407 Comments

If you are in California and considering a legal name change after marriage, divorce, changing a minor's name through a court order and/or any other unique name change need, there are a number of options available. Always remember to have all the required documents with you. It's also important to take advantage of easier and faster name changes, such as ensuring you have indicated such a desire to your divorce attorney for faster processing.

Marriage Name Change Options

First off, in California you can do almost what you want with your last name. To save time, you can use an online service providing California name change forms, which supports numerous marriage name change options. Here are options you could explore.

Choosing your spouse's last name

This is the most traditional and common name change that takes place after marriage. The wife takes the last name of her partner; you need to have a certified marriage certificate copy to effect it.

Hyphenating

One of the most common ways of compromising in marriage, and in name change, is using a hyphen and keeping each of your last names. This happy compromise comes about when a spouse's name is very important in her business, social and personal life and changing it might bring legal, family or strictly business complexity. For instance, if you have created a very successful company with your name, which has become your identity, and your spouse insists you take his last name after marriage, hyphenation will save the day. Call it meeting right in the middle.

Remember, hyphenation combinations can take the middle name and the current last name of either spouses' or a combined hyphenation of the spouses' birth last name or middle name.

Blending names

California is the home of celebrities and blending names is one of the new ways of approaching name change. Also a very happy compromise after marriage, it can be done by anyone. This includes coming up with a hybrid name with the elements of both the wife and husband's last name. For instance, if he is Devon Hotas and she is Stormy Rapaton they can blend the last names into 'Hotaton.' Always remember, no matter what you decide upon there are legal requirements and costs to meet. This option is mostly available for couples in California only and the blended last names must be written on the marriage license.

Spouse name legally and maiden name professionally

You can legally go with the spouse's name while keeping your maiden name for professional matters. It means professional brands are maintained while traditions are also respected in personal life.

Maiden as middle and last name of your spouse

You can take your maiden name and make it the middle name while taking the last name of your spouse. However, in California you must list the maiden name as the middle name on the marriage license for it to be done.

Male spouse taking wife's name

In case the wife has very strong reasons not to drop or change her last name in California, the husband can take the wife's maiden name and make it his last name. The State recognizes the right of the man to change his name as a result of marriage.

It's important to note that if you are recently married and want to have your last name changed to your spouse's last name, going to court is not required. You only need to contact the Social Security Office and the local DMV office and request them to change the name, especially on the social security card and driver's license, just by availing a certified copy of your marriage certificate or, in some cases, a certified copy of your marriage license/record. Sometimes these bodies might request a court order and you should be ready to get it.

Either party (husband or wife) changing the middle and/or last name

The California Name Equality Act of 2007 (external pdf link) provides an option for one or both parties to the marriage to change the middle name and/or last name. So, you can opt to just change your middle name, while leaving your last name untouched. Or change both your middle and surname in one fell swoop. While the choice is yours (and quite flexible to boot), the decision must be made at the time you apply for your marriage license application. Specify the new name(s) you intend to take after marriage on the provided form.

The "Usage Method"

Please note: California gives anyone the legal right of changing their name just by using it in all areas of life in what is called the "usage method." However, there are a few exceptions where government agencies might request a court order to officially accept that a name change took place. Thus, it's wise to have a court order even if you are following the "usage method."

With a court order you can effect name change on a legal name on all areas of your life, particularly government-related identification documents like social security card, passport, and driver's license. Make sure you have the name change decree's copy with you.

Divorce Name Change

In case you are seeking a divorce as well as a name change, perhaps to return to the maiden name, it's easier to complete this in the divorce case in one of the most straightforward processes in California. You only need to notify the divorce attorney attending the matter before finalizing the divorce so that the name change is dealt with as a part of the settlement or judgement.

Note: Divorcées can still use our name change kit (even though its apparent focus is marriage-based name changes), by swapping out references to "marriage certificate" with "divorce decree." Just make sure your document contains an order restoring your prior name.

Divorce finalized, but you forgot to restore your maiden name

In case the divorce decree has not ordered the name change or a reversion to an earlier name, simply file a normal petition for name change in the California superior court in your locality. This also applies for those seeking to change their names to another beyond the maiden name, including a prior one in another marriage that was in use in the past.

Divorce not finalized—restore your maiden name

However, if you are about to get divorced and have not finalized it yet, simply request the court to have the former name restored while submitting the proposed divorce judgement.

General Adult Name Change

To change your name as an adult in California, file a name change petition to get a court order from the court; takes about 90 days to complete. Once you have filed the petition a court date is given within the next 6-12 weeks. After the court has approved the request, a decree (court order) is provided to help you change your name with various government and non-governmental organizations. How fast you get a decree depends on how busy your local court is. The important thing is following the laid instructions carefully.

Prepare your name change forms

To ask for a name change in a California court, have all the necessary court forms filled out, which include the Petition for Change of Name and the Attachment to Petition for Change of Name (Forms NC-100 and NC-110 respectively), Order to Show Cause for Change of Name and Civil Case Cover Sheet forms. You can contact a family law facilitator to review the forms/paperwork so that everything is done properly.

After review, make two copies of every form; the originals remain with the court, one copy goes to the newspaper, and the other will be yours. File all the forms with the clerk of the court for stamping. Take stamped copies, as the clerk maintains with the original.

Publishing a notice of your name change in the newspaper

On the "Order to Show Cause" form you will find the time and court date, including the department number. You will also have to pay the filing fee at the court clerk's office; check the fee for the initial petition, as it may vary over time. There is also a fee waiver for those unable to afford it.

Once you're done with the court clerk, have the "Order to Show Cause for Change of Name" form published in a newspaper that is publicly circulated every week for a whole month, consecutively. Ask the court if there are approved newspapers for this. Check the publishing cost since the waiver doesn't include the newspaper publishing fee.

After this is done, appear at the court hearing on the material date carrying the proof that you published the Order to Show Cause in a local newspaper, including the Decree Changing Name to be signed by the judge. After the signing of the Decree Changing Name has been signed by the judge, ask the court clerk for a certified copy; use it to change each legal document from the birth certificate and government identifications, such as driver's license, passport and social security card.

Child Name Changes

To change the name of a child there are three scenarios; both parents can ask for a child name change, one parent can request the name change and a guardian can seek a child name change.

If both parents agree to change the child's name

If both parents want to change the child's name, the request can be filed together in a California court. Start by filing the "Petition for Change of Name" for the child and get a court date within 6-12 weeks after filing. After court approval you will get a decree changing the name of the child. Ensure all the required court forms have been filed and that you have the copies needed, including the proof of publishing to a newspaper the "Show Cause for Change of Name," if necessary.

If only one parent agrees, while the other opposes

In case only one parent is filing for a name change for a child, whether there is agreement or not among the parents, the court will give a date. You must however ensure the other parent understands you have filed the petition, including the petition's court date. In case the other parent disagrees with the name change, he/she can oppose the request. Once the judge has approved the request the decree court order will be given to change the child's name. Don't forget to go to the court hearing to receive the signed Decree Changing Name.

Guardians vs Parents

For a guardian who wants to change the name of a child, the process starts with filing of the Petition for Change of Name for a court date. You then have to notify the parents of the child about the petition and its date. If they disagree they can oppose the request. After the request has been accepted by the court you will get a decree or court order to change the name of the child by having all files required filed with the court clerk, publishing the Order to Show Cause for Change of Name, in case it's needed, and attending the court hearing to receive the Decree Changing Name, duly signed by the court judge.

Change of Name on Birth Certificate

To change the name on a birth certificate, follow the general adult name change route by filing a Petition for Change of Name for adults. Complete the entire process until you have a Decree Changing Name duly signed by the judge and receive from the court clerk a certified copy. Use the certified copy to change the name on your birth certificate.

If you have a court order provided by another court in a different State or territory of the United States, use it to amend the name on your birth certificate in California. Nonetheless, the court order should have the entire birth name before the change can be effected.

Changing Name on Social Security, DMV, Passport, IRS

To change the name on your Passport, DMV, Social Security card and IRS, among other government based documents, you need to have proof of legal name change; generally a certified copy of Decree Changing Name signed by a judge, certified copy of your marriage certificate, or certified copy of your divorce decree. For the DMV you need to visit a local office where you will also surrender the old driver's license and pay a $27 fee for the duplicate license. Before changing your name with the DMV, you need to report the change first to the SSA (Social Security Administration) by mail or in person. Notify IRS also about the name change, as well as any change of address that has occurred.

Other Non-Governmental Institutions

While the usage method of using a new name without a court order is alright in California, non-government institutions might request a proof of name change. With a certified copy of the Decree Changing Name duly signed by the judge in California, you should be able to request any body, from insurance companies, employers, academic institutions and financial institutions, to change your name.

Often, such organizations will accept a photocopy of your decree or marriage certificate, but you should still be prepared to furnish a certified copy, upon request.

Recognized Identity Documents for Your Name Change

There are documents you need to effect a name change. These include a certified copy or original copy of the legal name change document, certified copy of marriage certificate for marriage name change, certified copy of divorce decree for divorce name change, and court order (Decree Changing Name duly signed by the judge) for a general adult name change.

Remember, when asking for your name to be changed by the DMV and Social Security Administration, among other institutions, you might be asked to provide a United State's driver's license, United States Passport, and proof of U.S. citizenship such as a Certificate of Citizenship or United State's birth certificate.

All documents need to be certified copies or originals.

407 Comments

  1. casey kramer

    Hi, I was married in 2013 and had a child with my ex-husband six days before our divorce wad finalized in 2015. In our divorce decree, it states I could go back to my maiden name, but I never did because I wanted to have our sons last name as I have sole custody. I am now with a man whom I love and we are planning to have a child together but do not plan to get married and want our new son to have my last name. However, because I never changed back to my maiden name, I feel it unfair for my new baby to bear my ex-husbands last name, so wanted to hyphenate my last name. Therefore I would have both names of my children; my first son from my ex-husband and my second son from my maiden name. My question is this, do I need to petition the superior court for an adult name change or will my divorce decree suffice even though ti does not state I can hyphenate, just return to my maiden name. Thank you in advance

    Reply
    1. Valera

      My question is this, do I need to petition the superior court for an adult name change or will my divorce decree suffice even though ti does not state I can hyphenate, just return to my maiden name.

      You would have to petition the court.

      Reply
  2. Tiffanie

    So I can change and hyphen mine and his name on the marriage certificate but I have no time limit to report or make legal changes for DMV, SSN…? But in order to open bank accounts or credit cards in my new hyphenated name I would have to report my marriage certificate to SSN and DMV? Or could I just show the bank my marriage certificate? And can outside agencies see that I’ve been married without me directly reporting this to them? Or can just anyone or agency just see I’ve been married once the ceremony and paperwork is complete?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      So I can change and hyphen mine and his name on the marriage certificate

      You'd specify the hyphened name on the marriage license application, which would automatically be reflected on the marriage certificate.

      but I have no time limit to report or make legal changes for DMV, SSN…?

      Correct.

      But in order to open bank accounts or credit cards in my new hyphenated name I would have to report my marriage certificate to SSN and DMV?

      That depends on your bank's rules and procedures. They may or may not require an identity document in your new name.

      Or could I just show the bank my marriage certificate?

      Same as the above. Private businesses can establish their own rules.

      And can outside agencies see that I’ve been married without me directly reporting this to them? Or can just anyone or agency just see I’ve been married once the ceremony and paperwork is complete?

      Unless you've opted for a confidential marriage license, your marriage certificate is a public record that anyone may access.

      Reply
      1. Tiffanie

        Thank you so much for getting back to me! So much appreciation… does having a confidential marriage license restrict me from advantages that a public marriage would have. Or does it just hide it from the public and is it a bad thing to have a confidential marriage and why would one have a marriage in confidence anyway??

        Reply
        1. Tiffanie

          Can someone only access a marriage record if they request and pay for the record.

          Reply
          1. Valera

            Hi Tiffanie. Only the couple to the marriage can obtain a certified copy of their confidential marriage record. It's not part of the public record. However, it can still be obtain by a court order.

          2. Tiffanie

            Valera,

            Thank you for all your help. It’s much appreciated.

        2. Valera

          Or does it just hide it from the public and is it a bad thing to have a confidential marriage

          Yes, it just hides it from public record. It's not bad, and the clerks don't care which one you purchase.

          and why would one have a marriage in confidence anyway?

          Historically, it was used as a means to bypass the blood test requirement that was repealed in 1995. Today, it's just used for privacy purposes.

          FYI, you can optionally purchase a confidential marriage license from an authorized notary public instead of going to the county clerk.

          Reply
  3. Ashley Irons

    Hello I got married in 2014 in Bakersfield California..I put on my Marriage license to change my last name but never went and did it.. Is there a time limit on this..

    Reply
  4. Trang

    Hi, I got married in Hawaii and at the time wanted to change my name. I am having second thoughts and want to keep my maiden name. How do I change it back on my marriage license? I have not legal changed my name on SS card, DL or anywhere else.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      How do I change it back on my marriage license? I have not legal changed my name on SS card, DL or anywhere else.

      You can try to request an amendment, but it's not likely to be accepted. Your marriage record can be considered just a public vital record and historical document. It's not meant to be altered after recording unless there's an error or court order forcing its alteration.

      Reply
      1. Diana

        Hello Valera,
        Like Trang, I changed my name on my California marriage license, but no where else. I replaced my middle name with my maiden name but then decided I wanted to keep my middle and maiden name after all. 1) do I need to officially request a change to the marriage license? 2) will I run into legal problems (medical, trust, etc). 3) when asked on legal forms, ie. passports, “if known by other names”, must I report the name I have on my marriage license?

        I am an Arizona resident (living part time in California)

        Reply
        1. Valera

          I replaced my middle name with my maiden name but then decided I wanted to keep my middle and maiden name after all 1) do I need to officially request a change to the marriage license?

          No.

          2) will I run into legal problems (medical, trust, etc).

          No.

          3) when asked on legal forms, ie. passports, “if known by other names”, must I report the name I have on my marriage license?

          No.

          Reply
  5. C.B.

    Hi!

    I saw a somewhat similar question above, but I want to be sure I understand correctly. I am a medical professional, and want to have two last names without a hyphen once I am married (First, middle, Maiden name new last name) so I can utilize my maiden name at work legally but still go by his last name socially & legally. We are getting married in California.

    Am I able to have two last names without a hyphen? If not, do you have any suggestions of how I can keep/use both legally? I have considered having 2 middle names if i cannot have 2 last names (first, middle maiden name, new last name)

    Thank you for your help!!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Am I able to have two last names without a hyphen?

      Yes, you can have two last names without a hyphen. This is also referred to as a double-barreled name change or space-separated surname.

      Reply
  6. Michelle

    Hi!
    I got married in San Francisco, CA and in my marriage license it has my first name, middle name and my husband’s last name. Now, I wanted to change it to First name, Maiden name and Husband’s last name. I went to SSA and they where able to change my name to first, maiden and husband’s last name but DMV did not. My question is 1) how do I get my maiden name my new middle name, do I have to get a court order to change it? 2) Or, can I just go to the clerk and ask to change it? I really want all my documents to have my first, maiden and my husbands last name. Please help and thank you!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Michelle. The clerk is unlikely to change it, because it's not an error. You'd have to go to court.

      Reply
  7. Whitney

    Hi Michelle.

    I got married in 2018 and changed my last name to my husbands but now I would like to hyphen it with my maiden name and his last name. Will I have to petition the court?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Will I have to petition the court?

      Yes, such a follow-up name change requires a court order.

      Reply
  8. Victoria Larios

    Hello, I got married July 2016 in California, and on the marriage license I took my husbands last name but have never changed it through ss, CA-ID etc. Do I have to change my last name to my husbands last name? how does the name change professionally-maiden name and spouse name-legally work? is that still possible in my case? I am torn changing my last name, I want to change for my husband but i love my last name the way it is. If it is possible what do I have to do? Thank you for your help

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Victoria. Changing your name is voluntary. If you choose not to do so, whatever's on your marriage certificate doesn't matter.

      If you do change your name to your husband's, you can maintain your prior name professionally by informal usage, while making sure your taxes and official business documents are in your legal name. You can take it a step further by registering a DBA or fictitious name in your maiden name.

      You can also do the inverse: not changing your name while using your husband's surname socially.

      Reply
  9. Esther Mccasland

    hi i live in california i filed for a divorce it was suposed to be a default judgement but before everything went through my husband died now im a widow who wants to change my last name back to my maiden name how can i do it

    Reply
  10. Mattie

    My fiance and I live in Oakland and are getting married in Texas next year. We want to change both of our last names to his current middle name.
    I would: drop my current middle name, use maiden name as new middle name and his current middle name as my new last name. He would: reverse his current middle and last names.
    I am having such a hard time finding information about doing this as a name change through marriage and if the out-of-state license will present a problem as well. Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      We want to change both of our last names to his current middle name.

      This is not possible via marriage name change. Neither of you can change your last name to a middle name without petitioning the court. It doesn't matter if the marriage takes place in California or Texas.

      Reply
  11. Rob Scott

    Hi!

    My wife and I married in June 2016 and when we received our marriage license, the boxes for our new married names were left blank even though we specified for both of us to take my last name. We thought maybe that’s just how it supposed to look if your not doing anything out of the ordinary with your names… so my wife went ahead and took that marriage license to Social Security and they allowed my wife to change her new name so we thought alright! everything is ok! However when she took that same marriage license to the DMV with her new Social Security card (that had her new name) they told her no! they needed to see it written on the marriage license and that the social security office never should have changed it for her. Now what do we do? She really wants her new name on her drivers license and passport.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Now what do we do? She really wants her new name on her drivers license and passport.

      Return to the county clerk's office that recorded your marriage license and request an amendment to your marriage certificate. You'll have to claim that they made a clerical error. They'll dig up the original marriage application to confirm that she did indeed specify a new last name after marriage when applying.

      If it's confirmed that they made a mistake, they'll attach an amendment to you marriage record and reissue you a new certificate that you can use to change your name with the DMV.

      Reply
  12. Connie

    Hello: When I got married I decided to hyphenate my last name which is my last name + my husband's last name. I've since decided to drop the hyphen and just take his name. Do I need a court order? How do I go about doing this in California? (we were married in Nevada) Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Connie. If your marriage certificate has a spot that references a new name after marriage, you may have to petition the court to deviate from that. If it just shows your current or maiden name, you should be able to change it just using your certificate as-is.

      Reply
  13. Alya Hameed

    We got married 7 years ago, and have argued back and forth about my taking his name. I thought maybe he'd let it go, but once in a while it comes up (say, for applying for a travel visa to India) and he gets really frustrated that we don't have uniformity, and legally don't "sound" like a family, should it be necessary to demonstrate that (marriage license notwithstanding). I'm wondering if I should just do it. I don't like to hyphenate, and I'm wondering if there's a way to add his last name after mine so that they are two words but spaced (not hyphenated).

    Also, I'm trying to understand, because I intend to keep my own name for professional purposes, but to get a name change is to change it on the Drivers License, passport, etc?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I don't like to hyphenate, and I'm wondering if there's a way to add his last name after mine so that they are two words but spaced (not hyphenated).

      Obtaining a space-separated last name would be achievable if your marriage took place in California and the marriage certificate reflected that choice. If the marriage took place outside of California, another state's or country's marriage certificate may not be accepted for such a change. In such circumstances it may come down to the flexibility of the clerk/agent you deal with.

      but to get a name change is to change it on the Drivers License, passport, etc?

      Social security card too.

      Reply
  14. Vivian

    We will be getting married this year and I want to change my last name to match his last name and also change my first name to a new one that I have been using as my preferred name. Would it be easier to change both legally after marriage and our honeymoon trip?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Vivian. You'll have to go to court to change your first name. A court-petitioned name change can be done before or after marriage.

      Reply
  15. Brenda Hernandez

    Hello!
    I changed my last name when I got married but made my maiden name into my middle name. I soon regretted this and just want to get rid of the middle name. Since I only changed my name with SSD can I go to them to remove it or would I have to go to court? Thank you for any info!

    Reply
  16. Savannah

    Hi,

    I recently (Fall 2017) got married in the state of Georgia, but am a resident of California. I am looking to change my name to myFirst myMiddle myMaiden hisLast. When we applied for the marriage license in Georgia, I included this ordering in the new name section on the application; however, from what I can tell, both the issued license and the certificate use only my full maiden name and never specify the new name. Will these documents be sufficient for this name change in California, or will I need to petition the court?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Savannah

      I should also clarify, I don't have the a copy of the Georgia License application anymore, just the license itself and the later certificate.

      Reply
    2. Valera

      Hi Savannah. If the certificate doesn't distinguish between prior and new name, you should be able to use it fine.

      Reply
      1. Savannah

        Thank you! This is the first place I could find an answer. I didn't even realize that different certificates distinguished prior and new names until I found you guys. Thanks again for the great work!

        Reply
  17. Tina

    I got married last July and now starting the process to change my name officially. However, on the marriage certificate I indicated my New Name to be: First Name, Middle name as my Maiden Name, and last name as Husband’s Last Name. However, I realized I do want to keep my original middle name. I will take my husnand’s last name but I no longer wish to have a new middle name but rather keep with my current middle name. Will this be a problem when I go and change my last name in my Social Security Card, Drivers License, etc? Thank you for your help.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Tina. You likely won't face a problem considering the surname is considered the principal identifier.

      Reply
      1. Tina

        Thank you for your response. To note, we were married and also live in California if that makes a difference. But thank you again!

        Reply
  18. Leti B

    Hi, i got married in 2016 and did not change my name. my husband and i kept our names as is.

    if we want to change our last names can we still do that?

    Married and live in Calfornia. Any advice would be appreciated.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      if we want to change our last names can we still do that?

      Hi Leti. You can change your name to whatever new name is specified on your California marriage certificate. If a new name was not specified or you want to deviate from what was chosen, you'll have to petition the court for a general adult name change.

      Reply
  19. Greg Thomas

    Hi,

    I recently got married in California and got my marriage certificate. In mother's name by mistake I didn't write the maiden name. Is there a way I can correct that to her maiden name.

    Thanks,
    Greg

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Greg. You can contact the office that recorded your license for a correction/amendment.

      Reply
  20. Elizabeth Alter

    I’m getting married in CO this summer, but reside in California. Which state’s name change laws are relevant? If I want to have two last names, no hyphen, (firstname, drop existing middle, maidenname husbands_lastname) is that possible? And if not, can I make my maiden my middle name at the time of getting the marriage license without additional court appearances? Also, can my future husband make change his middle to my last name in both states?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I’m getting married in CO this summer, but reside in California. Which state’s name change laws are relevant?

      California's.

      If I want to have two last names, no hyphen, (firstname, drop existing middle, maidenname husbands_lastname) is that possible?

      Two last names without a hyphen? Yes. Dropping your middle name? No.

      And if not, can I make my maiden my middle name at the time of getting the marriage license without additional court appearances?

      Yes.

      Also, can my future husband make change his middle to my last name in both states?

      Just in California.

      Reply
  21. Cam

    I got married in 2006 in California. I did not change my name at the time (and the 2007 Name Equality Act was obviously not in effect yet). I have been considering adding my husband's last name to my last name. Can I do that by just taking my Marriage Certificate into SSA and DMV or will I need to petition the court for a name change?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Cam. If the certificate doesn't make mention of new names after marriage, you should be able to use it as-is.

      Reply
  22. Kimberly

    I got married about 9 months ago and chose not to hyphenate my last name but to use both last names (my maiden and his). The county clerk said that if I hyphenated, I would have to sign and go by both names. If I did not hyphenate, I could go by either last name…true?

    Also, is there a requirement to inform IRS, SSA, and DMV if I got married and did not hyphenate?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I got married about 9 months ago and chose not to hyphenate my last name but to use both last names (my maiden and his). The county clerk said that if I hyphenated, I would have to sign and go by both names.

      You'll only have one legal last name. I assume the clerk was talking about rotating last name usage on an informal basis.

      Also, is there a requirement to inform IRS, SSA, and DMV if I got married and did not hyphenate?

      No.

      Reply
      1. Kimberly

        My marriage certificate (California) shows:
        For example:
        In the "first name" box = Tina
        In the "middle name" box = Marie
        In the "last name" = Smith Jones (no hyphen…just a space)

        Thanks!

        Reply
        1. Valera

          In the "last name" = Smith Jones (no hyphen…just a space)

          Smith Jones would the complete last name. It would be "the" last name. I don't know what context the clerk could be suggesting it's okay to interchangeably use a portion of your double last name other than in informal, social settings.

          Reply
          1. Kimberly

            Thanks!…she did imply that I could use either interchangeably for anything. I let her know explicitly that I needed to keep my maiden name for my business entity and would use the other for insurance etc…matters. She also said that because my last name is not hyphenated, that I could sign either "Tina Smith" or "Tina Jones" on any documents.

  23. Yesenia

    Hello have a question I got married and I had ask the clerk that I wanted my name hyphenated and my mirrage license shows other wise it only shows my husband last name what can I do to get my name hyphenated?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Yesenia. If the clerk made a mistake, you can request an amendment and reissue of your marriage certificate.

      Reply
  24. Nate

    We plan on getting married in a different state, so my marriage license and certificate will be from there. My fiance plans making her last name her middle name and taking my last name. I think that follows the guidelines for California. What do we then need to do to get this name change in California? She will be filing a change of status I-485 form with her new name right away. How quickly can this name change happen? Thanks

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Nate. Name change can occur as soon as a certified copy of the marriage certificate is obtained. When you apply for the marriage license, inquire about when you should expect your certificate to arrive and if it requires a separate fee in addition to the application fee.

      Reply
  25. Zhouie

    Hi,

    My fianceé & I would like our married surname to be his current middle name. To clarify, his name would ideally become "First, no middle, Last" (with his last name being his current middle name). Is this a change we can make in one fell swoop on the marriage license application, or will he need to do a court order change first?

    Thank you so much for your help!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Is this a change we can make in one fell swoop on the marriage license application, or will he need to do a court order change first?

      A middle to last name change isn't possible without obtaining a court order.

      Reply
  26. Jazmine

    Hi, I was born in California but have lived in Kansas since I was 2,im now 27. I am going be getting married and would like to change my last name on my social security card. Can I go through the Kansas to get this done or do I need to go through California? And if I need to go through California how would I go about doing that?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jazmine. The name change would take place in the state of your current residence (i.e., Kansas).

      Reply
  27. Helma

    I’ve been married over 3 years and want to change my last name to my husband’s last name but he also changed his last name after becoming a US citizen. His name is different on our marriage certificate than what it is now. What would I have to do to change mine to his new name and make my maiden name my middle name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Helma. If you're not going to change your name to the new name specified on your marriage certificate, you'd have to apply for a court-ordered name change.

      Reply
  28. Gurwinder Bath

    Hello,
    I am a California resident and I am getting married in Vegas. I have couple questions:
    1. How can I have my husband's last name legally and still use my last name professionally?
    2. Do I still have to do court-order after getting married to change my last name?

    Thank you,

    Reply
    1. Valera

      1. How can I have my husband's last name legally and still use my last name professionally?

      Consider a DBA in your professional name.

      2. Do I still have to do court-order after getting married to change my last name?

      No.

      Reply
  29. Amanda

    I got married in Utah and changed my name with Social Security to first name, maiden as new middle name, husband's last. Utah marriage licenses don't have a place to specify the new name but I have it on my updated Social Security card. Will the California DMV have a problem with that name when updating my license?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Will the California DMV have a problem with that name when updating my license?

      No, they won't have a problem with it.

      Reply
  30. Nancy

    Can I amend my Maiden name on our second marriage license. I married to same person, and listed my biological maiden name in 2007 by mistake. Can I change it as listed correctly in our first marriage license as 1964?
    Remarried 2007 in San Diego County.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Nancy. You can contact the San Diego county clerk's office about amending your marriage record by submitting an affidavit.

      Reply
  31. Jennie

    Hello, I just wanted to be clarified with the last name situation.
    1. If I dont change my last name to my fiances last name or either get it hyphenated with my last name can I change it in the future? And if so, what do I need to make sure to have on my marriage license in order to change it in the future?
    2. Do I have to change My social, ID or anything else with my hyphenated last name if I do decide to add his last name with mine ? Can I just have both of our last names, on the marriage certificate but continue using my maiden name with all of my documents ?

    Thank you,

    Reply
      1. Valera

        I ment to say my birth name, for the last question.

        The answer is still the same.

        Reply
    1. Valera

      If I don't change my last name to my fiances last name or either get it hyphenated with my last name can I change it in the future?

      Yes.

      And if so, what do I need to make sure to have on my marriage license in order to change it in the future?

      The name you might ultimately change it to.

      Do I have to change My social, ID or anything else with my hyphenated last name if I do decide to add his last name with mine ?

      No.

      Can I just have both of our last names, on the marriage certificate but continue using my maiden name with all of my documents ?

      Yes.

      Reply
  32. Tim

    My wife and I got married a few years ago in California. I have a complex last name composed of two names. My wife chose to only take part of my last name and I opted to drop the part she didn't take so our last names would be the same. This was documented on our marriage certificate. Are we both able to legally change our names through this method? My wife was able to get hers changed at social security, but I wasn't able to. Why not? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Tim. You both should have been able to change your last name as cited. What was the reason for your denial? Sometimes agents get it wrong.

      Reply
      1. Tim

        Valera,

        I was told that only one person could change their last name when getting married. Is that right?

        Reply
        1. Valera

          I was told that only one person could change their last name when getting married. Is that right?

          No, both parties to a marriage can change their surname.

          Reply
  33. Azi

    Hi,
    I've always wanted to truncate my last name from 12 letters to 4 letters. Is a marriage license the easiest and cheapest way to do this? Or, is the California fee of $435 inevitable?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Azi. You can't shorten your name by getting married. You'll have to go to court and pay the requisite fee.

      Reply
  34. Mary

    We got married civilly last year. On the marriage certificate, I dropped my mom's maiden name (which was my middle name), made my last name as a middle name, and made my husband's last name my last name. Can I still professionally use my middle name as my last name? Also, it's been a year since we got married. Do I ever legally have to turn in my marriage certificate to SSN? I'm a physician, and therefore, I'd like to keep my name… do I have to turn that into the medical board?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can I still professionally use my middle name as my last name?

      Informally, you can, but when it delves into legal and taxation areas you may want to look into something such as a DBA in your middle name.

      Do I ever legally have to turn in my marriage certificate to SSN?

      If you've only stated an intention to change your name, which is reflected on the marriage certificate, and nowhere else, then your name hasn't legally changed.

      You're not required to notify the SSA if you choose not to go forward with the name change.

      I'm a physician, and therefore, I'd like to keep my name… do I have to turn that into the medical board?

      Same as above.

      Reply
  35. Christine Sanapaw

    Question… I kept my last name from a previous marriage but I plan to re-marry. Do I need to change back to my maiden name before applying for a marriage license???

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Do I need to change back to my maiden name before applying for a marriage license?

      No, your current name or prior marriage has no impact on whether you'll be issued a marriage license.

      Reply
  36. Jessica

    Hi,

    You mention above "You can legally go with the spouse's name while keeping your maiden name for professional matters." How does this work?

    I wish to keep my maiden name and add my fiancé's last name as well, I guess that would mean two last names? Can I use both names interchangeably? This is important to me because my professional license is in my maiden name, and I wish to go by this name professionally. But I will use my fiancé's last name socially.

    On the online application fo CA, I have to list my new last name, do I just put both names down without a hyphen? "Maidenname Newname". Or, if I use both names as my last name (without hypen), do I have to always list both last names? Can I go by Dr. Maidenname and Mrs. Newname? I hope my question makes sense.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I wish to keep my maiden name and add my fiancé's last name as well, I guess that would mean two last names?

      Yes, with or without a hyphen.

      Can I use both names interchangeably?

      Your full surname name is your legal name. On legal documents, contracts, taxes, etc, you'll use your full name. For other purposes, it's up to you.

      This is important to me because my professional license is in my maiden name, and I wish to go by this name professionally. But I will use my fiancé's last name socially.

      You can look into registering a DBA in your maiden name. This keeps your professional name and social name separate.

      On the online application fo CA, I have to list my new last name, do I just put both names down without a hyphen? "Maidenname Newname".

      Correct, if you're opting for a space-separated (a.k.a. double-barreled) name change, you'd specify "maiden_name new_name".

      Or, if I use both names as my last name (without hypen), do I have to always list both last names?

      What you put on your application is the name you'll be able to change to. It's what will be printed on your license and subsequent certificate.

      Can I go by Dr. Maidenname and Mrs. Newname? I hope my question makes sense.

      As mentioned above, you can use your full name in legal circumstances and just your maiden or new name in informal situations.

      You may want to review the maiden name after marriage article which delves into this further.

      Reply
  37. andrea

    During marriage my husbands last name was put onto the marriage license . I now changed my name back to my maiden name via a name change (we are still married) but our original marriage certificate states I have taken on his last name . How can that be changed on the document or what can I do to get the marriage certificate to take it off it confuses quite a bit when i have to show the marriage license and then they see the name change document .

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Andrea. You can only modify the marriage certificate if there's an error. Your situation doesn't quality.

      The certificate is considered a historical record. A snapshot in time. Even if you were to successfully modify your record, the change would likely just be an addendum stapled to the certificate citing your new name, while the old name remained visible.

      Reply
  38. Brandi

    I'm currently: First Middle Maiden

    I would like to change all three names to:
    'First Middle' Maiden Last

    Is this possible in California?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Is this possible in California?

      It's not possible through marriage. Instead, you'll have to go through the courts to change your first name.

      Reply
  39. Gina

    Hi Valera,

    I live in CA and will be getting married here next month. I previously lost a son and am hoping that since I am changing my name via marriage anyway, I would like to change my middle name to include my son's middle name and take my fiancé's last name as my new last name: First name, current middle name and son's middle name, husbands last name. Can I do this?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I would like to change my middle name to include my son's middle name

      Although California offers a host of flexible name change options for the middle and last name, you'd actually have to petition the court to apply your son's name to any part of your name.

      Reply
  40. Michael

    We are in San Mateo County, CA. My wife indicated on our marriage license that she would like to take my last name. However, after the license was issued (and now that a marriage certificate has been issued) – she has changed her mind and would like to keep her maiden name.

    We asked the clerk when submitting the completed license and the clerk told her that she would have to go to court to have her name changed back to her maiden name (and pay the $435 fee).

    From reading your posts here it sounds like her name has not changed legally (since she has not contacted SSA, DMV, etc) and that she merely has the option of changing her name but legally her name is still exactly what it was before we got married. Can you confirm that that is true? Do you have any idea why the clerk would tell us that she would need to go to court to have her name changed back if it had never actually changed? Thank you!!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      We asked the clerk when submitting the completed license and the clerk told her that she would have to go to court to have her name changed back to her maiden name (and pay the $435 fee).

      From reading your posts here it sounds like her name has not changed legally (since she has not contacted SSA, DMV, etc)

      Correct.

      …and that she merely has the option of changing her name but legally her name is still exactly what it was before we got married. Can you confirm that that is true?

      Correct again.

      Do you have any idea why the clerk would tell us that she would need to go to court to have her name changed back if it had never actually changed?

      The clerk said this because she thought your wife actually did change her name with the SSA and DMV. It was simply a false presumption on the clerk's part.

      Reply
  41. Nicole

    Hello, I recently received my marriage certificate with my husbands name, but realized I want to hyphenate my name instead.

    When I change my SS/DL/Passport/etc., will I be ok to request a hyphenated name there even though my marriage certificate says otherwise?

    Thanks for your help!
    Nicole

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Nicole. If you're changing your name in California, they'll only change it to what's specified on your certificate.

      Reply
      1. Nicole

        Hi Valera,

        Thanks for getting back to me!

        So since I had indicated my husbands last name on the certificate, I don’t have the option to hyphenate without submitting other types of paperwork?

        Would I be able to go back to the court to revise / what are my options?

        Thanks for your help!
        Nicole

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Hi Nicole. At this point, you'd have to petition a California Superior Court for a name change.

          Reply
  42. Ashley

    Hi,
    I have a question, last June I got married but did not change my name. I kept my maiden name instead. Now, I am wishing to change my last name to husbands. We got married in California but are in Hawaii now due to the military. If I want to change my last name before december, what steps would I need to do?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Ashley. You'd use a certified copy of your California marriage certificate to change your name with the various federal and state institutions.

      Reply
      1. Ashley

        How do I go about doing that? I just have to bring my marriage certificate in somewhere and request to change it? Where would I need to bring it? Thanks!

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Hi Ashley. Yes, your marriage certificate is what you'll need to bring. Start with the SSA, then DMV, then passport office.

          Reply
  43. Jamila

    Hello Valera,
    I have very difficult first name almost unreadable, all consonant letters. I am going to go to apply for citizenship and want to change my name. But I'm getting married and want to have a normal name and take my husband's surname. Can I change my first and last name when I marry, or do I need to marry only after I have obtained citizenship and changed my first name.
    Thank you

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jamila. You can change your first name through the citizenship process, but not through marriage.

      Reply
  44. Yueni

    I recently got married (CA) my maiden name was Jaramillo-Rivera, now that I’m married I took his last name and now I’m Diaz-Jaramillo as stated on the marriage license. I have various questions for one do I have to change my SSA, drivers license, car title, etc to my marriage name or can I leave it as my maiden name? If I don’t am I legally still known as my new married last name? What problems may this cause in the future if I don’t change it?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      do I have to change my SSA, drivers license, car title, etc to my marriage name or can I leave it as my maiden name?

      No, you do not have to change your last name. You can leave it alone.

      If I don’t am I legally still known as my new married last name?

      Your current legal name is still your maiden name, not what's specified on your marriage certificate.

      What problems may this cause in the future if I don’t change it?

      None.

      Reply
  45. MC

    Hello-

    I will be getting married in California in 3 months. I am not interested in hyphenating. I’m considering two name changes:

    1. First Name, Drop middle name and replace with Maiden name, his last name. Am I able to drop my middle name and replace it with my maiden name on the marriage certificate alone? Or do I also need to petition the court to change my middle name?

    2. First Name, Middle name, Maiden name, his last name. Does this require any court process? If I keep my middle name am I required to write out my full name on all documents? Or can I just use the middle name initial? Would my full name be required to be listed with DMV, SSA?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      1. First Name, Drop middle name and replace with Maiden name, his last name. Am I able to drop my middle name and replace it with my maiden name on the marriage certificate alone? Or do I also need to petition the court to change my middle name?

      You do not need to go to court for this sort of name change. Specify this choice on your marriage application.

      2. First Name, Middle name, Maiden name, his last name. Does this require any court process?

      This will work as well.

      If I keep my middle name am I required to write out my full name on all documents?

      You'll have to follow the instruction of whichever document you're dealing with at the time.

      Or can I just use the middle name initial? Would my full name be required to be listed with DMV, SSA?

      Yes.

      Reply
  46. Merri

    Hello,
    We live in California and were married last October in Las Vegas. Can I change SSA and DMV and all other documents to a non-hyphenated combination of both of our last names? I would like to show my name as first, middle, my lastname his lastname.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can I change SSA and DMV and all other documents to a non-hyphenated combination of both of our last names? I would like to show my name as first, middle, my lastname his lastname.

      You can have a non-hyphenated last name, also referred to as a double-barrelled name, as long as the last names are fully intact. You can't slice off a portion of either name with this option. If you were combining names without a hyphen or space, then you could perform a cut and rearrange.

      Caveat: Of course, since your marriage already took place, you wouldn't be able to depart from what was specified on the application, license, and certificate.

      Reply
  47. Jay

    We recently got married in California at the City Hall (Couple days ago… 2) and decided to combine our last names on the certificate. Unfortunately we are getting push back from both of our families and to prevent our families from going nuclear, we've agreed to adopt my sole last name instead. Was hoping to see what would be the best case or options.

    1) Assuming, I don't have to do anything since I won't need to report the name change to SSA?
    2) What would be best way for my spouse to adopt my last name? Certificate would show combined last name, would it be still possible to change to my own or would we have to go through court? Also is there the possibility of adding her current maiden name as her middle name?
    3) Since we've recently got married and when we called we were told we can change it after 10 days, is this true? Called today

    Reply
    1. Valera

      1) Assuming, I don't have to do anything since I won't need to report the name change to SSA?

      If nothing's changed, there's nothing to report.

      2) What would be best way for my spouse to adopt my last name? Certificate would show combined last name, would it be still possible to change to my own or would we have to go through court?

      You'd have to go to superior court, as your certificate is no longer usable for a name change through marriage.

      Also is there the possibility of adding her current maiden name as her middle name?

      This can be changed through the court process as well.

      3) Since we've recently got married and when we called we were told we can change it after 10 days, is this true? Called today

      The law limits changes to your marriage record for corrections and not changes of heart for your name change choice. Perhaps a county clerk is willing to change it for you and cite it as a correction?

      Reply
  48. roubina zargarian

    Hi I am getting married in 2 days and I decided to change my last name on the marriage certificate as my husbands. I never thought about it and just said yes. When we came home I realized that for my business purposes I don't want to show a changed name and it will hurt all my experience and people might not recognize me with the new last name I really want to use my maiden name on all papers. Do I have to change my maiden name on all legal documents?

    Can i just change it back to my maiden name now that we have not done the ceremony yet? or I can keep it on my marriage license and don not go through any legal name changes.

    Thank you for your help

    Reply
    1. Valera

      When we came home I realized that for my business purposes I don't want to show a changed name and it will hurt all my experience and people might not recognize me with the new last name I really want to use my maiden name on all papers.

      If you do ultimately decide to move forward with a legal name change, one way to maintain your current name for business purposes is by registering a DBA in your maiden name.

      Do I have to change my maiden name on all legal documents?

      Specifying a new name on your marriage application/license doesn't change it legally. It just gives you the option to change it. It's non-binding. If you've changed your mind, ignore it.

      Can i just change it back to my maiden name now that we have not done the ceremony yet?

      Same as previously stated.

      or I can keep it on my marriage license and don not go through any legal name changes.

      Yes, you don't have to commit to any name change now or in the future.

      Reply
  49. Melissa

    I got married in Aug of 2017. My husband now wants to legally change his last name to his fathers last name. We have the paper work to go through the court system to do this. Do I also have to go through the court system to change my last name to his new last name or since we are married I get his last name through marriage?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Do I also have to go through the court system to change my last name to his new last name or since we are married I get his last name through marriage?

      You must also go through the court system by filing your own, separate name change petition.

      Reply
  50. Kate

    I have 2 questions:
    I was married in California in 1986.
    1) My marriage license & certificate use my Nickname as my first name – is my first name legally changed to my nickname?

    2) I have been using a hyphenated last name (maiden – husband's name) on my legal documents. Can I simply drop the maiden name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      1) My marriage license & certificate use my Nickname as my first name – is my first name legally changed to my nickname?

      No.

      2) I have been using a hyphenated last name (maiden – husband's name) on my legal documents. Can I simply drop the maiden name?

      If you're legal name is hyphenated, then dropping the use of your maiden name would just be informal.

      Reply
  51. Silvia

    Hi ! ! when iIhad my daughter I gave her my last name and my boyfriend last name. Now, I fell like the order of last names is incorrect on her birth certificate. Her name is listed as First Name, Middle Name, my Boyfriend last name , my last name. I noticed that at school they call her by her first name and my last name. they skip her dads last name. is that correct order?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I noticed that at school they call her by her first name and my last name. they skip her dads last name. is that correct order?

      This isn't uncommon with double last names that aren't hyphenated. As written, it's hard to tell if your boyfriend's last name is part of the surname or middle name. This is especially true if someone's taking a cursory glance at the name. Are you considering pursuing a name change for your daughter to mitigate this?

      Reply
  52. Isabel Carney

    Hi,
    I got divorced last year and on my divorced settlement I asked to restore my maiden name. Its been a year since my divorce and have not changed my name on my driver licence, SS card or passport because I don't want to have a different last name as my children. Am I able to just keep my married last name on all my Id's / loans/ bank accounts or do I have to go change everything back to my maiden name?

    I live in Southern California.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Isabel. You do not have to return to your maiden name even if your divorce decree permits you to do so.

      Reply
  53. Azi

    But according to the "Information regarding the name equality act of 2007", option 3 (please see the options below), I should be able to choose a segment of my last name, shouldn't I?
    If not, I'd like to then choose the first three letters of my last name and the last letter of my spouse's (which happens to be the same as the fourth letter of my last name). To me, this workaround seems legitimate. Is that not allowed?

    The parties may choose any of the following middle or last names as the name they wish to be known as after marriage:
    1) Current last name of the other spouse
    2) Last name of either spouse given at birth
    3) A name combining into a single last name all or a segment of the current last name or last name of either spouse given at birth
    A combination of last names may or may not be hyphenated

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I should be able to choose a segment of my last name, shouldn't I?

      You should and you can.

      If not, I'd like to then choose the first three letters of my last name and the last letter of my spouse's (which happens to be the same as the fourth letter of my last name). To me, this workaround seems legitimate. Is that not allowed?

      It is allowed.

      Reply
      1. Azi

        Thanks for your response, Valera. Just so I'm clear, since you are agreeing with me that I should be able to choose a segment of my last name, you are practically saying that I am allowed to shorten/truncate my last name. This is in contrast to your previous response (please see below), when I inquired about this (wording it differently) in April. Am I misunderstanding something here? Thanks!

        Azi
        April 20, 2018
        Hi,
        I've always wanted to truncate my last name from 12 letters to 4 letters. Is a marriage license the easiest and cheapest way to do this? Or, is the California fee of $435 inevitable?

        Reply
        Valera
        April 23, 2018
        Hi Azi. You can't shorten your name by getting married. You'll have to go to court and pay the requisite fee.

        Reply
        1. Valera

          since you are agreeing with me that I should be able to choose a segment of my last name, you are practically saying that I am allowed to shorten/truncate my last name.

          Yes, as you're combining a segment of your last name and your spouse's. When I said "You should and you can" be able to slice off a portion of your last name, it was in the context of a segment of your spouse's last name being the fourth letter of your new name.

          This is in contrast to your previous response (please see below), when I inquired about this (wording it differently) in April. Am I misunderstanding something here?

          Your April comment comment didn't reference your spouse's last name or birth name. You had just mentioned wanting to slice off a portion of your name in isolation. Segmenting is when the names of both parties to the marriage are in the mix.

          Reply
        2. Nick Thompson

          What's the status of this? I want to take the first 3 letters of my last name, and 1st letter of my spouse's last name. The worker taking my marriage license said that I can't do that because "segment" means 2 or more letters. Is that true?

          Reply
          1. Valera

            The worker taking my marriage license said that I can't do that because "segment" means 2 or more letters. Is that true?

            I've not seen a minimum character count defined in the original Name Equality Act or any revisions or clarifications. Can this worker produce documentation from the state showing this standard?

  54. Chip

    Can court just add a first name so id have 2? I have used a nick name over 30 yrs? Currently show C. Chip as first initial and then Nick name "chip". SS#, credit cards, drivers list, health ins and all employee records and bank listed with Nick name. Problem is the birth certificate shows catherine. More trouble to change it vack to catherine which I dont want to use. Can a first name be added to a legal name…then at my discretion use C.Chip? Passport and birth certif the only two I'd with catherine on it. Drivers list = C. Chip. They don't match. So new CA id will be a problem and international travel a risk. However left and returned to country 3 times without issue

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can court just add a first name so id have 2?

      Yes.

      Can a first name be added to a legal name…then at my discretion use C.Chip?

      It depends on the document. For government documents, it'll have to be your legal name.

      Passport and birth certif the only two I'd with catherine on it. Drivers list = C. Chip.

      It's unlikely the DMV will allow an initial or nickname.

      Reply
  55. Azi

    Hi,
    My spouse-to-be wants to drop his middle name when requesting a marriage license. Is that allowed? I know one is allowed to choose just a segment of one's middle/last name, but is a segment/subset containing zero letters (equivalent to dropping one's middle name) allowed?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      My spouse-to-be wants to drop his middle name when requesting a marriage license. Is that allowed?

      Nope. Can't drop the middle name.

      I know one is allowed to choose just a segment of one's middle/last name

      I'm glad you brought this up, as some people think the ability to segment last names also extends to middle names. It does not. You can combine middle names in their entirety, but not segments.

      Reply
  56. Ana

    Hi Valera,
    On my marriage license under the new name section my name is listed as follows: First Name – Maiden Name for Middle Name – Husbands last name for last name. If I understand correctly, what's listed in this section does not affect my name in any way? It's just an authorization to change my name if I so choose? A legal name change is when you change your name with Social Security, DMV, on passport, etc?

    I only filled out the new name section because I was told it would save me money when and if I decided to change my name legally. However, I do not like this arrangement anymore (first name – maiden for middle name – husbands last for last name), and will not change my name as it's listed. Is there any possible way to have this section changed, because as it stands it's not accurate and it really bothers me?

    If I do decide to change my name I'd like to hyphenate. What process do I need to follow for that? Would I need to go through the courts?

    Thank you for your help.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      If I understand correctly, what's listed in this section does not affect my name in any way?

      Correct.

      It's just an authorization to change my name if I so choose?

      Correct.

      A legal name change is when you change your name with Social Security, DMV, on passport, etc?

      Correct.

      Is there any possible way to have this section changed, because as it stands it's not accurate and it really bothers me?

      If you haven't married yet, just apply for a new marriage license.

      If I do decide to change my name I'd like to hyphenate. What process do I need to follow for that? Would I need to go through the courts?

      Just specify the hyphenated version of the name on the marriage license application.

      Reply
      1. Ana

        Thank you for your reply. I am already married…in that case I can't change the name that's listed on my marriage license/certificate and I'd need to go through the courts and pay the fee in order to hyphenate?

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Hi Ana. Yes, at this point you can't change your recorded certificate. You'll have to go through the courts.

          Reply
  57. Natalie

    Hi, my partner and I are getting married in a month but would like to avoid an official name change until our actual big wedding in two years time. Are there any issues in my putting my new name (with his surname) onto our marriage certificate when we get married in a month, and then not actioning on this name change until two years later with social security, DMV, passport etc? Wondering if there’s any complications on sitting on my name change for two years without rolling it out beyond the marriage certificate? Thx so much!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Are there any issues in my putting my new name (with his surname) onto our marriage certificate when we get married in a month, and then not actioning on this name change until two years later with social security, DMV, passport etc?

      There are no issues to be concerned about.

      Wondering if there’s any complications on sitting on my name change for two years without rolling it out beyond the marriage certificate?

      No, it doesn't make a difference.

      Reply
  58. jmlee

    Hi
    I didn't change my last name to my husband upon issuing a marriage license to avoid any confusion in processing my green card (because we processed the petition for a fiancee visa as my original name before marriage then was not sure if I had to change the name for processing the green card as a spouse of the US citizen). I got the license at Oakland, CA and was told that the name change or unchange on the marriage license would be permanent.

    What can I do if I want to change to my husband's last name after green card is issued? Should I go to re-issue the marriage license with the name change or file a petition?

    Thank you very much

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi jmlee. You'll have to file a petition for a name change in the California courts.

      Reply
  59. Isaiah Splawn

    I am expecting to get married in about a month- do I have to pay to take my fiancé's last name after we have married(in California)?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Isaiah. If you're asking if you'll have to pay for a court-ordered name change, then no. When you apply for a marriage license, be sure to put your preferred name on the application.

      Reply
  60. Karen Navarro

    Hi,
    I'm going to be getting married soon and I really don't want to take my soon to be husbands last name. I want to keep my maiden name. I'm very confused on filling out the license online. I don't know what to put down as my new middle name and new last name. Can I just put my maiden name on both?? or can I take my husbands name but not change it legally on my SSN/ DL etc.? Please help!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I'm going to be getting married soon and I really don't want to take my soon to be husbands last name.

      You're not required to.

      I'm very confused on filling out the license online. I don't know what to put down as my new middle name and new last name. Can I just put my maiden name on both??

      The new middle and/or last name you put down gives you the option to change it down the road. You don't have to, but it sets you up to execute a basic married name change instead of going to court.

      or can I take my husbands name but not change it legally on my SSN/ DL etc.? Please help!

      Yes, you can do that as well.

      Reply
  61. Caitlin

    Hi, my fiancé and I are getting married January 2019 in either California or Nevada, but neither of us wants to keep our last names dude to our father’s crimes. Is it legal for us to just choose a new name for us to use entirely?
    For example
    Her: Keep her first name, keep her middle name, change last name to Justice.

    Me: Keep my first name, change my middle name to Liam, change my last name to Justice.

    Neither of us have any real relations to the last name justice we just don’t want to use either of our Maiden names in any form such as hypenating or combining the two.

    Is this legal or would we both have to go to court to change our last name to Justice legally? Also would I have to go to court to change my middle name to Liam?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Caitlin. You wouldn't be able to make up a brand new name out of whole cloth. In California, the most radical change you can make is to blend last names (current or prior). In Nevada, you're relegated to basic types of name changes: hyphenate, take spouse's, etc.

      Your residency also determines what you can change to. Even if your marriage takes place in California, the name change laws of your home state takes precedence.

      Reply
  62. Marian

    Hi! I got married last year. By that time We decided to keep my middle name plus my maiden name (as middle names) and then take my husbands last name. Now I want to have both my maiden name and his last name (as my last name) and have no middle name. Should I make an ammendment in my marriage ceriticate before I go to social security? I live in California and got married in Hawaii

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Now I want to have both my maiden name and his last name (as my last name) and have no middle name. Should I make an ammendment in my marriage ceriticate before I go to social security?

      You can't drop your middle name unless you obtain a court order.

      Reply
  63. Cristina

    Hi!
    I recently changed my last name to my husbands last name on my social security card only , as it is on our marriage licence and now I regret it because I have a lot of things to change my name on! Can I just go back to the SSA and get my maiden name back? I havent changed it anywhere else only my social and it was not long ago! Or add my last name and have both last names!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can I just go back to the SSA and get my maiden name back? I havent changed it anywhere else only my social and it was not long ago! Or add my last name and have both last names!

      No, at this point you'll have to file an adult name change petition with the California superior court.

      Reply
  64. Marie

    On our marriage license, I had elected to hyphenate my maiden name with my husbands last name. We just received our official marriage license on the mail. I haven’t changed any social security cards or gone to the dmv yet, but I have since decided that I would like to just use his last name instead of using a hyphenated name. Is that possible?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I haven’t changed any social security cards or gone to the dmv yet, but I have since decided that I would like to just use his last name instead of using a hyphenated name. Is that possible?

      You wouldn't be able to deviate from the name on your certificate. You'd have to petition the court in such an instance.

      Reply
  65. Brandon

    We recently got married and received our marriage certificate. We intended to have my wife change her name. The marriage certificate shows my wife's maiden name and no changes. How do we proceed to change her name on her Social Security, Drivers Licence, etc.?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      How do we proceed to change her name on her Social Security, Drivers Licence, etc.?

      If the certificate is wrong due a mistake on the clerk's part, you can get it amended. Otherwise, she'll have to petition the court as the marriage certificate wouldn't be usable.

      Reply
  66. Chany

    Hi Valera,

    First I would like to start of saying, thank you for this blog. It has answered some of mines and my friends question.

    I’m getting married next year in Long Beach, CA.

    Our wedding is going to be very intimate;City hall and backyard boogie.

    Would I have to go in to city hall to set up an appointment to get married ?
    Or can I do it online ?

    My fiancé name is Deno Sam
    My name is Chany Ho
    Our son name is Ceeno Chea

    We both don’t want to continue our last name.
    We want to take our son last name;CHEA ( name after my mom )
    Will that be possible ??

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Would I have to go in to city hall to set up an appointment to get married ? Or can I do it online ?

      You can apply online but you'll have to pick up your license in person at one of the county clerk's seven branch locations within Los Angeles County.

      We both don’t want to continue our last name. We want to take our son last name;CHEA ( name after my mom ) Will that be possible ??

      No, that is not possible through marriage. You'll both have to petition the superior court for such a name change.

      Reply
      1. Chany

        Wow, okay. Is there court fee to the name change petition ? How long is the process ?

        Or

        Would it be better/ easier to add “ Chea “ to my name or change my last name “ Ho “ into Chea ?

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Wow, okay. Is there court fee to the name change petition ?

          It costs $435 to petition a California Superior Court for a name change.

          How long is the process ?

          It varies. You'll have to get your hearing scheduled and publish your name in the newspaper. The timeline varies by court, so you'll have to contact them for turnaround times.

          Would it be better/ easier to add “ Chea “ to my name or change my last name “ Ho “ into Chea ?

          If you're going to court, it doesn't matter. You can change your name to whichever you prefer.

          Reply
    1. Valera

      How much will it take to pay for license.

      A California marriage license costs between $35 and $111. It varies by county and the type of license you apply for (public or confidential). If you specify the county you'll be applying in, I can provide specifics.

      Reply
  67. Alondra

    I married almost two years ago and took only my husband's last name. Now, I'd like to add my maiden last name as well so I can have my father's LN and husband's LN. Is that possible? If so, what is the process like?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Now, I'd like to add my maiden last name as well so I can have my father's LN and husband's LN. Is that possible? If so, what is the process like?

      You'd have to petition the court for a name change.

      Reply
  68. Erin

    I’m getting married October 13th (California) but will need to use my passport for an international vacation starting November 9th. I want to add my maiden name as a second middle name and take my fiancee’s last name. Can I take the new names on the marriage license and wait until after my vacation to change my name with the SSA/DMV/passport? Meaning, am I okay to use my current passport for travel until I return from vacation and can start the name-change process? Will changing my names on the marriage certificate jeopardize my passport’s validity even though I haven’t done any other paperwork yet?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I want to add my maiden name as a second middle name and take my fiancee’s last name.

      That's valid. Be sure to specify this on your marriage application.

      Can I take the new names on the marriage license and wait until after my vacation to change my name with the SSA/DMV/passport?

      Yes, it's fine to wait until after.

      Meaning, am I okay to use my current passport for travel until I return from vacation and can start the name-change process?

      Yes. Make sure your airline tickets match the name on your passport.

      Will changing my names on the marriage certificate jeopardize my passport’s validity even though I haven’t done any other paperwork yet?

      No, it wouldn't invalidate your passport.

      Reply
  69. Simon

    Hi there.

    A form of this question was asked earlier I think but I wanted to check as well

    I have a long last name that I would like to shorten and have both my spouse and I take. Would we be able to do that in the marriage license (in San Francisco) last name change? Technically there is a letter in her last name that is in my shortened last name. Do we need to cite that technicality because we have to combine last names?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Simon. For merging names, you'll want to have a clean combination with a defined beginning and end. Rearranging letters to force it to work isn't guaranteed. The county clerk "should" review your application for an improper name combination before issuing your license.

      Reply
      1. Simon

        Thanks so much Valera for the reply. We will give it a try and see what the clerk says.

        Reply
  70. Will

    California won't hyphenate names on a driver's license. My last name is hyphenated going back several generations but when I got my DL here they said they couldn't do it. So I now have this unpronounceable 14 letter long string of letters on my DL. It's 2018. I can't believe their computers can't hyphenate a last name.

    And the issue is going to continue, my partner and I are adopting kids and will be giving them hyphenated last names as well (part of my last name and all of his) so they will have the same issue. It's ridiculous.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Will. This has been a reported issue across California DMV's going back years. It's not that they refuse to honor hyphenated names, it's just that their software strips hyphens which results in a concatenated name. At a minimum you could request it be revised to use a space separator.

      Reply
  71. Jill Marie

    I will be getting married and want to change my first name from Jill to Jillianna, I will be taking his last name. I dont want to change my birth certificate just driver's license and all other institutions. Do I have to get a court order?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I will be getting married and want to change my first name from Jill to Jillianna, I will be taking his last name.

      Do I have to get a court order?

      Definitely, with a first name change.

      Reply
  72. TiraDee

    Born in California, married on a US Territory. My birth certificate has my maiden name on it, the marriage certificate obtained by a US territory has a false last name. I am recently divorced with an approved decree to restore my maiden last name and would like to A) completely change my last name to a new last name due to never meeting my biological father B) Or temporarily carry my biological father’s last name until I can petition for a new name change. I am active duty military stationed on the east coast I am unable to appear for a court hearing. But would like to know what/if any stipulations for military. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi TiraDee. If you don't want to change your name to what's specified in your divorce decree, then you'll have to petition the court for an adult name change. This goes for members of the military as well.

      Reply
  73. Sarah

    My fiance’s Name was misspelled upon birth to Jhon instead of their intended John. Can he change his first name from Jhon to John when we apply for a marriage license?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can he change his first name from Jhon to John when we apply for a marriage license?

      No, that's not possible.

      Reply
  74. Fiona

    When I got married, I didn't fill out the "Name Change" option and left it as blank. Now I would like to change my name to myfirstname mylastname hislastname. Can I change it without going to the court and pay $500 for that?

    Reply
  75. Brielle Miller

    Hi, I just got married in Washingotn State and you do not put your name change on the marriage license. How to I change my name now that I am back in the Bay Area?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      How to I change my name now that I am back in the Bay Area?

      Obtain a certified copy of your Washington State certificate of marriage. Use that document to change your name.

      Reply
  76. Marc

    We got married when same-sex marriage became legal in 2013 in SF. We are residents of another state. My spouse transitioned M2F and has legally changed her full name. We have a court order for the name change in Nevada. We would like to change the name on the marriage cert. Can that be done using the court order from Nevada? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      We would like to change the name on the marriage cert. Can that be done using the court order from Nevada?

      Yes, you can contact the county clerk's office for the city and county of San Francisco to amend your marriage certificate using your court order.

      Reply
  77. Amber

    Hello,
    I live in California and will be married soon. I am struggling to find a way to take my fiance's last name while matching my son's last name. Our son's last name is hislastname-mylastname as is done traditionally in our culture. I don't know about putting my husband's last name first when we're married so could I take it as a middle name instead? I currently only have a first and last name, no middle name. Do you have any other suggestions for how we can approach this?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I don't know about putting my husband's last name first when we're married so could I take it as a middle name instead?

      Yes, you can.

      I currently only have a first and last name, no middle name. Do you have any other suggestions for how we can approach this?

      Your last name doesn't have to match your son's exactly. You can take a part of your fiance's last name and join it with a part of yours. It can be separated by a space or hyphen.

      Reply
  78. Leticia

    I hyphenated my name when I got married, but I have not changed it on any legal documents, except health insurance. I am about to purchase some property. Can I still use my maiden name?

    Reply
  79. Teresa Sedano

    I was married 11 years ago in CA. and now would like to take my husband's last name. Can I still do this if I have marriage certificate as proof?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can I still do this if I have marriage certificate as proof?

      Yes, there isn't a time limit on changing your name.

      Reply

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