Nobody wants to think about the negative stuff but, with the divorce statistics being what they are, you might want a contingency plan. Changing your name to his last name and then back to your own if things go south will be a major hassle.

While tradition is one thing, there isn't any logical reason—at least one that isn't rooted in "because that's how it has always been done" to completely change your name. Keeping your name and joining it to your husband's through hyphenation is as legal as simply adopting his name or as simply keeping your own and leaving his out of the picture entirely.

Probably the most important reason to consider hyphenation is your identity. You've spent your whole life building your identity under a certain name. Obviously you will still be you even if you've taken on your husband's last name and omitted yours entirely. At the same time, your name is associated with the identity you've built up and hyphenation allows you to respect that while also respecting tradition and your husband's family's identity at the same time.

Why Might Hyphenation Be a Bad Thing?

Hyphenated names are more difficult for computers to handle. When you type in your personal information, the hyphen often isn't recognized by the computer's code. This means that you have to eliminate the hyphen and that can cause problems later on.

If you care about outside opinions on your name, you should know that a large portion of today's society is annoyed by the hyphenated name. Some people find it "snobby" and others simply find it irritating because they have a hard time remembering which last name they are supposed to say first. Some people even believe that not simply adopting your husband's last name is a huge sign of disrespect and a lack of commitment.

It is possible that your future husband will find this choice offensive. Some men, regardless of how you might feel about such things, are traditionalists and feel that it is simply "right" for the woman to take the man's last name as her own. Whether or not your future husband insisting on your adopting his last name is a red flag to you or not, it is still something that you should take under consideration.

Some people worry that having a hyphenated name—if you do not plan on passing the hyphenation down to your children and are planning on giving them only your husband's surname—can be confusing for a child. Even when the child is given a hyphenated last name, they might be confused when they get older when they start making friends whose names aren't hyphenated.

Interesting Statistics and Hyphenation Stories

Instances of today's generation of women hyphenating their names has gotten significantly smaller since the baby-boomers' generation started making the practice more popular.

The Knot website says that less than 10% of women today hyphenate their names. Some simply choose to have two last names or two middle names when they want to keep their own last names after they get married.

Same-sex couples sometimes have a difficult time trying to hyphenate or change their surnames after they are married. Even when they are married legally, there are some states in which the judges who hear these petitions will deny the peoples' request to have the same last name. In some cases, applicants sometimes fib about the reason they are seeking the name change.

What It All Boils Down To

There are all sorts of reasons to hyphenate your name and not to hyphenate your name. The basis for each of these things, however, is whether or not you are willing to make a compromise when it comes to changing your name (or whether you are willing to compromise on your future spouse adopting your name as their own). The hyphenation is the epitome of a compromise. One spouse wants a complete name change. The other spouse wants no name change. Hyphenating the two names is a way for each person to, at least a little bit, "win" the argument.

Of course this isn't the actual end of the argument. Why would you ever think that anything having to do with getting married would be that easy? Once the decision to hyphenate one person's name is made, you have to decide whether both of you are going to hyphenate your surname.

After all, why should the bride be the only one to go through the name change process? Equal partners and opportunities and all that, right?

Many men, when they acquiesce to a bride's compromise on hyphenating her surname are happy to do the hyphenation as well. There are always going to be a few exceptions to the rule but we're willing to bet that most men will say "okay, if you will, I will too." From here, then, you need to decide which name is going to come first in the hyphenation.

The decisions and compromises just don't ever end, do they?

And don't forget the legal stuff! Making the decision is just part of the process. From there you are going to have to legally change your name all over the place. You'll need to change your name at the bank, with social security, with your credit cards, on your driver's license, at the gym… everywhere. It's easy to get overwhelmed just thinking about it.

The good news here, however, is that there are tools you can use to help you make the process a little bit less scary and intricate.

What matters of course, is that the two of you are going to be happily married—hopefully for the rest of your lives. At the end of the day, whether you each keep your names, whether you come up with an entirely new name for the two of you to share or whether you hyphenate your current surnames, what matters is that you love each other and are going to be joining your lives together. Try to remember that as you are staring at the application for your marriage license and filling out the portion that reads "name after you get married" (or whatever the legalese for that might be).

That's what matters most of all, right?

515 Comments

  1. Sandra

    If i do not take my soon to be husbands last name will that affect his citizenship? He is not a legal resident of the United States (born in Mexico) and we are working on changing that. We have a daughter she is 4 months old. Can i hyphenate the name with my current last name and his?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      If i do not take my soon to be husbands last name will that affect his citizenship?

      No, it would not.

      Can i hyphenate the name with my current last name and his?

      Yes.

      Reply
      1. Eli

        Take his last name… I'm telling you from experience. You can hyphenate the name and still get his citizenship BUT it is MUCH easier if you change your apellido completely.

        Reply
  2. Robin

    I am not sure if someone has commented on or asked this yet- BUT, I have been told that after you are married and you want to keep your maiden name and add your husbands last name there are two different directions you can take and both have different ramifications. If you choose to hyphenate, then you must always use that specific last name combo (i.e. Doe-Smith) on everything from social security cards to your passport. However, if you choose to have it spaced and treated as a second middle name (i.e. Jane Marie Doe Smith) then you can actually just drop the last name on most of your legal documents (or if you will- keep your original name = Jane Marie Doe). So essentially you would not have to have anything legally changed. Can you shed some light on this and let me know if it is correct?

    …and Just in case people were wondering why this would be an issue at all- As the article stated above, I have completed all my higher education in my maiden name (along with items published when I completed my doctoral degree) and also known to most of my members, colleagues, and business partners by my maiden name. So I feel it is part of my identity in most things I do daily- this is what most people know me by. However, my husband to be is the only boy in his family and would like to carry on his family name as well (in which he is part of a family business that all know him by). So I would like very much to be able to carry both names, BUT be able to drop his last name when dealing with work/professional things.

    So just curious if there is advice out there on which way would be better to go (the hyphen direction or the space direction- or does it even really matter).

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Robin. Whether you hyphenate or go with a space, your full legal name will be both last names. For those legal documents you cited, you would have to use both names. What you could do is use your maiden name informally/socially/professional, while using your preferred last name in full when necessary (e.g., legal documents, government forms).

      Reply
    2. hallie

      I'm in the same boat… doctoral degree, publications, and current industry job all in my maiden name. I may go back to the academic world at some point as well to continue teaching and researching. I am getting married in a couple months and have been struggling with how to find a happy medium between keeping my professional/research ties to my maiden name and have his last name for familial unity when we have kids. Robin, what did you decide?

      Valera – Please correct me if I'm wrong here… just trying to wrap my head around the options… Hyphenating the two names would then file everything under the first letter of the hyphenation? However, it doesn't seem like it legallly matters which last name comes first in the hyphanation, correct? If a space is used to create two last names, then on legal documents (such as drivers license) one would still have to write both last names "first last1 last2", but on informal documents (such as professional journal publications) one could go by either "first last1" or "first last2", correct? If was to resume publishing articles under my new full married name of "first last1 last2", would search engines recognize two last names as TWO LAST names? Or would it assume that "last1" is instead the middle name, changing the search field to "first middle last2" ?

      Thanks!
      Hallie

      Reply
      1. Valera

        Hyphenating the two names would then file everything under the first letter of the hyphenation?

        Correct.

        However, it doesn't seem like it legallly matters which last name comes first in the hyphanation, correct?

        Correct.

        If a space is used to create two last names, then on legal documents (such as drivers license) one would still have to write both last names

        Yes, the complete name.

        but on informal documents (such as professional journal publications) one could go by either "first last1? or "first last2?, correct?

        You could, but for the sake of consistency and simplicity, you may want to choose one and stick with it.

        If was to resume publishing articles under my new full married name of "first last1 last2?, would search engines recognize two last names as TWO LAST names?

        If you're talking generic search engines (e.g., google, bing), then it's hard to say. I doubt it would be much of an issue considering search engines use a multitude of hints and cross-references to piece together a result set. I doubt it would be much of an issue.

        If you're referring to specialized search engines that query name data fields, then it depends on if records are stored in the proper format with the names correctly segmented. That's really something that would have to be dealt with on a per-site basis, or going direct to the source that's distributing the data to these sites and requesting a correction/clarification.

        Reply
      2. Laurel Parrish

        What if you are in the opposite situation? My education documents – teacher's certification, degree, etc is in my married name and am now getting a divorce. I have been married 1/2 my life and everyone in my field, (education) knows me by my married name and not by my maiden name. I have one child at home. I like my maiden name – but not to be called Ms. or Mrs by my students – I am used to be my married name as I was married for 25 years and taught for most of that time.

        Thank you for any help with this.

        Reply
  3. tina

    I'm getting married in 2weeks may 22 2015 I took on my future husband last name only. But I dont want to change my drivers license and SS card for personal reason. What will happen if I don't change any of them to my new marriage name ?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      What will happen if I don't change any of them to my new marriage name ?

      Nothing will happen. Nothing will change. Your current name will remain as it always has.

      Reply
  4. janet vazquez

    I am already married for now 17 1/2 years , now after i married my husband i wanted my maiden name back , but i want to add it to the married name , i just want to know how to go about it , i especially want it back on now that my dad has pass away, he has no son and i am the oldest , and can i add this to my children middle name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Janet. If you formally changed your name 17 years ago, you'd have to petition the court to change it once again. Your local courthouse can provide you details regarding the procedure, fees, and timeline.

      Reply
  5. Brittany

    Hi! I'm married almost two years now and yet to change my last name! My husband want me to change my name completely. I'm the only child for my father and I know that this will definitely hurt him. I think you went over all the possible answers for the questions that I would ask… was just wondering if you have any suggestion on how to communicate my feelings with my husband. :-)…

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Brittany. You shouldn't feel obligated to undergo a name change. If you're unsure of making the change, then decide later. Even much later. If you're certain the change is not for you, finalize that decision and try your best to explain the reasoning behind that decision to your spouse. Think of it this way… two years have passed without your undergoing a name change, and chaos has not ensued. So it's just a matter of sticking to your choice and leaving things as-is.

      Reply
  6. Nancy J

    I am about to marry my boyfriend of 17 yrs….. but I own a home ….. How does me taking on his last name effect my paperwork on the house?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Nancy. Unless you're advised otherwise, your current legal name would go on such paperwork.

      Reply
  7. Delila

    Hi,

    I think my question may be already answered but my fiance and I are getting married next month and we are applying for our marriage license in two weeks. I want to keep my maiden name and add his last name. Maybe hyphenate it? Would I have to change it on legal documents, social security, drivers license, taxes, etc. or can I keep all my documents as is? I just don't really want to go through all the paperwork (if any) to change everything.

    Thanks :)

    Reply
    1. Valera

      It seems that you're looking to use a hyphenated name informally/socially, while still maintaining your maiden name as your legal name? There's nothing out of the ordinary about that. If you keep your documents as-is, then your name wouldn't change. Your maiden name will remain your name. You wouldn't have to update any of the documents you cited.

      Reply
  8. Scott W

    Hello, my husband and I got married in The Netherlands where they don't change their last names on the marriage certificate, and so therefore ours only reflects our original names. Even their passports show their original names and in small text below say "married to XXXXX". We'd like to hyphenate here in the US. Where do we begin? Everything I've seen says the marriage certificate must show the new hyphenated last name.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Scott. Your foreign marriage certificate would be accepted as valid, and usable, as-is.

      Reply
  9. Sarah

    I would like to hyphenate and use my husband's name casually, as my daughter still has my maiden. Does it matter which order I hyphenate?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Sarah. Maiden-Spouse is more common, but going with Spouse-Maiden is also done. The difference is the latter may require you to petition the court, in some states, while the prior does not.

      Reply
  10. Candice

    I have been married for 6 years, but am considering petitioning the court to add back in my maiden name. I would like to do this without an actual hyphen. Would I register it as a second middle name, or 2 last names. I would like to be able to use them interchangeably depending on if it is work environment or another situation.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Candice. If you're going to petition the court, you can compartmentalize it however you prefer.

      Reply
  11. Kim

    I am getting married in Sweden in two months. I want to take his name as is traditional, but I am concerned about my passport and other documents as I leave the country and come back to the United States. How do I handle it? I apologize in advance if someone already asked..I tried to read all responses before I asked but there are so many!!! Thank you…

    Reply
    1. Kim

      Also, I just read the post about the Netherlands… I have not seen my marriage certificate yet in Sweden…Will I not be able to change my name with the marriage certificate as you do in the States??

      Reply
  12. Lex

    I recently got married and didnt hyphenate my last name for example my old name was gonzales vargas, when i got married i changed it to gonzales wilson but i never hyphenated the last names is that okay?

    Reply
  13. Nicole

    Hello,
    sorry if this was already asked, I searched the Comments but I couldn´t find anything similiar.
    I´m soon getting married in Germany to my german Fiance, the Problem is that by german law only one Person can hyphernate and the other keeps the Family name (He has to keep his name and I will be Nicole his-hers because they want to protect the future Kids from endless names) The officer said if I married by californian law ( I was born there) it may be possible that both can have a hyphernated name (both His-Hers). In the comments I think I read that Cali is different? Is it possible? Please help. Thank You!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Nicole. Yes, California does allow one or both to have a hyphenated name.

      Reply
  14. Erika

    I would like to properly post my previous married name & my current married name on professional sites like LinkedIn. Right now I have Erika (Smith) Jones. With Smith being the old last name that is what a lot of people will recall. Since I recently remarried 2 yrs. ago there are quite a lot of people that know me only by my new last name of Jones. Just wondering if I did it correctly. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Erika. I think it's a reasonable approach for folks who have knowledge of your previous name, but for others the use of parenthesis can lead to confusion. It can be interpreted as a middle name, alias, or nickname.

      Reply
  15. Shane

    I appreciate all the great comments/questions on this site. My wife hyphenates her name and her workplace finally upgraded the employee directory to include her hyphenated name(we've been married nearly 2 years). Are there certain areas of the country where hyphenating seems more common? I'm from the great state of Arkansas, and there are more women here in The Natural State who hyphenate then a lot of people would realize.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Shane. There's not much in the way of reliable last name data (typically provided by the census, last data refresh for 2000) as there is first name data (provided by the SSA, annually updated). I can tell you the top 1000 last names of the 2000 census doesn't include one hyphen. Which is to be expected. You'd have to get into the lower rankings to find real hyphenated references, and then try to cross reference them by state. Not an easy task.

      Reply
  16. Jennifer Newell

    My future husband asked if he could take my last name….I said yes….is that strange. Acceptable which I really don't care. Just never had heard of that so just wondering if anyone else had their husband take their last name…marriage of proper male and female relationship

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jennifer. I don't think there's anything strange about it. It may be less common, but neither odd nor unacceptable.

      Reply
  17. Lisa Martin

    My partner (now wife) and I just got married and our social security cards were changed to our new married name Martin-Hornsby. We live in Texas and when my spouse went to change her license, the DMV said no, they could not change her name to Martin-Hornsby, that she could add my last name on to the end,but not hyphenate it as the first last name. Everyone I have spoken to says this is ridiculous. Straight couples- the male often hyphenates his last name adding hers to the beginning. Any insight into this? I spoke to my attorney who said this is wrong, try another office and if not, we will proceed with action to get it done.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Lisa. Your counsel's advice does make sense. It may be worthwhile to try another office or clerk.

      Reply
  18. Erica

    Thank you for all your advice. My question is what do I do if some of my official documents (bank, IRS, work, Soc Sec) have me listed as Erica MiddleName MaidenName MarriedName with my two last names unhyphenated, but when I moved, I foolishly, for convenience sake, filled out others (DMV, Voter Registration, passport) with just MarriedName as last name and MaidenName as a second middle name.

    I am assuming I would need to petition the court for a name change so that everything is uniform. Initially I was thinking I would hyphenate the two last names to alleviate confusion that I seem to encounter around my two unhyphenated last names, but my actual preference is to keep the two unhyphenated last names and just make all documents uniform. However, on the name change forms in California where I live, they don't ask for your former last name, but for what your current name is and what you want to change it to – so it looks like I'm asking to change from Erica MiddleName MaidenName MarriedName to Erica MiddleName MaidenName MarriedName, which looks redundant and seems ridiculous.

    Is there either some way to indicate that I would like to use the two unhyphenated last names as my last name uniformly? (and as an aside, do I even need to list my middle name on the petition form?) Or is it just simplest in light of all the existing complications to just go ahead and hyphenate on my petition? (Sorry this question is so long and complicated). Thank you in advance.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Erica. If you're referring the to present and proposed name fields, there should be multiple lines allowing you to specify the before and afters for your various name segments. Before you file your petition you can seek clarification from the court clerk that you've filled it out correctly.

      Reply
  19. Annette

    I am divorced with one child and out of respect for him I'd like to keep my married name and hyphenate with my new married last name. My teenage son would like to hyphenate but my fiance is not on board. He's looking at it like it is my ex-husbands name rather than my son's. I am getting the impression from those around me that this is a strange idea. I am wrong in wanting to have the same last name as my boy? I don't want to insult either man in my life. HELP.

    Reply
  20. Jenna

    When I filled out my application for marriage license, I wrote that my married name will be hyphenated. After being married for a while, I think it will be easier to take two last names instead of hyphenating. Can I change my mind without filling out extra paper work and just move forward with changing from my maiden name to 2 last names instead of a hyphenated last name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jenna. It depends on the state. It's not assured that two last names without a hyphen would be recognized. Try getting in touch with your city/county clerk to determine what is/isn't recognized.

      Reply
  21. Tunde A

    If a woman hyphened her name and the children do the same, then, hyphen named (children) married another hyphen named what happens?

    I think, this was simply adopted to avoid a longer thread of confusion and to have a degree of order, but in life, order is what we call it. So, what do you say??

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Tunde. Probably opt for a segment surname that uses either a part of one party's surname, or a combined segment surname from both spouses.

      Reply
  22. Theresa

    I made the mistake of hyphenating my last name when I married. I kept my maiden name and then added my husbands name. I divorced several years ago and now want to drop his name. Does anyone know how to go about it? Do I just need to visit the SSA?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Theresa. If you requested your maiden name be restored during the divorce proceedings, then you can take a certified copy of your divorce decree to the SSA to change your name. If you did not request the judge restore your maiden name, you can petition the court to change your name. Afterward, you can take your court order to the SSA to restore your maiden name.

      Reply
  23. Sharon

    My declared last name is hyphenated on the marriage certificate, but I want to drop the hyphen when I go about the process of changing my name on documents (so it would be "her his" rather than "hers-his.") . Is that allowed or does it have to be hyphenated? What forms do I have to fill out to drop the hyphen?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Sharon. Such double-barred last names aren't as universally recognized as hyphenated. It's allowed in some areas and not in others. The forms you fill out would be the same, but it's just a matter of whether or not it will be recognized.

      Reply
  24. Veronica Taylor

    Hello, I have a unusual problem, I found my biological father several years ago, father's name was left blank on my birth certificate , my mother died 2 1/2 years ago, now my biological father would like for me to have his last name, I would like to drop the last name I was given by my mom because it belonged to her husband, I was not given a middle name but I am married with the last name Taylor , My father's last name is Mcafee, Can I take Mcafee as my middle name and be known as Veronica Mcafee Taylor, did I mention I am 53 years old☺️. Thank you for your help

    Reply
    1. Veronica Taylor

      I did not mention that I now go by Veronica Peaker Taylor, Peaker was the last name given at birth which I now use as my middle name , have I been wrong in doing so , should I have been signing my signature with both last names Peaker Taylor, when I change my name to Veronica Taylor Mcafee, How should I sign my name?

      Reply
      1. Valera

        should I have been signing my signature with both last names Peaker Taylor

        You should if Peaker is part of your last name and not your middle.

        when I change my name to Veronica Taylor Mcafee, How should I sign my name?

        That depends on how you change it. If you want Taylor as your middle name, then you can sign with your full name or just Veronica Mcafee (omitting your middle name). If Taylor is to serve as the first part of your last name, then you'll sign all three names.

        Reply
  25. Emily

    I recently got married and would like to hyphenate my maiden name and my husband's last name. Would I need to obtain a court order to do so in Pennsylvania or could I follow the same process as if I were simply taking his last name only?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Emily. You don't need a court order. The procedure would be the same as just taking your husband's last name only.

      Reply
    2. Shane

      Emily,

      Believe it or not, the process is not as complicated as some may think, especially changing your name on the SS card. My wife hyphenates and it was fairly painless as far as the paperwork.

      Reply
  26. Loralei

    Hello,

    I recently got married to my hubby who is from SD and we have discussed taking on his last name. To complicate things, I am still using my ex-husband's last name and would like to keep it for the sake of my children as well as for documentation purposes. Will it be okay to just hypenate my husband's last name to the current one that I am using? Will this be legal and binding for all documents going forward? Thanks.

    Reply
  27. Rosie

    I have used my change of deed surname, I married for the second time and hyphenated my name with my husband….. the issue I have is with banks they question the fact of my legal document of change of name deed and say it not on my marriage certificate. This action has upset me… I have to wait for someone in the banking world to decide to go againts two rightfully legal documents…. why is this so any help out there ……

    Reply
  28. Julie

    Hello,

    I was married at 19 and divorced at 45. After the divorce I maintained my ex husbands last name for two reasons , my children and that fact that I carried his last name longer than my maiden name. I would also add that changing your name on all your significant documents is time consuming.

    I am now engaged and I really am apprehensive about changing my name. For the fact I am now 51 and for 32 years have carried the same last name. I know my fiance would want me to take his name. There really is no easy solution to this.

    Wondering what some of you thought. Thanks

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Julie. There's no right or wrong approach. You you can take your time to decide what to do, or not do. Have a look at the keeping your maiden name after divorce article, which covers this topic further.

      Reply
  29. Carrie

    I took my husband's last name and when we divorced, I took my maiden name back. Several years pass, now I am engaged. My fiancé prefers I take his last name, but I am twice shy because of changing my name for marriage once before. I am considering hyphenation or no change at all, but I feel very conflicted about breaking our families' tradition. How can I explain my choice, while honoring the idea of family unity?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Carrie. This topic is covered in greater detail within the keeping your name after divorce article. Ultimately, the choice is yours. You shouldn't feel compelled to make an immediate change, or any change at all, that you'll later regret.

      The procedure for changing your name as a result of marriage is fairly straightforward. Going back to reverse the change is far more time-consuming, so you'll not want to put yourself through unnecessary hassle, if it can avoided.

      Reply
  30. Sheryl Grow

    My wife and I are a same sex couple debating on changing our last names. We have thought of hyphenating the two. If we do this do they both need to listed the same? For example both as Smith-Jones or (Smith being my last name, Jones hers) or can I go as Smith-Jones and she as Jones-Smith?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Sheryl. That probably wouldn't be recognized through a marriage-related name change. There typically needs to be a matching name. For instance, the states that allow couples to change their names to something entirely new, it has to match.

      Reply
  31. Kara

    I'm 38 and just got married. I have a professional career where I am known by my maiden name. I will keep both my maiden last name and take his. When filing for taxes as a newly married couple it is very difficult to do so without the same last name. So my last name for the social security card will be my middle name follow by my maiden name. My official "last name" will be changed to his. Is this possible?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Kara. Your name doesn't have to match your spouse's when filing taxes. It doesn't matter. Just make sure the name you're filing with matches what's on your social security record.

      Reply
  32. Kathy Sue Smith

    i just got married a few days ago but haven't gone to the social security office yet or filed my marriage certificate that was signed yet at the clerks office. I'm from a small town and am a hair stylist. I dint want to have to change my salon licenses or my business check account. Can I keep my first name/middle name/ divorced name before my marriage/ then my new last name? If so can I just sign Kathy Smith for business but use My first/ middle/ last name before marriage/ new last married name use all for all legal documents ? Do I have to use all names for signing checks , etc??

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Kathy. That shouldn't pose much of a problem. You can contact your bank to see if they'll recognize your continuing to do business in your preferred name. That way you'll be sure there won't be future surprises when it comes to renewing, cashing, or signing checks.

      Reply
  33. Mel

    I will be getting married in a week and plan on hyphenating my name (my maiden name and his last name). I don't plan on making any name changes to any government docs, etc ( SS, drivers license , passport) but will maintain those under my maiden name. My question is, does this affect us filing jointly on our tax return? For purposes of filing jointly , will I have to make this name change with the social security office?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Mel. You'd file your taxes with the name that appears on your social security card. So if you don't intend to change your name with the SS, then you'll file taxes under the name you've been using.

      Reply
  34. Stacy Barzee

    I'm getting married in February. I have a concern about changing my last name. I don't mind taking his last name, but for my Nursing degree I would like to keep Barzee.
    Is there a way to do this? I'm known by my ( ,Barzee) name. I've been a nurse for 13years. I don't want to loose my reputation and have to start all over. Or have to tell everyone who I am again and that I got married.
    Help me out.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Stacy. That's typically not a problem. You'll still want to get in touch with the state's Board of Nursing to be aware of any particulars this may entail. Also, contact your HR department to determine if they'll allow it. Some employers are flexible, while others will want your legal name to appear on your badge and your write-ups.

      Reply
  35. Kimberly

    I got married in Sept. I have not changed my license or ss card..my new health insurance is through my husbands employer so we hyphenated it but Im learning its becoming such a hassle but after being married a couple of times and divorced, I am also the last of the Mason's in my family and I am adopted also I fought to get Mason back after my divorce 11 yrs ago, I dont want to lose my maiden name again plus I absolutely hate my husbands last name Odle..if it were pronounced the way its spelled id be ok but it sounds just funny as hell and even if I were to have just his last name I'd always have to spell it and correct the way people pronounce it so its not like I will have much more to explain when I say Mason-Odle. …I just want to make sure Im doing the right thing keeping both names before I legally change it on my license and SS card…it doesnt ring well together thats for sure and its a mouth full but I do not want Mason as my middle name..I happen to love my name Kimberly Beth besides Beth is a family name dating way back..but Ive heard horror stories about women who have chosen to hyphenate their names such as computer issues and people not know what to call them..my kids are grown as are his so there wont be any children born to us as a couple so that isnt an issue but I cant see people calling me Mrs. Mason-Odle ya know..so how does that work and how do you decide…

    Reply
    1. Kimberly

      Oh I forgot to add that I am in the mists of getting approved for SSDI..so my attorney told me to wait to change everything as Im right on the verge of approval..and the name will change when I change my ss card …I do want to take on my husbands name I just dont think I want to lose my maiden name again but I hate the hyphen..

      Reply
    2. Valera

      I just want to make sure Im doing the right thing keeping both names before I legally change it on my license and SS card

      There truly is no right or wrong. It's a matter of what you can live with and what you might regret. Do you think you might end up changing your mind after changing your name for real? At that point, there wouldn't be anything preventing you from going back, other than the time and expense of going through a court petition.

      Ive heard horror stories about women who have chosen to hyphenate their names such as computer issues

      Folks have reported this here as well, which is a bizarre roadblock to run into.

      I cant see people calling me Mrs. Mason-Odle ya know..so how does that work and how do you decide

      You've not changed your name yet, so you can still decide or decide not to decide, at least for the time being. Or even longer. Or consider an alternative, such as not going through with a change, deferring it to much further into the future, or just using the hypenated version informally.

      Reply
  36. Marla

    I have been hyphenated for 40 years…..it's been a pain, but I just dig in and stand tough. I hyphenated my son's name when he was born.
    Here is the most irritating part and I have never been absolutely sure what is correct. Most folks, rather than trying to make an effort to speak my name properly, simply call me "Mrs" Jones, rather than the "Ms" Smith-Jones. So, am I "Mrs." Smith-Jones or Ms. Smith-Jones? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Marla. Hyphenating is one of those things that other folks don't often catch onto. They may consider the first part of your hyphenated name as your middle name when you pronounce it. So, they'll just reference the last part of your hyphenated name. It's only really clear on paper.

      So, you are "Mrs. Smith-Jones", but all you can really do when other folks get it wrong is to correct them. Or you can preemptively state that your last name is hyphenated. Something like "Smith-Jones, last name hyphen."

      Reply
  37. Tina

    So, I was married and divorced some years ago, but I kept the married last name due to our children having his name etc. I just remarried, and haven't an issue with his last name, but was thinking to hyphenate it with my current last name of my ex-husband (same as my minor children) wit new married last name…if I do this would I be required to sign the entire hyphenated name or just my new married name even though it would be hyphenated?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      if I do this would I be required to sign the entire hyphenated name or just my new married name even though it would be hyphenated?

      You'd sign your full hyphenated name for legal documents, taxes, employment, government forms, job applications, credit card applications, and so forth. Anything that would have a reasonable chance of querying an official database looking for a name match and it becoming a problem if it's not found. For informal situations, it doesn't hurt to just sign the last part of your hyphenated name.

      Reply
  38. ashely

    Hello, I am entering a same sex marriage. We wanted to take each others last names and add the hypen. (ex: Alice Jone & Angie Smith so then our names would be Alice Jones-Smith & Angie Jones-Smith) when we were doing our license and asked they seemed very unsure then said we cant do that so either i would take her last name & could add a hypen with mine if i wanted or she could take mine but we both cant. I am in Georgia is this true? They said we would have to do a legal name change an petition to get hers to say both last names as mine is going to be.

    also if I hypen the last name do I always have to add the hypen or can i just do it with the space (ex: Jones-Smith but write it Jones Smith)

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Ashely. There's a more comprehensive Georgia name change page that you can review that discusses various name change options further. But, in summary, Georgia federal and state organizations, such as the SSA and DDS (Department of Driver Services) will honor the name specified on your certified marriage record. But that's not where you're facing difficulty. In Georgia, as you're aware, new names are specified on the marriage license application. So if the clerk handling your application isn't able to process what you've written, then your marriage record won't ultimately reflect your choice.

      Georgia is one of the more lenient states when it comes to name change options, although it's unclear if both spouses taking the last name is going to fly. Based on the lack of information on Georgia state legislature pages, and how the vast majority of states do actually impose a one person name change only rule, it's safer than not to assume what you've been told is accurate. But, as you say, they seem unclear. What you can do is ask them to specify the rule/statute that disallows it, and if it can't be furnished, would your applications still not be accepted and why?

      An alternative is to try another probate court, as a marriage license issued in whichever county is valid statewide.

      Reply
  39. Mrs. Q

    Hi,

    I've been married a little more than 4 years now. When I first got married I had already completed my undergraduate degree and had a house under my maiden name, so I decided to hyphenate to makes transitioning a bit easier. Any who… When I went to SS to have my name changed, the person who helped me insisted my married name had to go first followed by my maiden name. Recently my husband has been asking if I'd consider changing to the more common version of {first name, maiden name-married name} – which is what every other married woman with a hyphenated name I know has.

    My questions is: Is there an actual rule/law as to how I'm supposed to hyphenate my name? Considering I've had mine for 4 years now, I'm a little hesitant to change, especially considering the hassle it is to go through the checklist of documents/accounts I'll have to update!

    Many thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Mrs. Q. There's no standard rule, as there's only two options: maiden-married or married-maiden. The prior is more common, and universally allowed, while the latter is not recognized by all states. The one area where it becomes more ambiguous is when people opt to go for a mutated hyphenation alternative, such as a space instead of hyphen, or combining names without a hyphen, or segmenting parts of each name.

      Reply
  40. Carole Friend

    I am getting married in July – my current name is Carole Laverne Friend – I will be a 'Southwell' when married – can I use my middle name and hyphenate it to my new married name

    being………………. Carole Laverne-Southwell

    I live in the UK – will this be a natural process when getting married or do I need to change it by deed poll??

    Reply
  41. Jeffery

    I'm in NY and my same sex partner and I are getting married. The marriage license says surname after marriage, optional. My question is, if we leave that blank and just keep our pre married names (which we plan to do ). Will we have to carry around our marriage license to prove were married? Example, bank accounts, hospitals etc. we own our house which is already in both of our pre married names as well as our car insurance. What this approach affect anything else I'm not thinking of? Thank you

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jeffery. Even if you did change your name, that wouldn't be proof of marriage. A certified copy of your marriage certificate will serve as sufficient proof of marriage (name change or not), if an entity requires such documentation.

      Reply
  42. Jennifer

    I read through everyone's comments and didn't see one similar to my situation, so I was curious your thoughts: I'm marrying someone whose ex wife has the same first name as mine. They have 2 children together, so she is keeping his last name. I'm wondering if it would be confusing to merely take his last name as well…. then both myself and his ex wife would have the same name? Should I consider hyphenating it, modifying it, or retaining my maiden name to lessen any confusion?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jennifer. There's no better or worse. I'd advise you to choose whichever "you" prefer and can live with and don't put much stock in what others may think.

      Reply
  43. Doreen

    I am planning to get married later this year. I was thinking that due to being a business owner of a c-corp for the past years, notary, etc., I would like to keep my last name and hyphenate with my last name with his.
    If I do so, can my signature stay the same for work proposes (my maiden last name), and my personal accounts signature different (using my first name and my finances last name)? I understand that legal documents such as bank accounts, drivers license, SS card, Passport, loans, etc. will need to signed with full hyphenated last name, correct?, or at least in the "print name" area?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Doreen. It can vary from state to state, so you'll have to consult your state's guidebook. And, yes, such legal documents should display your hyphenated name in print and signature.

      Reply
  44. Savannah Close-Ige

    Hi Valera, I recently got married almost 2 months ago. I chose to keep my maiden name and hyphen my husbands name but am having second thoughts.. So my question is, since I haven't changed my name anywhere else besides the marriage certificate what would I have to do to be able to change my last name to just my husbands last name? We are moving next month so I havnt changed any documents (drivers license, bank cards etc)

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Savannah. You'll need to get a certified copy of your marriage certificate, then use that to go about changing your name with the various institutions (e.g., SSA, DMV, passport office). There's a possibility you may run into complications with the DMV due to the name on your certificate not matching what you're changing it to. This is only the case in some states, such as California. It can also depend on how flexible the agent you're working with is.

      Reply
  45. Krissy

    Hi. I am going to get married next year. I want to keep my maiden name legally to prevent me from changing my name on a list of legal documents that i've had.
    Would it be okay to drop my maiden name on the marriage certificate and take his while maintaining my maiden name legally?
    Secondly, I am a new green card holder and he is British. Would this decision affect any citizenship process in the future fro both countries? Or would i have to change my name legally as it is on the marriage certificate?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Krissy. You don't have to change your name, regardless of what's on the certificate. It shouldn't affect your citizenship, as name change is optional for all.

      Reply
  46. Heather Johnson

    Hi my name is Heather & this is how I feel about Marriage name change. I have been in a 6 year relationship off and on. I have decided when marriage comes. I'm going to keep my madden name and my future husband's name.

    1st off I have always liked my last name, my mom and dad split when I was 8. My mom keep my dad's last name because she has 2 kids with him, and she felt like she would be abandoning her kids by changing her name back to her madden name. Plush she is still married by law, so technically I am the last female on my dads side with his last name (Johnson), also I'm the only daughter he has so I do not see anything wrong with my name being Heather Jean Johnson (Cooper)! And I would put his name last.

    Because when we do have kids, I want them to have there dad's last name. In my eyes that's who they are/will be. I know they will be half (Cooper) and half Johnson. But I guess I'm kinda old school I have my dad's last name, and I want the same for my kids ,and if they do ever come to me, and say mom why did you keep your madden name. And not just daddy's like your kids. I will explain to them that I am the only female left in my family with the last name Johnson. ( that is blood not tru marriage ) and I will reassure them. That I love your daddy so much I took his last name too. That's why your last name is (Cooper) like daddy's and mom's.!!💕💖💙💛💚💟💞💓💘💗 (This is my opinion on the whole taking your husband's last name or not. Why not keep yours, and take your husband's too.I don't see anything wrong/disrespectful about it. 💯
    ✌ AND 💙 # Hyphenated

    Reply
  47. Maria mulato

    Hi
    I'm getting married in a week and I'm putting my fiances last name first then mine do I have to change my (ss,dmv etc.)or can I leave it as it is and also can I keep sighning with my last name or I have to start sighning with his lasts name

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Maria. You can continue signing with your last name until you officially change it.

      Reply
  48. Regina Cole

    I will be getting good married in a few months. I am divorced and kept my married name due to having it for 26 yrs. I have several licenses, certifications, etc that have my married name on it. If I hyphenate my name, prior married name-new married name, will all my licenses, ss, DL, etc still be valid and legal or do I have to change everything? Trying to avoid having to change everything.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Regina. They'll still be valid. You'll have to contact your licensing board to determine if records are required to be updated and documents reissued. Some require notification of name or address changes, while others don't. Some may be willing to allow a prior name to stand on your license while making note of your name change internally.

      If you have any licenses that require you to reregister every X number of years, this is something you'll want to be prepared for ahead of time.

      Reply
  49. Domenica

    Hello!

    My last name on my marriage certificate is hyphenated (my last name-his last mame) I never took the time to change my last name with SSA. I have now change my mind and I don't want my last name hyphenated. I want to have his last name only. When I go to SSA to change my last name will they use what is on the marriage certificate? In other words will they forced me to hyphenate my name? Can I just have them switch it to my husband's last name only?

    Reply
  50. Latoya

    Hello,

    I took my husbands last name when I married him. A year and a half into the marriage I changed it to my hyphenated last name (my maiden and his last name). I did change it at the SSA to the hyphenated one. I want to change it now to just my husbands last name again and drop the whole hyphenated thing. Will I have to do a legal name change? Should I just go to SSA and have them change it with my marriage license? I have been married for 9 years. I've looked in to this, and they keep saying if I take these steps, the legal name change will also change my birth certificate to my requested married name. I do not want this, because my birth certificate should only reflect my birth name Any ideas or help?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I want to change it now to just my husbands last name again and drop the whole hyphenated thing. Will I have to do a legal name change?

      Yes, you'll have to do a court petitioned name change.

      Should I just go to SSA and have them change it with my marriage license?

      No, you'll need a court order, which'll you'll get once your petition is complete.

      I've looked in to this, and they keep saying if I take these steps, the legal name change will also change my birth certificate to my requested married name. I do not want this, because my birth certificate should only reflect my birth name Any ideas or help?

      Birth certificates changes typically have to be initiated by you once you get a court order. You have to get in contact with the recorders office (or wherever your birth certificate is filed), make the request, fill out the forms, and pay their fee.

      Court petitions provide you the document to change your name, but if you choose not to do anything with the court order, then your name won't change.

      Reply
  51. lisa

    Hi I'm getting married in Sept to my boyfriend of 16 years and I wanna hyphens my last name with his last name. I don't have any intentions changing my current documents. He not on my apartment lease with me not dropping my last name can I get in trouble. With his last name only on out marriage certificate. Thanks

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Lisa. It's not a problem. If you choose not to change your name, it won't negatively affect anything.

      Reply
  52. Phyllis Madera Dejarnette

    I was married in 2008, when I applied for my job in 2011 my name is hyphenated by my first, maiden, husbands last name. My question to you is, when I was hired they are using my maiden name for my sinority. Is that legal. Or should they be using my married name? I have no childeren

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Phyllis. Unless there's a state regulation against it, an employer will address you how you prefer. One of an employers' main concerns is that they're using your proper name for tax purposes, and in your case that may not be happening. If so, it would be in their interest (and yours) to use your current, correct name.

      If you wish to be addressed by your legal name—which is the hyphenated version—then you can make them aware of that. I wouldn't be surprised if their addressing you incorrectly is simply due to a software/database misconfiguration that's being thrown off by certain non-alphanumeric characters.

      Reply
  53. Lynn Crosby

    Hello,
    After 28 years of marriage, my husband passed away, and now, 13 years later, I am remarrying. I would like to retain my married surname, not only because I share it with my two children, but also because I am teacher who has been known by my current last name for over twenty years. I thought of hyphenating my new name, but feel it will be a mouthful for my young students to say. Yet I don't want to offend my soon-to-be husband if I keep my current last name instead of changing it to his. While I realize this is a personal decision, I am still looking for some advice on what to do. How exactly would I sign the marriage certificate if I haven't decided by then? Thank you…

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Lynn. Some states (e.g., California) want the "change to" name on your marriage license to match what you intend to change it to. So, if believe you may change your name, it's safest to specify the new name. It's non-binding, meaning if you ultimately choose not to go through with any name change, it won't impact you.

      Reply
  54. Renee

    I have been married and divorced two times. I just changed my last name back to my maiden name last year so I don't want to have to change it again, especially at my work. I want to take his last name but want to keep my maiden name for work. How should I do this? If I were to keep my middle name and my maiden name and add his name do I have the option of signing with either last name?
    First name/middle name/maiden name/ married name. If I have to last names, with no hyphen, can I write either name when signing things?

    Reply
    1. Renee

      I don't want to hyphen the two names because my maiden name is already long so I want the option of signing my married name outside of work while keeping and signing maiden name at work.

      Reply
    2. Valera

      I want to take his last name but want to keep my maiden name for work. How should I do this?

      At a minimum, your employer will use your married name for tax purposes, but how else they'll use it (e.g., email name referencing, bulletin board posts, checks, print-outs) is up to them.

      If they're going to be changing your name within a database, where will that new name be outputted? And if you prefer to keep that information private, you'll have to work out how they can accommodate your preference. That's something you can find out in advance.

      If I were to keep my middle name and my maiden name and add his name do I have the option of signing with either last name? First name/middle name/maiden name/ married name. If I have to last names, with no hyphen, can I write either name when signing things?

      On government documents or any document that has a legal basis, you'd sign your full name. Anything that might run a query against your full name (e.g., medical/car insurance, resume) also use your full name.

      Reply
  55. Rose Siengsubcharti

    Hello, I'm from Southern California but was married in Michigan. On our Marriage Certificate, I'm listed as First Name Married Name. However, I'd like to keep my Maiden Name as my Middle Name (I currently do not have a Middle Name). So my new name would be:

    First Maiden Married

    I thought the change could take place at the Social Security level but was told that to have my Maiden as a Middle changed but was told that this was a whole new process that would involve changing my birth certificate? (I live in LA County) And that I would have to petition the court first.

    If approved, what will be on the birth certificate? It seems redundant to have First Maiden Maiden.
    Then I will have to change this on my marriage certificate too right? So it will First Maiden Married.

    However, if this is all correct, then it is FINALLY at this point that I go to Social Security to have it legally changed to First Maiden Married.

    Is this all correct?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Rose. If you're going to petition the court, you could go directly to First Maiden Married, and skip the intermediary First Maiden Maiden. In this case, you wouldn't need to mess with or use your marriage certificate—your court order will be sufficient to change your name with all the necessary institutions.

      Reply
  56. S.carter

    Not a question, just a statement. I'm getting married today and as per tradition, fully plan on taking my fiancee's last name. Some people only hyphenate on social media sites like Facebook to keep confusion of friends to a minimum, which I will be doing. 😄

    Reply
  57. Amy

    Hello, I live in Texas and got married about 2yrs ago. I would like to keep my maiden name and add my husbands last name without the hyphen. I also have a middle name and would like to keep it also, so it would look like…

    First Middle Maiden Husbands.

    How would I go about changing it? Would I have to legally change it then go to ss or just go directly to ss? Also would I need to use both last names or just one or the other when signing anything not just legal documents?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Amy. I believe such a name change would require a court order. And, yes, you should sign both names.

      Reply
  58. Douglas Bourke

    What happens when one party with a hyphenated last name marries someone also having a hyphenated last name!!!!!! There may well be three hyphens in the brides married family name!!! How stupid, because in reality the connotation is that the person is a bastard – not knowing what their family name really is!!!!

    Reply
  59. Gary Philpott

    Hi.

    I am Irish and got married to my American wife. I am filling out my Green Card forms. On our marriage cert she changed her name to hyphenated Acevedo-Philpott. Her Drivers license now says Acevedo-Philpott but her SSN and Passport still say Acevedo. When filling out the forms it asks for my Wife's Family name .Would this be Acevedo or Acevedo-Philpott?

    Thanks in advance.
    Gary

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Gary. Generally, it's the name that's on the social, so Acevedo.

      Reply
  60. Isabella

    Hello,

    I am a resident of Arizona, was married there in 2015 and kept my maiden name. I would like to add my husbands name and would like advice which option is the easiest in terms of legal paperwork.

    Option A: I do not have a middle name. So, this option I would my my maiden name my middle name and take my husbands last name.

    Option B: Hyphenate

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Isabella. Option B (hyphenate) shouldn't pose a problem. Option A might give you difficulty due to your not having an existing middle name. You can contact your driver's license office to confirm if a new middle would be honored.

      Reply
  61. Michelle Ware

    I changed my name 10 years ago to my husband last name. Now, I would like to hyphenate it. How hard will this process be?

    Reply
  62. Lindsay

    I live in New Hampshire and got married last month. On the marriage license I changed my name to his last name. Now I've decided to hyphenate instead. Will I need a court order to do so?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Lindsay. It's likely that you will. Many of the town/city clerks use a universal application which details this in the fine print area of the worksheet.

      Reply
  63. Irene

    Hi Valera,

    Your article as well as the Q&A section has been very informative. This is something I didn't even think about until I read all the comments. I just got married 3 weeks ago. I didn't even want to worry about changing my name until after the honeymoon since all the travel arrangements have been made in my maiden name. So naturally the marriage certificate is also in my maiden name. Now I'm starting to do the research and see the options of changing my name to my husband's. Does this mean I first have to get the name changed to his on the marriage certificate? Since it looks like I'll need copies of the marriage certificate for various forms for the name change? How would this work?

    Thank you!!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Irene. It depends on the state and whether the new name specified—or not specified—will be a hindrance when attempting to undergo a marriage based name change. Some states want the name on the certificate to match what you'll change it to, otherwise they'll require a court order to process it. Some states don't even have a space on the marriage license to specify a name change. So, it depends. One thing that's for certain is that changing a marriage certificate, after the fact, is unlikely to be accepted by the recorder's office unless there was a mistake made on their part.

      Reply
  64. Teresa

    Hi,Valera. Thanks for the great article. It was very informative but I still have a question. The last name on my birth certificate is P**y and my married last name is H***d.

    The last time I petitioned the court for a name change was after the divorce from my first husband. I petitioned to drop his last name and just keep my birth name. I have lost my ss card so I am not really sure what is has on it. Not even really sure what is on my marriage certificate but I assume it is H***d. We married in Alabama but were born in and reside in Kentucky.

    I have been signing my name like my birth last name is a middle initial (Teresa P. H***d) but now I want my last name to be P**y H***d (Teresa P**y H***d).
    So, can I just sign my name the way I want or do I have to petition the court? It just seems superfluous to ask a court if I can keep and sign a name I was born with. Suggestions?
    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Teresa. You can sign it however you'd prefer, but keep context in mind. If you're applying for a loan, filling out government paperwork, filing taxes, applying for a job (think background check), or anything else that would entail looking up your legal name to confirm that it matches what's on file with the SSA, you'll need to sign your actual, current, legal name. But, for other informal situations, sign it how you'd prefer.

      Reply
  65. brittany lemonda

    Hello. I am having some wet feet changing my name to be hyphenated. I am a clinical psychologist and want to keep my maiden name professionally and want my license, board certification etc. to be in my maiden name. If i change my name legally can I keep my maiden name professionally for everything?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Brittany. That would be up to the state board. You'll have to consult them to determine if you need to 1) notify them of a name change, 2) have their internal records updated, and 3) require the reissue of documents reflecting your legal name, or if you can continue using your maiden name. Some have standards in place where they need to be notified of a name change, while it still being permissible for you to continue using a maiden or prior name.

      Reply
  66. vane

    Hi I am getting married in the next few days. Am I able to hyphenate his last name after my last name? Example my last name is Rangel, my fiancés last name is Padilla, so could it be Rangel-Padilla? If so, do I still have to update my ID's or is that optional.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Vane. That shouldn't be a problem. If you're only changing your name on your marriage certificate/license, but not on any actual documents, then your name wouldn't actually change. So, in that instance, it is optional.

      Reply
  67. Iris

    I divorced several, almost 6yrs ago. I never found the need to change my married last name. Until just recently. I am expecting a new baby out of wedlock. Therefore, I felt the need to change my married last name back to my maiden name. Now I don't know whether or not to hyphanate my maiden name and my son's father's last name? #LastName#NewBaby#Complicated😕

    Reply
  68. JJ

    Thank you Valera for the very helpful information and answers to the comments. So I just want to confirm that I'm understanding some things:

    If you change your last name (completely or hyphenated) on your marriage license, that gives you the ability to change your other legal documents and without fees?

    However, if you change it on your marriage license and don't follow up and change it with your SS or DL, then you can still go by your maiden name legally and "new" last name socially? How does the marriage license validity or use if the "new" last name isn't adopted?

    Would it be wrong/illegal to complete things like customs forms with the "new" last name if it's only listed on the marriage license?

    I'm from NYC by the way and would really like a 2 word last name (mine his) without the hyphenation, but not sure NY allows that.. I am also on the same boat as others with professional documents that I would prefer not to change. I just get worried about things like having children and their last name being different that mine. I've been very conflicted.

    Thanks so much for your clarifications and help!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      If you change your last name (completely or hyphenated) on your marriage license, that gives you the ability to change your other legal documents and without fees?

      Yes.

      However, if you change it on your marriage license and don't follow up and change it with your SS or DL, then you can still go by your maiden name legally and "new" last name socially?

      Yes.

      How does the marriage license validity or use if the "new" last name isn't adopted?

      Let's make sure we're discussing the same thing. The marriage license is what you'll get prior to marriage. The marriage certificate is what you'll get after you are married. In some states it's the same document; the status is what changes.

      With that said, whether or not you change your name won't affect its validity.

      Would it be wrong/illegal to complete things like customs forms with the "new" last name if it's only listed on the marriage license?

      Yes, use your legal maiden name.

      I'm from NYC by the way and would really like a 2 word last name (mine his) without the hyphenation, but not sure NY allows that

      I don't believe that's allowed in New York.

      Reply
      1. JJ

        Thanks so much for your reply and clarifications!

        Ok so on the marriage license you need to put what you would like to change it to and the marriage certificate is when it's actually changed?

        If I write a new last name on the certificate, will I then be expected to change my other formal documents? Will it be an issue if I don't?

        Thank you for clarifying between the certificate and the license.

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Ok so on the marriage license you need to put what you would like to change it to and the marriage certificate is when it's actually changed?

          Your marriage certificate will mirror what you specify on your marriage license. It's not changeable.

          If I write a new last name on the certificate, will I then be expected to change my other formal documents?

          You certificate wouldn't deviate from what you specify on your license. And, no, you wouldn't be expected or obligated to change any of your documents to reflect the name on your certificate.

          Will it be an issue if I don't?

          No, if you ultimately decide not to change your name, just ignore what you specified on your marriage ceritifcate.

          Thank you for clarifying between the certificate and the license.

          You're welcome.

          Reply
  69. Honey

    I have been using my married name for my drivers license but it's not hyphened which I recently got a car. Now my license is about to expire. But on my ssc is my hyphenated married name. Do I have to call the dealer to hyphenate the info or registration, bank, etc. since everything just in my non hyphenated name but the first name chose I had. I honestly liked it when I just had his last name only & not hyphenated lol. So how can I just keep everything as it is?
    Thanks

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I honestly liked it when I just had his last name only & not hyphenated lol. So how can I just keep everything as it is?

      If you want to shift to hyphenated (even though you stated you prefer the non-hyphenated variant), you'll need to have your SS card updated. They've already changed it, due to marriage, to a hyphenated version. To change it again, they'll need another document showing a new name change. You couldn't use your marriage certificate again. You could fulfill this requirement with a court order document.

      If you want your last name to be married only (not hyphen), then you have to deal with your current name mismatch. When it's time for you to renew your license, the DMV may query the SSA database, which'll return a name mismatch. In those instances, they'll want to go with the name that's on your social security record, with a supporting document (e.g., certified marriage certificate, certified divorce decree, court order) showing your name change event. Without that, they may not change your name.

      When it comes time to deal with third-party organizations (e.g., banks, dealers) you'll need to have your name choice sorted, then bring to them the document showing your name change event, be it a marriage certificate or court order.

      Reply
      1. Honey

        Wow! Thanks so much. I got more detail from you than everyone else. You are awesome. Now I know what I have to do & thanks again.

        Reply
  70. MACB

    I've been married for two months and I want to add my husbands last name legally. However, my husband recently decided he also wants to change his last name to his mom's maiden name due to personal reasons. So, our marriage license is Under John Perez and Arely Basurto and he wants to change his name to John Estrada, and I would change mine to Basurto-Estrada. Is it possible after marriage, and do you think that would be complicated when we have kids ( we want hyphenated Estrada-Basurto) , or should we be consistent and all change our last names to Estrada -Basurto so it's a consistent and the same for the whole the family?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi MACB. It can vary by state. Some require the name on the marriage certificate match what you intend to change it to. If it doesn't, name changes won't go through without going another route, such as getting a court order. Other states may not have this requirement. It's hard to say without knowing where you reside.

      As for confusion for your future kids having a reversed name sequence, I can certainly see where that'll come up. At first glance it can look like a typo. If you go that route, you should prepare to issue corrections from time to time. Still, if that's what you prefer, there's no compelling reason to go against it.

      Reply
  71. senora

    I will be graduating with my bachelor's degree in a couple months time and I used my maiden name and married name in the whole process at university however I want to know if it is possible for the school to remove my maiden name and just use my married name only?

    Reply
  72. Mary Roberts

    This chain is very long & I am having trouble deciphering everything- so I thought I'd just ask.

    I live in TN… I'm due to be married next year. My fiance's last name is Tobias.

    My name right now is Mary Gayle Roberts. I hate the name Mary… and I want to lose it ENTIRELY. Once married- I want to become Gayle Roberts Tobias.

    So… in order to achieve this… I use NO hyphen, right? Gayle will legally become my first name… Roberts- my middle… And Tobias as my last… Is this correct?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Mary. Changing your first name request a court order. If you go that route you can change your name to whatever you want.

      Reply
  73. Melly

    Hi I was married a year ago. I'm considering changing or hyphonating my last name. I was previously divorced and purchased a home with my ex under my maiden name (it was prior to our marriage). This home was affected by a hurricane and I'm still trying to get rid of the property (maiden name). Also, I've been a teacher for 15 years and I'm not really interested in changing it due to my teaching Liscense and reputation in the school. Would changing to my new married name affect my insurance?

    What do you suggest doing that would be best for these situations. My husband is not a fan of hyphonating and would like for me to change it to his. He's very traditional, but I'm concerned it will just be a headache if it's fully changed to a totally new name without a connection with my maiden name.

    We do not have children yet but hopefully soon.
    Thank you in advance!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Would changing to my new married name affect my insurance?

      If you're changing your name, it's a good idea to notify your insurance company of it.

      but I'm concerned it will just be a headache if it's fully changed to a totally new name without a connection with my maiden name.

      Whether you choose to hyphenate or just take your husband's last name, will have the same level of simplicty or ease. The name changing process is the same for both. There's no right or wrong in this situation, it's a matter of personal choice.

      If you'd prefer to maintain a connection to your maiden, you may want to consider a middle name to maiden change, or using whichever name combination informally until you ultimately come down to a final decision to change (or not change) it for real.

      Reply
  74. Catalina Medeles

    Hi,

    I recently got married and hyphen my last name to Medeles Guevara. Would I have to write both last names on every form or document that I fill out? Or can I just write first name Medeles with out including Guevara?

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Catalina. On government forms, tax documents, job applications, or anything that might lookup your SSN, write your full name. For other things, you don't have to be as formal.

      Reply
  75. SBR

    Hi,

    Thank you for your article! I made the decision to hyphenate my name as I wanted to keep my maiden name, but also have the same last name as my husband and future children. So in essence I wanted my legal last name to be changed to Maiden-Married. Currently I am struggling to change my name legally. I came across your article when I searched "Husband Two Last Names". I tried to read through as many comments as I could in order to see if someone else had asked my question but I did not find one similar to mine.

    Well here is my predicament: I mailed in my application and marriage certificate to the Social Security Administration. They went ahead and changed my last name to what I requested Maiden-Married. Then I went to the DMV (I live in the state of Florida) to update my drivers license and they refused to change my name to what is currently printed on my Social Security Card.

    You see my husband is not a U.S. Citizen, on his birth certificate, his countries passport, and on his U.S. legal residence documents his name is his first name, paternal last name, followed by his maternal last name (so for this example I will use John Smith Taylor). When we got married four years ago on the marriage certificate they used the name to match his ID therefore, it appears as John Smith Taylor. Because of this the DMV is telling me that I HAVE to take both his paternal and maternal last name. Therefore making my name either Jane Doe-Smith Taylor if I want to hyphenate, or I can opt not to hyphenate, and then be Jane Smith Taylor. I called the DMV office in Tallahassee and they told me to go back to the DMV and show my husbands ID's showing only his paternal last name, but he does not have any ID's showing only his paternal last name. His ID's all match his birth certificate which have both his paternal and maternal last name. This means that if I choose to take my husbands last name am I forced to take BOTH his paternal and maternal last name. This makes NO SENSE.

    I was born in Puerto Rico, which is also a Spanish speaking country. My birth certificate has both my fathers last name and my mothers last name, but living outside of Puerto Rico I have only ever been required to use my paternal last name. My current drivers license is Jane Doe (with only my paternal last name). I really do not know what to do at this point. I am being forced into keeping my maiden name because the alternative is to add my husbands paternal AND maternal last name and I don't want his mothers last name. That's not his family name. When we have kids, the kids will take his paternal last name, not his paternal and maternal last name. With the amount of Latinos living in the United States one would think they would have a precedent and guidelines on how to go about changing married names that did not require picking up both your spouses last names.

    Help Please!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi SBR. It is frustrating, but the state DMV is often stricter than federal institutions. They see your husband's last name as "maternal last paternal last." They won't separate it unless you can provide them satisfactory documentation showing it's not one name. If they're unwilling to budge, as appears to be the case, you can either try another agent/office, or obtain a court order to reflect your preferred name.

      Reply
  76. Amanda

    Hello,

    My fiancé has a hyphenated last name but when we marry, we only want one last name to avoid confusion on paperwork, for our children, etc. Is it possible to just take half of his last name as our last name? We love his mother's last name, which is the first name on the hyphen, and would love to just take that.

    Any help is greatly appreciated!! Thank you!!!!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Amanda. For most states, it's unlikely. It's difficult to say without knowing which state the name changes will take place.

      Reply
  77. Jerrie

    hello!

    having second thoughts about dropping my maiden name totally. I don't know why really…
    anyway, i went to the SSN office in NY about 2wks ago and dropped my maiden name. I received it in mail and have second thoughts. I was on to the second step (DMV) then for whatever reason, I think I want to hypenate.
    can i go back to the SS office and change to hyphenate?

    i don't particularly like my husbands last name, but i do want us to have the same name when we have a child.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jerrie. You wouldn't be able to go back to the SS and change your name again without another document showing a new name change event. You wouldn't be able to use your marriage certificate as it's a one time only deal. You can either get a court petitioned name change, or look into remarriage through a civil ceremony to have an updated marriage certificate issued.

      Reply
  78. Nikki Nunya

    My social security card has my married the last name it's been 4 years since I got married and I need to go in and change my driver's license. Will they let me hyphenate my maiden and last name on it or do I have to stick with just my married name.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Will they let me hyphenate my maiden and last name on it or do I have to stick with just my married name.

      No, they will not let you hyphenate now. You'll have to stick with your married name.

      Reply
  79. Katherine Bergeron

    I live in Virginia. I have been married for several years now, but did not change my last name at the time. Now we have a child so I want our family to be a "unit" and want to add my spouses last name to mine. My dilemma is my last name is Brown. (i like it) Spouses is Bergeron. My middle name is after my mom who is deceased. I prefer to keep all 4 of my names Katherine Jean Brown Bergeron.

    Should I hyphenate the Brown-Bergeron or just go ahead and drop Brown (Katherine Jean Bergeron) or I can request to drop Jean, so that would be Katherine Brown Bergeron? Love to hear input on this one. Thoughts?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Should I hyphenate the Brown-Bergeron or just go ahead and drop Brown (Katherine Jean Bergeron)

      Either of these would be recognized and allowed as part of a marriage-related name change. Neither is superior over the other. Simply choose whichever you'd prefer.

      or I can request to drop Jean, so that would be Katherine Brown Bergeron?

      If you're looking to drop your middle name so that you'll no longer have a middle name, well that option may not even be recognized. If you're looking to swap your middle name with your maiden, well then that's recognized. It'll look the same written out, but your legal surname would just be Bergeron.

      Reply

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