374 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?

374 Comments

  1. Jayson2484

    Hi, my fiance and I are about to be married. Before me, she had another husband who passed away. I'm unsure what to do because she wants to keep his name and have mine. What do you think would be the best option?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I don't think there is a best or worst option. In terms of the technicalities, it doesn't matter. It's ultimately up to your fiance how or if she'll change her name. At best, you can discuss it and come to a point where both are satisfied or at least willing to accept the outcome without feeling slighted.

      Reply
      1. Darla Craft

        I am a widow and plan to keep my late husband's last name, and add my new husband's name when I remarry. My reasoning is to honor my children and their father. I am researching to understand the process better, to know if hyphenating or simply making my first married name my middle…any advice?

        Reply
  2. Andi

    I'm a divorced mom with children (which are still in school) and kept my ex last name. I live in the state of TN and will be getting married soon. Out of respect for my children I would like to keep my ex last name and take on my new married last name. I just don't know how to do it. I have my first name, 2 middle names and my ex last name as of right now. Any suggestions on what I should do. I want to make sure when the school or my children's friends call me they will still feel comfortable addressing me by my children's last name and not have to think what my last name is first.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hyphenation is an option. If that's not the path you want to go in, you can make it understood to the school and your kids' friends that's it's fine to informally refer to you by your ex's last name. It shouldn't be a particularly demanding accommodation to agree to.

      Reply
  3. Angela Asberry-

    I just got married Saturday. I want to hyp my name but my husband isn't feeling it. He feels that if I don't change my name why did I get married. LOL We live in Texas and have been together 12½ yearsm, so we are common law. I have a question more than a comment. I have a middle name that I share with mainly my whole family and husband. I gave my son the same middle name because at the time I wasn't married to his father and I wanted him to have my name also….Is it possilbe to keep my middle name and just add my maiden name to my middle name and have like two middle names. I have been thinking of the change. I want to keep it, but I don't want to have to write both names everytime I sign things. Plus I don't use my middle initial on everything, so would that be okay to do?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Is it possilbe to keep my middle name and just add my maiden name to my middle name and have like two middle names.

      It is possible. Have a look at the middle name article for further details.

      Reply
  4. Not my real name

    How exactly is it 'equality' for a married couple to have a hyphenated last name? The man has had to ask the girl out, pay for dates, propose to her, buy a very expensive engagement AND wedding ring and organize all of that over the course of years! All he asks for in return is for her to accept his last name-she comes into his clan. Does the women benefit the man simply by her presence? Does she deserve to have everything she wants? There are still cultural roles and customs in marriage and courtship-therefore if she does not accept his name, can he not present her with the bill?

    Reply
    1. Sarah

      If you marry someone I would hope you are benefitted simply by their presence.

      Reply
    2. ROSE

      So what you're saying is it's purely a financial agreement? Like buying a cow? You paid for a wife and now as part of the agreement she now has to give up her last name? But hey, if you feel obligated to type up a bill and hand it to her, go for it. If she doesn't pay the bill, will you be taking her to court? Garnishing her wages?

      Reply
  5. andrea

    So my soon to be husband was given his half sister and half brothers last name because his mom didn't want him to feel left out as a young child. His mom was never married to his biological father and his mom was re-married to another man and changed her last name. My boyfriend doesn't feel like that's his real name but it's been his legal name for 31 years. I don't really fell like it's a name to take since it truly is not his name. He has thought of changing his name to his mother's maiden name but I feel it's strange since he's kept his siblings last name his entire life. I want to keep my last name since I have no brothers and my dad has no brothers to leave our name behind, he is not a fan but given the situation I've suggested he take my last name. Have you ever had anyone take the wife's last name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I've suggested he take my last name. Have you ever had anyone take the wife's last name?

      Certainly. It's an option that's no more or less viable than your taking his name.

      Reply
  6. Rosie

    I just got married last week. We have been together for 9 yrs and have 2 children together. My husband really wants me to take his last name but I, like a lot of other woman, hate to let it go. I am 45 yrs old and have had my maiden name all my life so I am finding it very difficult to change, even though our 2 children have his last name. He is very opinionated about not liking the whole hyphenating thing. I am toying around with the idea of 2 middle names or 2 last names. If I don't hyphenate my last name and have 2 last names, can I sign non-legal documents with either last name? Like Jane Ann Doe Smith could be signed Jane Doe and/or Jane Smith? That way if anything comes in my maiden name I wouldn't have a problem and I could sign all the school forms "Jane Smith".

    Reply
    1. Rosie

      I am also wondering, if I were to use my maiden name to replace my middle name, could I just sign non-legal documents Jane (as the first name) Doe (as the maiden name that is now the middle name) leaving the last name (Smith in this instance) out?

      Reply
    2. Valera

      Hi Rosie. I think you have a pretty solid understanding of of the cans and cannots. Legal name goes on legal documents. For non-legal scenarios, you can exercise greater flexibility.

      Reply
  7. Brian

    I just got married last week here in NH to an awesome woman. We both wish to use both last names

    So I would go from Brian Middle His to
    Brian Middle Hers-His

    She wants to go from Michelle Middle Hers
    Michelle Middle Hers-His

    Is this able to be done in NH as part of marriage process?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Brian. Your wife can, but you'll likely have to petition the court.

      Reply
  8. Felicia

    I don't want ask a question already answered but, I am wondering if I go the route of keeping my last name and taking my new husband's last name without a hyphen ( maiden husband name) can I use them interchangeably or will I have to sign them both legally on documents. For example, can I just sign first name and maiden name or first name and husband's name? I'd like to keep my last name but, I also don't want a hassel either (ie have a hypenated last name- its just too long that way). I also don't want to have two middle names either.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Felicia. On legal documents, you'll have to sign both names.

      Reply
  9. David Boyd

    NEED LADIES INPUT FIRST PLEASE!

    After 15 years of marriage (a year ago), my wife began using her maiden AND prior marriage last names between her first name and her taken (my) last name. Using alias example; was Ann Jones for 15 years of our marriage, Now refers to herself as (alias) Ann Smith Johnson Jones on Facebook, printed material, her donation plaques, etc. My published donations simply each of our first names and common last. No plan of divorce to my knowledge, though we're struggling through menopause.

    I didn't ask her to change last name when we married, she just did. Both old fashioned, seemed natural. I think she's planning for divorce or making herself easier to find for those in her past – for whatever reason. She says she's just showing respect of her past. I also respect her past. But why has she decided to change her moniker again after 15 years?

    I'm her 3rd marriage, she's my first. Both over 30 when marriedin 1998. She was a well paid elected county official, I worked construction and had recently started my own business. When we married, she and her 9 yr old daughter were using her deceased (2nd) husbands last name only. No hyph. and she legally changed her last name to mine only, as well as politically and socially used the new name. The newspapers and tv news made the transition almost immediately.

    16 years later, I run a successful business, she's a professor seeking a doctorate. Recently I noticed that her Facebook name changed to include her maiden name and her deceased husbands last name before our last name. She recently made a donation and the plaque has her first name and all 3 last names rather than mrs & mr jones as I publish for donations. The change looks to me more than nostalgia. We're 50.

    thoughts?

    Reply
  10. Mimi

    HELP!

    I was married at 18 years of age and divorced at age 39. I have a child who is 7 from that marriage. Myself and child have x's last name. I never changed my last name after divorce because I had my married name longer than I had my own surname. My x actually was born with a different last name and it was changed when he was 3 yrs old thru his mother marrying and that man adopting my then husband. She then divorced that adoptive man when x was 4 and then that adoptive man died when x was 5 or 6. So basically, the last name means nothing to him or myself..just a name we both and now our child has.

    I recently remarried and am still contemplating if i change my name current last name which i have had since 18 yrs of age or do i take my new hubby's last name or do i take my maiden name and hypenate with new hubbys last name?

    My x is NOT involved with my child period. She doesnt like to use her last name that she was born with because she has female cousins that all share my maiden name and thats what she wants her name to be. I fear changing her last name because i will have to go to court to do so, but since the current surname that her and i both share is actually meaningless even in my x's life due to adoption and then divorce for him what do i do??? New hubby wants to eventually adopt my child too but dont know if x will let go despite not seeing her at all.

    Confused!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I recently remarried and am still contemplating if i change my name current last name which i have had since 18 yrs of age or do i take my new hubby's last name or do i take my maiden name and hypenate with new hubbys last name?

      Either can be done through the typical marriage based name change process.

      She doesnt like to use her last name that she was born with because she has female cousins that all share my maiden name and thats what she wants her name to be.

      It's possible to have her name changed to your maiden name, regardless of what you choose to do with your name.

      I fear changing her last name because i will have to go to court to do so, but since the current surname that her and i both share is actually meaningless even in my x's life due to adoption and then divorce for him…

      Don't fear the court process. Many people go through it for name changes all the time. It's not really a big deal.

      …what do i do???

      You can separate your name change from your child's name change. You can petition the court to have her name changed, then change your name to what you prefer.

      New hubby wants to eventually adopt my child too but don't know if x will let go despite not seeing her at all.

      If your X maintains any legal parental rights, you'll have to get consent (written and notarized) for her name to be changed.

      Reply
  11. TAD

    I disagree about the form of hyphenation. If a married couple elect to hyphenate their two surnames, the husband's surname should come first. In the English-speaking world, the hyphenated surname was developed for political and social reasons, typically when the husband's family name was viewed as inferior to the wife's. If Miss Mary Jones marries Mr. John Smith and wishes to cling to her maiden name, she merely writes it "Mary Jones Smith." "Mary Smith-Jones" or "Mrs. John Smith-Jones" would be the correct form if the couple chose to combine their surnames. To hyphenate with the wife's maiden name first is not only unnecessary (and thus illogical); it confuses persons who are familiar with the logical evolution of the hyphenated surname. Furthermore, "Mrs. M. Jones Smith" is the traditional form for a divorced woman, and, even today, can cause confusion if adopted by a married woman.

    Reply
  12. Yvonne

    I was married before, I took his last name and we had two kids. We then got divorced and I changed back to my maiden name. My ex husband and I recently got REmarried and although I didn't want to change my name back to his, it is starting to get complicated with work and kids. Which would be the better version, if i want to keep my last name also, hyphenating or maiden-to-middle name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Yvonne. There really is no better or worse version. It's a matter of personal preference. Both are valid. Both are optional. If you remain unsure, you can maintain the status quo and decide later.

      Reply
  13. Colleen

    I am shocked and disappointed by some of the comments here about women hyphenating their names. I may have had a different opinion about a name change if I had married when I was really young, but I'm 40 yrs old. I have a successful professional career with 15 years of business contacts who know me by my maiden name. I have have strong personal and cultural identity tied to my name. I love my husband, but I don't think I should have to give up my personal or professional identity. I do respect that he would like me to share his name so hypenating seems like a good comprimise to meet both of our needs.

    I am by no means a snob. I am not often in conversations with people where either myself or someone else has to burden themselves speaking a long hypenated name. It's only 2 extra syllables anyway so it won't pull a tongue muscle. Geez! And I was born in the 21st century and could give a crap about respecting my husband's family. I did not marry into royalty. Putting my husband's surnane first in a hypenated name would be far more confusing and frankly doens't even sound good.

    I don't think people need to take this to ridiculous levels and retain every name in the history of their family. My children will have my husband's surname and my husband will retain his single last name. I will just retain some of my previous identity. What's the big deal people?

    I'm sorry if this is too confusing for a genealogist or offensive to the chauvinists out there who think a wife should be subservient to her man.

    Reply
    1. Shane

      Colleen,

      I used to be against a woman hyphenating, but now, I fully support it. I applaud you for wanting to maintain your heritage/identity, while also taking your husbands name. I see nothing wrong w/ hyphenating.

      Reply
  14. Kari

    I am trying to decide what I want to do. If I choose two last names, do I have to always sign with both for legal documents? Someone told me no.. What about if you hyphenate?

    I have a legal profession and I want to keep my last name for that. But I want to take his name. I am trying to figure out if there is anyway to that. I know I can use his name informally if I don't change at all. If I hyphenate or take both names and have to use them all the time legally it will be really long. (Both of our names have over 10 letters!)

    Reply
    1. Michelle

      For legal documents, I've always had to sign with both. At least when anything ever had to be filed with the court for work. I'd just shorten your signature so it only needs to be printed. But I'm all for the hyphenation. Your situation leads me to think it is a rational choice.

      Reply
    2. Valera

      do I have to always sign with both for legal documents?

      Yes, on legal documents.

      I have a legal profession and I want to keep my last name for that.

      A couple scenarios to consider: Acquire a DBA in your preferred name (may not be wholly valid for your particular situation, but no harm in tossing it on the possibility pile). Informally use your prior name in a professional context along with a formal name change. Alternatively, legally maintain your prior name while using your partner's name informally.

      Whatever you do, you'll want to make sure the name on your legal credentials and licenses are valid within your state.

      Reply
  15. Michelle

    I was born with a last name that was hyphenated. I used to go by both (to keep with the continuation of the example earlier let's use Smith-Jones. It has been passed down a few generations on my dad's side. When mi parents got married, my mom assumed my dad's hyphenated last name. Upon moving to the U.S., they removed Jones. Now they are legally Smith.

    When I was younger, everyone just called me Smith. Then in college by Jones. Honestly, the most annoying part has been the hyphen in legal documents. Which after decades I learned you just leave out the hyphen and type it as one word. Easy. That's just a computer issue.

    Furthermore, no one needs to know you've kept a hyphen. Go by his name. No worries. But if a woman wants to keep her maiden name, which I'm keeping the Jones name because it is epicly nerdy and I'm the last one. But honestly, people don't mind it. It isn't a big deal. If it comes up just ask to be called by one name. The only people that need to know the full name is you, your doctor, the DMV and IRS, etc. No one who doesn't need your legal name even have to know. So don't sweat it. Hyphenate or don't. And love your spouse! :) Hyphenation is just a longer name.

    Reply
  16. Kate

    This has been such a helpful thread!

    My husband was legally adopted two months after we got married. Uncommon but true! Since his new name is not on our marriage certificate (and there was no place to designate our desired married names on the form), my name change to Firstname middlename mylastname hisnewlastname (no hyphen) was approved by Social Security and I was issued a new card, but rejected at the DMV (which I was notified of months after being approved at the counter). I've already changed my name at work and with my insurance but am unable to change anything else without a new ID. To complicate matters further, our wedding and his adoption were in Florida but we live in Minnesota. Any advice on what to do next?

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Kate. Could you detail their rationale for not approving your name change, after the fact? Was their a documentation issue or mis-match with the SSA record?

      Reply
      1. Kate

        Hi there!

        Thanks for your response. At the DMV counter, they approved the name change without question. After two months of waiting without a new ID, I got a letter saying it was denied because my husband's adopted name was not on our marriage certificate. Unfortunately I cannot get a hold of anyone at the state who can actually help me and at this point I fear I may just have to pay the $324 dollars to do it through the courts.

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Hi Kate. Assuming your husband's name change has been finalized, have you considered trying again with the DMV? You can reference your changed name with the SSA, proof of your husband's name change, and proof of marriage with your marriage certificate. It may also be worth contacting your vital records office to have your marriage certificate amended with your husband's new name. It may not go through (unless it's a mistake or typo on their part), but it's a path worth exploring or excluding.

          Reply
  17. Alicia

    My last name is hyphenated (maiden-married) but do I have to say and go by the last name one everything? Example: Applications, forms, when I introduce myself? I know I have to put it on DL, SSN, Tax info, and any other documents but can I use my married name majority of the time?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Alicia. Basically, you'll use your full, hyphenated name for legal documents, and can opt to informally use your married name for other situations.

      Reply
    2. Shane

      Alicia,

      My wife also hyphenates and her hyphenated name is on her business cards, email signature, which I think is not only correct, but also shows her respect, because she hyphenates. My personal opinion is if a woman hyphenates her name, then she should be referred by that name on email correspondence, letters, etc. Just my two cents.

      Reply
  18. Nancy

    I am 63 and getting remarried in two months in kentucky. If I hyphenate my last name and his, can I leave my checking acct, insurance, etc in my name. I understand that I will need to change SS and DL? My health insurance and pension is through my deceased husbands employer and I really just do not want to go through the hassle of changing all this information.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Nancy. You can contact your bank and request that checks continue to be processed in your preferred name. As for insurance, it would be advisable to update such records. If you absolutely prefer not to, it's still a good idea to contact them to notify them of your name change status so that appropriate account notations can be made.

      Reply
  19. Lizeth

    I live in California and got married almost 3 years ago. I have not changed my last name yet because I was hoping to keep my maiden name and move it to my middle name so that I would have [first name] [middle][maiden as second middle] [last which would be my husband's]. But I heard that I would have to petition the court since California is one of the state's that doesn't recognize a middle name change due to marriage.

    I can't afford the filing fee to petition the court. So my other option is then to add my husband's name to the end of my last name. I am currently debating whether to hyphenate it or just leave a space between. Do you know if I can have two last names without a hyphen in the state of California? And if so, that then becomes my official last name that is on all my official documents and I need to sign that way in all legal documents including my child's school, correct?

    I have had friends get married in California and they had the option to add what they wanted their married name to be when they filled out and filed their marriage licenses. They chose to do the two middle names at that point and everything went through without a hitch. I got married in Nevada although I have and continue to be a resident of California and there was no option to do that in Nevada's marriage license. So does that mean I am stuck with the two last names?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Lizeth. You can have two last names. You'll have to sign both on all legal documents. The out of state marriage license is valid and usable. It serves as proof of marriage, which is what counts.

      Reply
  20. Robert Brock-Jones

    I have a hyphenated last name, which was my fathers, his father, his father and the father before that who started the last name.The last name is Brock-Jones, I won't bore you with the details of how it came to be but I like having a unique and different last name; however, that said most of America does not understand hyphenated last names.

    I would caution any person even contemplating hyphenating their name “don't." Most computer programs will now accept a hyphen, but go to a Wal-Mart to get your prescription with a double-barrel last name and the minimum wage clerk will tell you it's not ready. They just don't understand where to look, or what letter of the alphabet it should be filed under. They don't know that it should be filed under the first letter of the first name and not the first letter of the second name.

    I don't mean to pick on Wal-Mart, the same thing happens at dry cleaners, film processors, etc. I have been living with my hyphenated last name for 63 years, I move around a lot and constantly have to bite my tongue because it is frustrating having to explain how my name should be filed and alphabetized. That's all I have to say on that issue.

    Reply
  21. Bes

    Hi, I'm currently in the process of getting my citizenship I am hyphenating my name so how does it go? my son has it (name husband's last name hyphen my last name, I wanted to do just like his so there be no confusion but is there a way it suppose to go I just don't want confusion to where which last name goes first?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Bes. There's no right or wrong. This is a personal decision you'll have to make amongst yourselves.

      Reply
  22. Erika

    Hi Valera,

    I got married about two years ago in Texas, few days ago I changed my last name and hyphen my maiden and married name Erika middle Soliz-jones, Soliz is my maiden name and jones is my married name. I do not want the hyphen anymore. 1) is it too late to changed it? 2) Can I do (erika first name) (middle name) ( Soliz jones last name)? 3) Can you have two last names in the state of Texas? 4) Do I always need to write/used both last names on everything? 5) Can I write/used jones only but keep both last names? If ss and DL lets me removed the hyphen. Or can I moved my maiden name with my middle name (erika first name) (LuciaSoliz middle name) (jones last name)? If I could do this, Do I need to always write both middle names on everything? Can I do Erika L. Jones? Please help!! I am having a baby in few weeks and I do not want any confusion at the hospital with the names!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I do not want the hyphen anymore. 1) is it too late to changed it?

      Since you've already changed it, you'll have to petition the court to change it again.

      2) Can I do (erika first name) (middle name) ( Soliz jones last name)?

      3) Can you have two last names in the state of Texas?

      Yes, if you complete answer #1.

      4) Do I always need to write/used both last names on everything?

      5) Can I write/used jones only but keep both last names?

      You'll have to use your full last name on legal documents.

      can I moved my maiden name with my middle name (erika first name) (LuciaSoliz middle name) (jones last name)?

      You can change your middle name along with your last name when going through your court petitioned name change.

      Do I need to always write both middle names on everything?

      Depends on the document. For legal-based paperwork it's advisable to write out your full name if it's explicitly requested. If it doesn't, use your best judgment.

      Reply
  23. George Kosich

    A lady friend's ex-husband suddenly starts sending spousal support checks under her maiden name to make it impossible to cash the check. Should she hyphenate her name in order to cash the check? If she returns to maiden name, he could then make the check to her married name again – this game would go on and on. Please help!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Should she hyphenate her name in order to cash the check?

      That's a pretty drastic measure, which likely wouldn't work anyway (as you pointed out). Your friend may want to have a talk with her bank and request that they allow the checks to be cashed in her maiden name. She can provide proof that she's the proper recipient whom the checks are intended for.

      Reply
  24. Peggy Bell-Meador

    I am not happy with my hyphenated 2 last names. I am wondering how to get my name changed to just my last marriage. I was a widow and wanted to show respect to my 2 boys and late husband's family but it confuses people and is a hassle. And my new husband is offended by it.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Peggy. If your hyphenated last name includes your current husband's surname, then you'll need to petition the court to change it again. If your hyphenated name was already established prior to your current marriage, then you can undergo a basic marriage-related name change procedure (similar process to your original hyphenated name change).

      Reply
  25. Lola

    I'm not married yet. I am with a guy and were having a child together. I already have a son who has made it clear he wants to keep our last name, but wants to hyphanate potential husbands last name then his. I said I wanted to do the same for myself and this child. He is upset that I'm not just taking his last name and for our child, however he said he would be "ok" if it was my last name then his. I said I wanted it the other way so that we match my son. I don't want us all to look disorganized. Am I wrong for wanting this? I said myself and baby will go by just his last name but legally be his-mine. I don't want my son to feel like he has to change his if he doesn't completely want to, but I still want that connection to him and my family.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Lola. There's no wrong or right. It's just a matter of what you can live with and prefer. It's a personal choice where you'll have the final say.

      Reply
  26. Monique

    I got married in march of this year and around july I final got around to changing my name. I dropped my maiden name because I wanted to keep my middle name and adopted my married name. Now I have changed my mind and want to use my maiden name as my middle name. I am in Alabama is there a separate procedure for this or do I just do back down to the social security office to change it?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Monique. You'll have to petition the court for the name change, then return to the social security office.

      Reply
  27. kikola32

    Hi Valera,

    I hope this will all make sense… and thank you in advance for your advice and help.

    My partner is American from birth and British by naturalisation, I'm a French citizen. We are residing in the UK and will be getting married by the end of the year before moving back to the US early next year.

    The UK marriage form or certificate doesn't ask us to state "the name after we are getting married".
    Therefore, our birth name is our legal name :) — I know stating the obvious…
    The status on allowing hyphenation after marriage is inconsistent in the UK and to make it acknowledgeable by all UK organizations is best to you go through a change of name deed which is time consuming and will be slowing down our moving process.

    Since, there is no time limit to perform the name change nor this is a mandatory process post marriage. We were thinking of keeping our legal name in the UK but showing the change in the French and the American sides.

    * Do you foresee any problems? We will still be married under the British law but just never change our names from X or Y to X-Y.

    In France, the process seems straightforward …
    To amend and hyphenate our names (X-Y) which will show on legal documentation, I just need to show our marriage certificate.
    The way that French law sees it, is that my legal name is still Y and my "every day name" will be X-Y which will be shown on my french passport or ID card etc.

    By the sound of it on the US embassy in the UK, the process seems similar.
    * Is it correct? My partner will just have to present the certificate of marriage and ask for name change from X to X-Y.

    Now, because there is no time limit to perform the name change.
    * Would you recommend that we both make the change of name at the same time to avoid any confusion when we move back to the US e.g. my passport shows X-Y but my partner only X due to time constraint when we move to the US?
    * Or it doesn’t really matter as far as we can justify the name change if inquired by showing our marriage certificate.
    * Let’s say we wait until we move to the US to change our name to X-Y.
    * Would it be problematic if my green card states Y when I enter the US and later my passport is changed to X-Y?
    * Or Maybe it would just be a matter to update my name on my green card?

    There are of course other options such as:
    * Performing a change of name deed in the UK which hopefully will be recognized by the US organizations as well so all 3 countries are in synch.
    * Getting married again in the US hence being able to fill out “ name after getting married” :)

    Hope this makes sense and Thanks for your answers :)

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Do you foresee any problems? We will still be married under the British law but just never change our names from X or Y to X-Y.

      Problems in a particular country or internationally? However you choose to navigate this terrain, just make sure you're following each country's procedures.

      By the sound of it on the US embassy in the UK, the process seems similar.

      It would be a good idea to consult with your embassy. The name you change to will be your one and only legal name.

      My partner will just have to present the certificate of marriage and ask for name change from X to X-Y.

      The marriage certificate provides proof of marriage which facilitates a name change. You'll have to provide that document.

      Would you recommend that we both make the change of name at the same time to avoid any confusion when we move back to the US e.g. my passport shows X-Y but my partner only X due to time constraint when we move to the US?

      You can, although, most likely, it doesn't matter.

      Or it doesn’t really matter as far as we can justify the name change if inquired by showing our marriage certificate.

      Agreed.

      Let’s say we wait until we move to the US to change our name to X-Y. Would it be problematic if my green card states Y when I enter the US and later my passport is changed to X-Y?

      You should update your green card to reflect your name change, regardless of what you ultimately choose to do with your passport.

      Or Maybe it would just be a matter to update my name on my green card?

      Agreed.

      Performing a change of name deed in the UK which hopefully will be recognized by the US organizations as well so all 3 countries are in synch.

      That would work. It would be recognized.

      Reply
  28. Miriah

    I got divorced 10 years ago but kept my married name because we had a child. Fast forward a few years, and now I have a child with my future husband, whose last name is his. When I get married I want to take my husband's name, but my oldest child is a little upset. If I keep both names, and don't hyphenate, do I always have to sign everything with two names? Or can I just use my old name when dealing with school things that have to do with my first child? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      do I always have to sign everything with two names?

      It depends on what you're signing. If it's a legal-based document, then you'll sign both names.

      Reply
  29. Paige

    I got married in August and on my marriage certificate I said I was going to take my husband's name. I was planning to move my maiden name to my middle name but have learned it is not allowed by marriage in my state. I haven't gone through the process of legally changing my name yet (for my SS card, passport, license, etc.) as I just received a copy of my marriage certificate. Is it possible to hyphenate (maiden name-married name) for my SS card, passport, license, etc. even though my marriage certificate says my new surname will just be my husband's surname?

    Reply
  30. Susan

    Hi Valera
    We are a same sex married couple living & married in New Mexico. My wife is Mexican so has 2 surnames ( Cruz Torres, her fathers & her mothers). Are we able to change our surnames to her first surname, Cruz, & my surname Smith so Cruz Smith?
    I have just gone through the immigration process & changed my surname with that to Cruz Smith on my permanent resident card.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Susan. It may be possible. You can contact your local SS office and inquire about segmented surnames. Some states do provide a partial surname change or the construction of a entirely new surname that's based upon portions of both partner's surnames. Make mention of the name change on your permanent resident card. If you go in office, bring that along with your certified marriage certificate.

      Reply
  31. sasha

    Let's say my Husbands last nae is already a hyphenated last name, like the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. If i marry a person with a Hyphenated last name, and take his last name, do I take the full last name, the whole "Gordon-Levitt" or just Levitt which is technically his Fathers last name. And would the children be Gorden-Levitt Jones(lets say that's my last name).

    Kind of confusing but wanted to know thank you.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Sasha. Yes, that's typically the default. Think of the hyphen as just any other character, with no special significance. Name change flexibility does vary by state, so you needn't exclude the possibility of a partial name change.

      Reply
  32. Joyce

    I was married in Colorado in 2009 and signed the marriage license with my husband's last name but never changed it on any legal documents nor do I use it socially. Recently he is having issues with the military regarding health and life insurance on me because our marriage license says his last name but my drivers license and ss card have my maiden name. What do I need to do in order to fix this. I do not want to use my husband's last name.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Joyce. Name change is optional, so maintaining things as-is shouldn't be a problem. If this is a issue related to DEERS (or similar) then you may want to make an appointment to discuss your status. Bring supporting documentation (e.g., certified copy of birth certificate, social security card) showing your maiden name as your current legal name. Explain that you chose not to legally change your name and that the name on your marriage license isn't applicable.

      Reply
  33. Tara

    Hello! I was married about 2 years ago now and I regret not moving my maiden name to my middle name. Would I have to go through the courts to drop my middle name and keep my maiden name as my middle name?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Would I have to go through the courts to drop my middle name and keep my maiden name as my middle name?

      If you've already changed your name after you got married, then yes, you'd have to go through the court petition process.

      Reply
  34. Taylor

    I'll be getting married in a month. My first name is Taylor. His last name is also Taylor. He wants me to take his last name, but I'd rather not be referred to as Taylor Taylor. What's the best and least complicated change I can make while also keeping him happy?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Taylor. If you're looking to avoid the double name, options to consider may be shifting it to a middle name, reversing the hyphenation, or opting for a new last name that's a composite of both names. Please keep in mind that some of these alternatives may require a court petitioned name change, which isn't really complicated, just more involved.

      Reply
  35. Teresa

    I kept my married name when divorcing because my two sons have that surname, I prefer it to my maiden name, and my career is established in this name. If I ever remarried, I would prefer to still keep my current name. Is this unheard of?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Teresa. That's nothing irregular about your preference. Folks choose to retain their prior married name for a variety of reasons. Yours is an especially common one.

      Reply
  36. Jay

    I am getting married next month. If I decide to have two middle names, do I need to legally change my name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      You would have to legally change it since you're constructing a brand new name.

      Reply
  37. lisciano harris

    If my fiancee last name is hyphenated. And if I want to keep my last name and add his. Do I have to take both of his last names or can I choose?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Lisciano. You would if your state doesn't allow the option of partial or composite name change.

      Reply
  38. Kate

    I think you've touched on these question before, but I just want to clarify:
    My birth name is 4 names, with 2 hyphenated middle names (ex. Jane Smith-Jones Doe). If I want to add husband's surname (ex. Clark) to mine as 2nd surname, I could be Jane Smith-Jones Doe Clark, correct?

    You've said I will have to use both surnames as my last name (because they are considered one name in spite of a space/hyphen)… All official documents should be signed as Jane Doe Clark (but actual signatures are vague, anyway). So on the "Print your name" I would write: Jane Doe Clark and on the "Signature" line, I can make my mark, which can be a shortened version of my name or nickname, because that's my signature. So I could still sign some sort of scribble that is essentially 'J. Doe'… Is that correct?

    If I sign marriage license with the new last name (Doe Clark), is it officially changed, then? I know I should change SSN, Passport, DL, Banks, etc. to the new combination name (Doe Clark), but what if I never get around to it? Could I still go by Jane Doe on those, or will there be legal problems?

    Reply
    1. Kate

      Also – this is California. Marriage certificate says you can hyphenate last names and you may or may not use an actual hyphen in the name (so space is OK for Doe Clark)….

      Reply
    2. Valera

      I could be Jane Smith-Jones Doe Clark, correct?

      Yes.

      All official documents should be signed as Jane Doe Clark (but actual signatures are vague, anyway). So on the "Print your name" I would write: Jane Doe Clark

      Yes.

      and on the "Signature" line, I can make my mark, which can be a shortened version of my name or nickname, because that's my signature. So I could still sign some sort of scribble that is essentially 'J. Doe'… Is that correct?

      Yes, your intent when signing is what matters, not the neatness of your penmanship. If there's no intent to commit fraud then you're good to go.

      If I sign marriage license with the new last name (Doe Clark), is it officially changed, then?

      No.

      I know I should change SSN, Passport, DL, Banks, etc. to the new combination name (Doe Clark), but what if I never get around to it?

      Then your name won't legally be changed.

      Could I still go by Jane Doe on those, or will there be legal problems?

      That would make sense, as that would still be your real and current name.

      Reply
  39. Camcho

    HI.. I am frm Bolivia and I got married to an American in Ohio through a K1 visa I am now filling out the forms for AOS.. my question is.. I want to keep my last name Camcho and add his Nely.. so can I put my name plus Camcho Nely without being hyphoned.. I am not sure in Athe USA recognized 2 last names.. cause I want it to be seperated and not one name…will that later affect when we have children becuase he will not add mine he will just stay as neely…and should I put in the forms… when it says family name camcho with space Nely?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Camcho. The name you choose won't affect the surname choice of your future children. "Family name" just means surname or last name.

      Reply
  40. shay

    hi,

    I am Puerto Rican and already have First Name, Middle Name, Father's Last Name, Mother's Last Name. Got married several months ago and have been using First Name, Father's Last Name[HYPHEN]Husband's Last Name socially but haven't changed it legally. I'm thinking of actually making the legal change but I think it'll be so much hassle which is what scares me the most? Also, don't know if I should keep it hyphenated so people KNOW that it's my married name or if I don't hyphen it and just put a space between the two will people think the second last name is my mother's instead of my husband's?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I'm thinking of actually making the legal change but I think it'll be so much hassle

      Many people go through name changes every day. It shouldn't be too much of a hassle.

      Also, don't know if I should keep it hyphenated so people KNOW that it's my married name or if I don't hyphen it and just put a space between the two will people think the second last name is my mother's instead of my husband's?

      If you choose not to hyphen, it's likely most people would assume the sole last name was the complete last name, assuming they don't have preexisting knowledge of your family name history. There's no right or wrong, better or worse. Choose whichever you prefer.

      Reply
  41. Michelle

    My lawyer told me that if I hyphenate my last name when I get married I can go by either name if I choose. He is saying that I don't have to sign both names to documents. According to your post it looks like I have to sign both. I'm confused.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Michelle. It depends on the document and circumstance. Not all documents are legal documents that strictly requires the full legal name.

      Reply
  42. J

    I have changed my last name to my husband's some time ago and wish to retain it for both personal and legal reasons but as I have a common first and last name, I would like to use my maiden name in some fashion for my academic career only. What are the possible ramifications if I hyphenate last names for my published works but not legally change it? I live in CA. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi J. A general rule is to use your legal name for legal purposes (e.g., government documents, taxes, insurance) and your professional name for other purposes. You'll have to bridge the gap between your prior name and new name so that old references still point to you.

      Reply
      1. J

        Thank you. The only issue that comes to mind is that if I become faculty at a university, I would be associated with my published works by the hyphenated last name so I would be listed accordingly (ex. Smith-Doe) in all references and therefore it may create a problem if I am only using single last name (Doe) for all legal stuff like the bank and on taxes.
        And here I thought I was making things easier when I took my husband's last name. Oh well.

        Reply
  43. T

    Thank you for such a wonderfully interactive discussion.
    To be clear. If I want to keep my maiden name & take my future husband's I could either:
    1. "maiden-husband's"
    2. "maiden husband's"
    Would both be considered my last name? Or, if I used he second option, my maiden name would be considered a middle name. Is the hyphen mark necessary for both names to be considered my legal last name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Would both be considered my last name?

      The second option would only be considered your last name if you specify it to be so. If you mark your maiden as middle, then it'll be your middle name only.

      Is the hyphen mark necessary for both names to be considered my legal last name?

      No.

      Reply
  44. CB

    Hi I live in L.A. county CA and my fiance has his mothers last name, he wants to change it it his stepfathers last name and that would be the last name I would like to change it to when we get married. Can we just change it when we get married or does he need to change his last name first before we get married.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can we just change it when we get married or does he need to change his last name first before we get married.

      He'll have to change it first.

      Reply
  45. Gina

    I am 47 and plan on being married this year. I am in Texas. I want to keep my last name but my fiancé is adamant about me taking his last name. Am I able to have his name on the marriage certificate and still retain my maiden name on my credit cards drivers license Social Security passport documents.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Gina. If you've only changed your last name on your marriage certificate, then you haven't actually changed it anywhere (for real). Your maiden name remains your legal name. Citing a name change on a marriage certificate doesn't obligate one to actually change it.

      Reply
      1. Sandra

        I had the same question. For legal reasons wouldn/t you have to submit the changes eventually? Example: drivers license, bank accounts etc.

        Reply
  46. Grace

    Hi,
    I got married two years ago and adopted an additional name (after i got married)apart from my husband's name. example birth name was Sophie Marie Eze and then after marriage Sophie Marie Grace Flint- Pebble(Flint-Pepple been my husband's name n surname). Is this adoption ok? and can it be written on my international passport? How do i go about the Affidavit? I also want to be known mainly as Grace Flint-Pepple. Is this possible?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Grace. What do you mean by "adopted an additional name"? If you've legally changed your name as you specified, then you would use it in full as you normally would. As for being known as "Grace Flint-Pepple", that's depends on usage. If informally, then you can.

      Now, in your comment you reference "-Pepple" and later "-Pebble". Was that a typo or are you looking to informally make use of an alternative spelling of your hyphenated last name.

      Reply
  47. Tracy

    Hi! I got married several years ago, at the time I thought I would want to change my name. As it has almost been 4 years and I still have not, clearly I have an issue with changing it. However, the house is in my married name. Is there some way to hyphenate or something? I still want my maiden name somehow reflected in my name, as that is who I have been for 34 years! Also, I am not particularly fond of sharing the name with his ex, who is a horrible person.
    How should I go about this?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Tracy. If you want to hyphenate then you'll have to change your name for real. You can acquire a certified copy of your marriage certificate from your vital records office, then go about changing your name.

      Reply
  48. Latisha

    Hi….I have been reading the post….I am getting married in a few days and I am struggling with the decision to change my last name. I would like to have two last names without a hyphen….so it would be like John Smith. Is this possible and I was told that if you don't have a hyphen, then you can use one or the other…you don't have to use both…..I am so confused. I just don't want to hyphenate I want the flexibility of using which ever last name I want.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Latisha. On legal documents/contexts, hyphen or not, you have to use the full name.

      Reply
  49. Raquel

    Hey there :D
    I will be marrying soon and having talked to my partner, he has no problem with me keeping my last names (I have two because I am latin american; also no middle name), but I have been thinking about the following:
    When we decide to have kids, would they only get their father's last name?

    In my country we get this combination: Name (s)+ Father's last name + Mother's last name. So, would my kid get that aswell? Just his? Just mine? The two that I am keeping plus his? It's all really confusing.

    Also… would I have to register the baby in both countries?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      When we decide to have kids, would they only get their father's last name?

      You decide which last name (or names) will go on the child's birth certificate, not your partner. Of course, you can decide this in consultation with your partner, but you will have the final say.

      In my country we get this combination: Name (s)+ Father's last name + Mother's last name. So, would my kid get that aswell? Just his? Just mine?

      You can choose whichever combination you prefer.

      Also… would I have to register the baby in both countries?

      What do you mean by this? There would only be one birth certificate and country of birth. Are you seeking dual/multiple citizenship?

      Reply
  50. Debating1

    Hi, thank you for all your great answers! I am divorced and kept my ex's name for the kids sake. I now plan on marrying a different man and would like to hyphenate my maiden name (which was dropped with the first marriage) and the new husband's name. Is that possible? I am in the state of Georgia if that helps.

    Reply
  51. Isaac Hunt-Ashleigh

    Hi. I have a hyphenated name and my fiance also has a hyphenated name. We cannot agree on which name to use once we are married and are considering hyphenating our already hyphenated names. We are concerned that our new double double barrelled hyphenated names will not be taken seriously and the thought of our children having such complicated names and maybe marrying somebody else who also has a hyphenated name and the whole idea just gets out of control. At what point does a hyphenated name just become kind of ridiculous?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      At what point does a hyphenated name just become kind of ridiculous?

      Only you can decide that. If you prefer it and can live with it, then why not take it on? One thing to keep in mind is the possibility of exceeding database character length limits with the SSA and DMV.

      Reply
  52. Marj

    I've scanned the comments and think I've come to the right conclusion but please let me verify with you.
    I'm 68 and my fiance is 80. We've signed a pre-nup to protect the interests of our respective heirs.
    I have a daughter, and he has a son and grand children. We will continue to hold our assets separately. Next year we will file our taxes as "married filing jointly". It seems to me that I may sign the tax return with my current legal name, that hasn't changed since 1975.
    Also, as a military retiree drawing a pension and drawing SS in my own right, changing my legal name would be a hassle. I plan to leave my name as is in those two systems.
    However, in social situations, I will refer to myself either with my fiance's last name or with his and my last names.
    Am I on the right track?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Am I on the right track?

      Hi Marj. I think that's a perfectly valid way of going about things. It's an approach many have taken, and it works out fine.

      Reply
  53. Ally

    Hello! I got married 11 years ago and hyphenated my name. I would like to drop the hyphen and just take my husbands last name. Can I do this thru the SS office? Thank you

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Ally. You'll have to petition the court first. Once you're granted a court order you can then go to the SS office.

      Reply
  54. Amanda

    First off, thank you for a wonderful article and so much great advice. I read most of the q&a (comment section) and still need a little classification.

    I was married at eighteen, changed my last name only to his, and after the divorce went back to my maiden name. In the time since the divorce I have purchased a car (that I still have a loan on) and a home (also on a loan) in my maiden name. I also have a child support case for two children from said marriage in my maiden name. Because of these factors, along with feeling horribly and as though I lost a part of myself when I dropped my maiden name, and having a child with my new husband's name I chose to hyphenate my name now that I'm married again.

    I know that for legal state and federal things; ie. driver'slicense, social security, taxes and employment, I have to use my new full legal name. my question is of I have to (or should) change less formal things; my car loan, home loan, utilities in my maiden name, and things of that nature since my license and social will reflect my maiden. Also, can I keep my insurance in my mainden name of I continue to use only my maiden name in their office for visits. In a nut shell, can I legally use either or on non state and federal forms as long as I use the same name consistently (old accounts maiden name and new accounts new name). I live in the DFW area of Texas if that helps. Thank you so much in advance for your time and much appreciated advise.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      …since my license and social will reflect my maiden

      If your SS and driver's license reflect your maiden name, can you clarify what you mean when you say you hyphenated?

      Also, can I keep my insurance in my mainden name

      You'll have to notify your insurance company of martial status changes. At that time, they'll ask you to provide your legal name, which would be what's on your SS card.

      In a nut shell, can I legally use either or on non state and federal forms as long as I use the same name consistently

      You can likely get by doing that without much issue for such non-federal/state forms, but it is optimal to get your records updated to reflect your legal name.

      Reply
  55. Justin

    Lots of good information on this site! It sounds like as long as you don't change anything on your marriage cert, you can change the last name later? I have an odd situation where we have a marriage certificate with the AFTER marriage names on it. Both of our names did not change (wife kept her maiden name). We have been married almost 2 years and now she is wanting to change her name. We changed her SS card without any trouble. With SS card and marriage cert in hand we went down to the DMV. They would not accept the Marriage cert as proof of name change because it has our AFTER marriage name on it (even though our names did not change at that time). They said we had to go through the courts to change her name. Why would the SS admin accept the Marriage cert and DMV wont?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Justin. One's federal, one's state. They simply operate on separate tracks.

      Reply
  56. Mabel R

    I'm getting married in NYC, in my Marriage License I have my 2 last names as all my important ID's and then my fiance last name (dont have middle name) I want to keep my first last name and add my husband's one hyphanated. They told me that if I have my 2 last names I have to use it like that and then my husband, but is too large. Can I ask to the City Clerk to keep my first last name and then add my husband's? I'm not sure to use just him.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Mabel. Folks may occasionally run into character length issues, although it's rare. Yes, it wouldn't hurt to consult with the city clerk to determine if this specified limit is accurate and can be overridden.

      Reply
  57. Hezael M

    My wife and I bought a house a couple of years back, the documents have her being hyphenated but she has not gone thru that process of being hyphenated yet, God forbid something should happen to me, and she has not done that yet, would there be a problem legally with the house? Does she have to do it or is it optional?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Hezael. Typically not, but you should contact your lender for confirmation.

      Reply
  58. Jracine

    I was wondering if it was necessary to change one's last name (me) as a hyphenated name to match my fiancé last name making it where I still have my last but also her last name too? Is this necessary for only I to do this before marriage (AN EXTRA CHARGE as a legal adult???) or could we both hyphenate both our last names AFTER MARRIAGE making them both hyphenated to match…will it be cheaper that way without a possible extra expense beforehand?…(not that I'm cheap but I do believe it is a fair question).

    If this makes sense…

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I was wondering if it was necessary to change one's last name (me)…

      Well, necessity doesn't really factor into things. It's not required, if that's what you're asking.

      or could we both hyphenate both our last names

      Possibly. It depends on the state. What is (or will be) the state of residence?

      Reply
      1. Jracine

        The state of residence will be Washington. I guess I'm asking if the extra expense is necessary if this makes sense? Of changing my (soon-to-be husband) last name to the hyphenated name before the wedding or could we both just both hyphenate out last names together on the marriage certificate?

        I confuse a lot so I do hope this makes sense…

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Hi Jracine. You'd have to petition the court. You could do it before or after getting married.

          Reply
  59. Soren

    I have a question which I am sure has been addressed here. See, I had my name legally changed (first, middle and last) to include a hyphenated name and now I am looking to marry my partner and we want to do a new hyphenation of her last name and the latter part of my last name. I am wondering if that can be done here in Washington state via the marriage license or would we need to do so through a court appointment. Thanks in advance for your response.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Soren. It may be possible, assuming the portion of your pre-marriage hyphenated name is your surname. If not, then you'll probably have to go through a court petition. Either way, it may be worth calling your county clerk's office for clarification.

      Reply
  60. Antoinette

    I've been married for 3 years now. My name is Antoinette Jones. Jones is my husband last name. I drop my maiden name. I just got a petition granted for name change to have my biological father name placed on birth certificate which is George. Can I have my maiden George hypenated to George-Jones or do have to stay with the last name of Jones. Or do I have to go back to court again.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Antoinette. If you've got a court order granting a name change, then you can use that document to change your married name again.

      Reply
  61. 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
  62. 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
  63. 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
  64. 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
  65. 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
  66. 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
  67. 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
  68. 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
  69. 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
  70. 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
  71. 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
  72. 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
  73. 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
  74. 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
  75. 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
  76. 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
  77. 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
  78. 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
  79. 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
  80. 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

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