California Name Change: A Complete Guide

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California

Legally changing your name in California is not for the faint of heart. Not because it's hard, but because the plentiful choices may catch you off guard without good planning.

However you're changing your name, you must learn how much it'll cost; when, where, and how to begin; documents, IDs, options, and bringing everything to conclusion.

Legal name change starts with getting proof of your changed name. The next step is to notify government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration and CA DMV.

California name change procedure

We'll show you how to complete the name change process without a lawyer, whether done through marriage, divorce, or court petition.

Marriage name change in California

The number of ways you can legally change your name after marriage in California is stunning. And well worth considering in depth before your wedding day.

California marriage name change, using your marriage certificate

Your marriage certificate is the linchpin, serving as proof of your new married name. It will allow you to change both your middle and last name after marriage.

You can save time and start the name change process before or after you're married. Be ready to download, print, and mail your auto-filled PDF name change forms.

California's Name Equality Act

The Name Equality Act of 2007 (PDF, 310 KB) governs California's marriage name change laws. It went into effect for marriage licenses issued on and after January 1, 2009.

Changing your last name

State law allows every party to a marriage—husband and wife—to change their names by designating it on the marriage license application. There are four grand options:

1. Take your spouse's last name

You can take your spouse's current last name as your new last name. This is the traditional approach. You can still use your maiden name in other contexts.

2. Take your spouse's last name at birth

You can adopt your spouse's maiden name as your own name, skipping their current surname outright. This doesn't apply to their other last names between birth and right now.

3. Return to your maiden name or last name at birth

You can change your last name back to your maiden name (if different), forgoing your spouse's surname. This shows the elasticity of California's name change laws.

4. Hyphenate, space-separate, or combine your last names

You can create any combination of you and your spouse's current last names or birth names. Separating them with a hyphen (-), space ( ), or nothing (making them flush).

You can join your names in either order when hyphenating or combining.

Combine your names

For instance, you can hyphenate your last name with your spouse's name, their birth name, or your maiden name. Yes, you can exclude your partner and self-hyphenate.

Current and birth name combos

Using a space to separate your names is called a double-barreled name change. It's becoming more popular. Caution, people may confuse the first part as your middle name.

For example, imagine your name histories were:

  • Your surname: Alpha
  • Your birth surname: Delta
  • Your spouse's surname: Omega
  • Your spouse's birth surname: Sigma

You could rename to Alpha-Delta, Alpha-Omega, Alpha-Sigma, Delta-Omega, Delta-Sigma, or Omega-Sigma. You can replace the hyphen with a space or no symbol.

This meeting in the middle happy compromise works well when you want to take your spouse's name and support your identity for family, legal, or business reasons.

5. Create a brand new last name by blending surnames

You may create a brand new hybrid last name by carving out one segment of your current or birth name with a slice of your spouse's current or birth name.

This is identical to the prior combination name change we just covered, except your newfound name must be a single word—no additional hyphens or spaces allowed.

For example, let's assume your name histories were:

  • Your surname: Bravo
  • Your birth surname: India
  • Your spouse's surname: Oscar
  • Your spouse's birth surname: Tango

Example blends could be Bravondia, Bravoscar, Bravango, Indisca, Oscarango, etc.

Successful name segmentation

The permutations are vast. You can extract any part of your names—beginning, middle, or end. One letter or multiple. But you're only allowed to clip one segment per name.

Failed name segmentation

You're only limited by your imagination when picking a segmented name. Just don't forget to decide before getting married. Your choice must go on the marriage license.

Even if your marriage records show you intend to change your name after marriage, you don't have to change it for real. It will just keep your options open.

Changing your middle name

You can either change both your middle and last name at the same time. Or just alter one by itself. You've got three noteworthy choices:

1. Replace with either's last name

You can replace your middle name with you or your spouse's current last name.

2. Replace with either's last name at birth

Replacing your middle name with your maiden name is a popular, well-supported choice. Your prospects extend to both you and your spouse's birth names.

3. Combine with either's current or last name at birth

You can hyphenate your middle name with you or your spouse's current last name or birth name. Or use a space instead of a hyphen. Or join them without a separator.

Unsupported name changes

You can't change your first name by getting married. You'll have to petition the superior court for that. This matches the law in other states too—no workarounds or loopholes.

You also can't drop your middle name, replace it with an initial, or create a blended variation (like you could for surname changes). That too demands a court decree.

Getting a California marriage certificate

You can change your name in California using a certified copy of your marriage certificate. But you must apply for a marriage license to get that certificate. Here's how…

California marriage certificate, getting your proof of name change

1. Where to apply and fees

You can apply for a marriage license at any California county clerk's office. It costs between $35 and $110. (The fee varies across counties.) The statewide median is $75.

The license fee does not include a certified copy of your marriage certificate, which you'll use to change your name. The certificate costs $15 to $17 extra per copy.

Example California marriage license price list, including certificate and civil ceremony
Example marriage fees for Los Angeles County.

You may apply and marry by proxy if you're a member of the U.S. Armed Forces stationed overseas in a conflict. Just give your substitute power of attorney (PDF, 109 KB).

You'll get your license right away—no waiting period. You can then get married any time. It will expire 90 days after issuance, so plan well.

Your California marriage license is valid for use statewide. You can't use it out-of-state. And you can't use another state's license in California.

2. The application

The marriage application will ask you for your:

  • Current name
  • Last name at birth
  • New last name after marriage
  • New middle name after marriage
  • Birth date and place of birth
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Parents' birth names and birth places
  • Marital status (total, when and how last ended)

You must choose your new name on the marriage application or you'll lose your right to change it via marriage. You can't amend this after you marry.

3. Choosing a license type

California offers two types of marriage licenses:

  1. Public license:
    • Is a public record.
    • Is sold only by county clerks.
    • Anyone can purchase certified copies.
    • One to two ceremony witnesses are required.
  2. Confidential license:
    • Is not a public record.
    • Is somewhat more expensive.
    • Is only sold to adults age 18 and older.
    • Is sold by county clerks and approved notaries.
    • Only the married couple can purchase certified copies.
    • Must sign affidavit stating that you live together.
    • Ceremony witnesses are not required.

A confidential license makes sense if you want to keep your marriage a secret.

California marriage license types infographic, public vs confidential
Infographic comparing a public and confidential marriage.

Contact your county clerk office to find a notary public authorized to issue confidential marriage licenses. Yes, there's a pre-approved clerk's list.

4. Age requirements

Minors 17 years old and younger may marry with the written consent of one parent or guardian and a court order. Emancipated and pregnant minors aren't exempt.

The consenting parent needn't have custody. The family court will make the consent decision alone if no parent is available or willing to grant consent.

Minors must get their court order 30 days before applying to get married. Pregnant 16- and 17-year-olds are exempt from this waiting period.

5. Identification and other documents

Bring photo ID that shows your birthdate, and issue and expiration date, such as a:

  • Driver's license
  • Passport
  • State ID card
  • Military ID card
  • Permanent resident card

The clerk might ask for other documents, such as your:

  • Birth certificate (minors and adults)
  • Dissolution or divorce decree (if applicable)

You do not have to present your:

  • Social security card
  • Social security number (SSN)
  • Prior spouse's death certificate (if any)

The "usage method" of name change

California common law allows you to change your name through the "usage method" just by using your new name every day. No paperwork or courts. It doesn't apply if you're:

  • A minor
  • In prison
  • On probation, or
  • A convicted sex offender

Usage is good in theory, but impractical. You can't use it to change your name on government-issued ID or bank accounts. It's wiser to deploy legal-based name changes.

Divorce name change in California

Use a certified copy of your divorce decree to change your name after divorcing. Ask the judge to insert an order that restores your maiden name or any former name.

California divorce name change, using your divorce decree

Didn't ask for your old name back?

You can retroactively amend your divorce judgment by filing an Ex Parte Restoration of Former Name (FL-395, PDF, 52 KB) with the California court clerk where your divorce took place.

Contact the clerk with your divorce case number. They'll tell you where to send the form and if you must include a self-addressed and stamped return envelope.

Petition the court for a name change in California

Changing your legal name through California's courts is three things:

  1. Expensive
  2. Time-consuming
  3. Heavy on paperwork
California name change by court petition, using your court order/decree

Let's detangle the steps into simple bite-sized chunks, whether you're changing your own name or a parent or guardian changing your child's name.

Visit the superior court

File your petition for a change of name at the California Superior Court in your county of residence. If petitioning on behalf of someone else, go to court in their county.

Filing fee and court fee waiver

It costs $435 to file a petition for a change of name in California. You can lodge a request to waive court fees if you can't afford them because you're:

  • Low income
  • Getting public benefits, or
  • Unable to pay court fees and household needs

You're assured a waiver if you're on food stamps, CalFresh, SNAP, Medi-Cal, CalWORKs, CAPI, IHSS, SSI, SSP, General Relief, General Assitance, or Tribal TANF.

Other waiver applicants must document their household income. The least eligible must go further—reporting assets, property, and expenses in microscopic detail.

Required court forms

Download and complete the following blank forms, then make two copies apiece:

If you're in the Safe at Home confidential address program, keep your name change private to avoid domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking by attaching:

You can contact a family law facilitator or attorney to review your name change forms.

Extra steps for child name changes

When changing the name of a child, serve any living, nonconsenting parent the Order to Show Cause (or just the hearing time and place) at least 30 days before the hearing.

For minor name changes to conform to gender identity there's no hearing, so serve the Order to Show Cause (and copy of the petition) inside 30 days of filing the petition.

If the nonconsenting parent lives in California, an adult (not you) must serve them via personal delivery. Alert out-of-state parents by first-class mail, return receipt. Give the court Proof of Service of Order to Show Cause (NC-121, PDF, 58 KB).

Guardians must serve notice to the grandparents if both parents are deceased or AWOL, and the child's name change is not due to gender conformity.

Filing, publication, hearing, and court order

The remaining four steps are:

  1. Filing court papers
  2. Newspaper publication
  3. Court hearing
  4. Court order approval

Bring your forms, two copies, and filing fee to the local court clerk. They'll stamp them, keep the originals, return your two copies, then schedule your hearing at least six weeks out.

The clerk will omit the hearing if changing your name to conform to gender identity. But they'll schedule one later if anyone objects to your name change within six weeks.

Next, publish your Order to Show Cause in a court-approved newspaper of general circulation once a week for four straight weeks. You must give the court Proof of Publication.

The purpose of publication is fraud prevention. It lets the public know your name change court date and location so that anyone may object in writing.

Paying for the publication is your responsibility, even if you can't afford it.

You can skip publication if you're:

  • In the state witness program
  • In the address confidentiality program, or
  • Changing your name to conform to gender identity

If no one files an objection during the newspaper phase, the court may cancel your hearing, judge approves your name change request, then will sign your Decree Changing Name.

Get a certified copy of your court order (Decree Changing Name) to change the name on your birth certificate, social security card, and other legal documents.

Updating your identification

You're ready to change your legal name on state and federal ID, and official records once you've got an original or certified copy of your name change documents.

Updating identification, state and federal, using your name change document

There are three documents that offer proof of name change:

  1. Marriage certificate
  2. Divorce decree
  3. Court order

1. Social security card name change

Change the name on your social security card before your current driver's license. The latter will electronically verify your updated name and social security number.

Mail the SS-5 form (PDF, 45 KB) with your name change document, ID, and proof of citizenship to your local social security office. Your new card will arrive by mail in 2–8 weeks.

2. Driver's license name change

You can change the name on your California driver's license (DL), REAL ID, or state ID card at a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. It costs $30 for a DL/ID name change.

Review the REAL ID documents you must bring to satisfy the identity and residency requirements. Standard Non-REAL ID documents needed are different.

Although you can change your address online or by mail, the DMV will only change your name in person, as they'll need to take your photograph and thumbprint.

If you want to both change your name and renew your DL/ID, the DMV will replace the $30 update fee with a $38 (non-commercial) or $49 (CDL) renewal charge.

You'll get a 60-day temporary license. State IDs will only get a receipt of services rendered. Your license or ID will arrive by mail three to four weeks later.

You can visit the California DMV website for extended information, such as changing the name or address on your vehicle registration or car title.

3. Passport name change

The forms, fees, and steps for changing the name on your passport (assuming you have one) depends on when the government issued it, as shown in the following table:

Passport issuedUse formBook costCard costExec cost
Less than one year agoDS-5504$0$0$0
1–15 years agoDS-82$130$30$0
Never issued, lost, or damagedDS-11$130$30$35

Mail DS-5504 or DS-82 with your current passport. File DS-11 at a passport acceptance facility with ID and proof of citizenship.

Each form requires your name change document, along with a recent, 2×2 inch, color passport photo. Most post offices can take a compliant photograph for you.

On December 27, 2021, the passport book fee increased from $110 to $130.

COVID-19 has disrupted new passport processing times. What used to take one month now takes up to three. Expedited service for $60 extra speeds it to 5–7 weeks.

Concluding thoughts

Now you're well-equipped to tackle your California name change. You could streamline the process with our online name change service to save yourself extra time and effort.

Your comments and questions are welcome below.

Do you plan to change your name?

Our online name change kit makes it easy.

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651 Comments

  1. Brianna

    I just got married (age 17) and if I want to change my last name to my husbands am I able too ? Or do I have to wait until I’m 18 to do so ?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I just got married (age 17) and if I want to change my last name to my husbands am I able too ?

      You don't have to wait until you're 18 years old. You can make the change now.

      Reply
  2. Rosalinda Ordinario Moreno

    Hello. My daughter is using my maiden name as her last name but we want to change it now that I'm married and we're here in California. We want her to use my married name. How can we do it.

    Reply
  3. W.M.

    Hi, My ex and I have a daughter together. We were never married. We lived together until our daughter was 2 yrs old and then we separated.

    Our daughter has my last name and it's on her birth certificate. Our daughter is now 5 yrs old. During the past 3 yrs we have maintained shared custody without a court order or any courts being involved.

    My ex recently married and took her husbands last name. Recently, my ex filed for physical and legal custody and she was denied both. Court order is for Joint physical and joint legal.

    Now my ex wants to hyphenate our daughters last name to include her husband's last name and my last, which is on the birth certificate.

    I was a stay at home dad and I've taken care of our daughter and been there from day one. The only time I'm not with my daughter is when she is with her mother because we have maintained the 50/50 custody even prior to the recent court order. There is no one, including my ex, that has been with and taking care of my daughter more than me.

    We are still in the middle of court proceedings and a court date has been set to hear the matter to add and hyphenate my ex's new married last name to my daughters current last name.

    I do not agree with this. What will most likely happen and what can I do to keep a change from happening?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I do not agree with this. What will most likely happen and what can I do to keep a change from happening?

      Show up to the hearing and make your objection heard. Bottom line, the judge will make the final decision based on what's in the best interest of the child.

      Both sides have an opportunity to make a compelling argument. Make sure your argument is focused on what's in the best interest of your daughter.

      Reply
  4. Aria

    Hi,

    I do not have a middle name. I am getting married in California and want to take a new first name, move my first name to my middle name, and take my fiance's last name. How do I go about doing this?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Aria. You can't modify your first name through marriage. You'll have to go to court instead.

      Reply
  5. Cheryl

    In the 80's my parents were divorced and I went to the Social Security office and told them I wanted to change my last name to my moms maiden name. They said sure no problem and changed it and issued me a new SS card. Then I went to DMV and told them the same and they issued me a drivers license in my moms maiden name. From there I changed everything else associated with me to my moms maiden name without any problems.

    I have used my moms maiden name on everything since then and I have not been in any legal trouble. Now I am trying to get the California REAL ID and a passport and cant because I didn't legally change my last name. What do I have to do now at this point to continue using my moms maiden name as my last name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I went to the Social Security office and told them I wanted to change my last name to my moms maiden name

      That wouldn't work these days.

      What do I have to do now at this point to continue using my moms maiden name as my last name?

      Court order.

      Reply
  6. Jenna Johnson

    So in California you can't make an entirely new name… just to clarify, this would mean that making a new last name with my husband's surname and my mother's maiden name (not my last name) is not possible? E.g. first name, middle name, mother's maiden name-husband's surname.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      So in California you can't make an entirely new name…

      A brand new last name can't be created unless it can be derived from either you or your spouse's current last name or last name at birth.

      For instance, take your last name, Johnson. Let's assume your to-be-spouse's last name at birth or current last name is Evans. You could do: Jevans, Joevans, Johevans, Johnsevans, or Evajohnson, Evajo, Evason, etc.

      It doesn't even have to be the beginning or end of a name. You could take a portion in the middle of your names, such as Vanoh.

      just to clarify, this would mean that making a new last name with my husband's surname and my mother's maiden name (not my last name) is not possible?

      Not possible.

      Reply
  7. Brenda Lopez Ochoa

    I was married in 2013. I kept my maiden name and took his last name as well (not hyphenated). Now I'm wanting to drop my maiden name and just go my marriage name. Do I have to go to court to drop my maiden name or is there an easier way of doing this?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Do I have to go to court to drop my maiden name or is there an easier way of doing this?

      You would have to go to court to get a secondary name change.

      Reply
  8. Roy

    My ex used her new partners last name on legal documents (a quitclaim deed, deed and declaration of homestead). However she maintains that they are not legally married thus requiring me to continue alimony payments. Can she use his last name on legal documents if they are indeed, not married as she alleges?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can she use his last name on legal documents if they are indeed, not married as she alleges?

      Perhaps she changed her name through the court system?

      If she didn't formally change her name, then her name usage isn't valid. Her current legal name should go on legal documents. California also got rid of common-law marriage in 1895, so she couldn't present herself as married without solemnization and expect it to have legal weight.

      However, California is the only state in the union with confidential marriage licenses, where someone could get married and it's existence is not a public record.

      Reply
  9. Ellie P.H.

    So I changed my name when I got married to: First Name, Maiden Name, Husband's last name. I have not yet changed my name for SS or with the DMV or anywhere else. I'm working on filling out a request for a transcript of my tax return as well as other documents for college and FAFSA info. Since I haven't changed my name anywhere else yet besides my marriage license, should I keep using my name before marriage?

    Reply
    1. Ellie P.H.

      To clarify, Should I keep using my name before marriage on tax return transcripts/FAFSA/college documents/etc. until I change it with Social Security and/or the DMV?

      Reply
      1. Valera

        Hi Ellie. Yes, you should continue using your maiden name on those documents and purposes until you've changed your name with the SSA.

        Reply
    2. Valera

      Since I haven't changed my name anywhere else yet besides my marriage license, should I keep using my name before marriage?

      You can. You don't have to change your name beyond what's on your marriage certificate.

      Reply
  10. Jerry L David

    My ex asked for restoration of her maiden name during our divorce. The Judge approved and it reflects in our divorce decree. Thing is she has not changed her name. Is this illegal?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Thing is she has not changed her name. Is this illegal?

      No, the judge's approval for your ex-wife to go back to her maiden name simply provides her the option to do so. It's nonbinding.

      Reply
  11. Carolyn

    My maiden name and my "new" married name are already the same. Do I need to file paperwork?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      My maiden name and my "new" married name are already the same.

      That's a fortunate coincidence. You don't have to file anything.

      Reply
      1. Karen

        Funny true story: My grandmother had the same situation, but went ahead and moved her maiden name to the middle: Sally McShane McShane.

        Reply
  12. Melissa Fonseca

    I got married four years ago. When I got married I didn’t change my last name to spouses last name. I didn’t list any new names on the marriage certificate. What’s the process I have to take now to change my last name to my spouses? We got married in California

    Reply
    1. Valera

      What’s the process I have to take now to change my last name to my spouses? We got married in California

      You'd have to go to court since your new name isn't listed on your marriage certificate.

      Reply
  13. Kim Bagby

    So I will getting married next month and wanted to hyphenate my last name, (mines-his) I'm getting married in California (Alameda County) and I understand to take this new name, it has to be on the marriage license at the time of the application but no where on the application is there a place to put the name I want after marriage. It just has a spot for Current Last Name and Last Name at Birth. What should I do?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I understand to take this new name, it has to be on the marriage license at the time of the application but no where on the application is there a place to put the name I want after marriage

      Every California county clerk's office should design their form to have a spot to choose a new middle and last name after marriage. It's been the law for over a decade. Are you referring to the paper application or the online application?

      Reply
        1. Valera

          Hi Kim. The online application is preliminary. It's not the full application. When you go to finalize your application in person, you'll have to sign, pay, and then you'll likely be given an opportunity to choose you new married name.

          Reply
  14. Kathy

    my husband and I bought property after our marriage and the paperwork (Deed) shows my name as First, His Last Name. I never legally changed my last name to his and don't intend to. Will this be a problem in the future? Do I need to get the name on the deed changed so it matches my ID? Will a notary accept my marriage license as proof of identity?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Will this be a problem in the future?

      This shouldn't be a problem, as your identity could be verified.

      Do I need to get the name on the deed changed so it matches my ID?

      That's up to the title company.

      Will a notary accept my marriage license as proof of identity?

      According to the National Notary Association, it's not generally acceptable. This makes sense, as it doesn't contain a photograph.

      Reply
  15. Antoinette

    I am getting remarried and currently legally use first name, middle name, ex-husband's last name. I want to use my new husband's last name socially, but don't want to lose my ex-husband's last name because I want my estranged grandchild to find me in the future. How can I do this without having to change all of my Legal documents?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      How can I do this without having to change all of my Legal documents?

      If you don't legally change your name with various federal and state agencies, the name from your prior marriage will stick. You'll just use your new husband's name informally.

      Reply
  16. Sherri Pelayo

    I'm getting married last minute in Nevada. Can I combine my first and middle name to make that my first name. Use my maiden name as my middle name. Then take my husband's name as my last name? I live in california.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can I combine my first and middle name to make that my first name.

      No.

      Use my maiden name as my middle name.

      Yes.

      Then take my husband's name as my last name?

      Yes.

      I live in california.

      The answers would be the same even if you lived in Nevada and married in either state.

      Reply
  17. Hazel Sanchez

    I got married 3 years ago in CA but my marriage certificate doesn't include my name change. I was able to change my last name on my SSN but the bank is asking for court order. Do I need to petition name change with the court if my last name is updated with the SSN already ?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Do I need to petition name change with the court if my last name is updated with the SSN already ?

      That may be what's required to satisfy your bank. However, you may want to try again by presenting your updated social security card.

      Reply
  18. Jennifer

    Hello,

    I got married 2 1/2 years ago and had my name changed. At the time, I wanted to keep my middle name and maiden name in addition to taking my husband’s last name. I did not realize at the time and now my full name is too long. Is there a way for me to update my maiden to be my official middle name and remove my birth middle name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jennifer. At this point you'll have to petition the court for a name change as your marriage certificate can no longer be used.

      Reply
  19. Julia

    I'm so glad I stumbled across your blog, it's fantastic! As I manage a jewelry store I work with lots of brides to be with name change questions, I'll be sure to send them your way!

    I have 2 questions myself:
    After reading through other questions the answer to this is likely "no," but I've gotten a lot of conflicting information so I thought I'd check with the expert.
    I am getting married on 9/14 and intend to hyphenate my last name myname-hisname. Ever since I can remember my parents have said I have 2 middle names, so I was shocked when I saw my birth certificate for the first time when I was 11 and learned I legally only had 1. I always thought I'd be able to add the second one when I got married, but as I said I'm coming across conflicting information. As my second middle name has nothing in common with either of our last names, I'm assuming this would be an expensive court name change, correct?

    Question 2: my current drivers licence expires on 11/3 and I will need to get a RealID in its place as I travel out of state for work once or twice a year. I currently have an appointment for 10/23. In your experience, will this be enough time after the wedding to get my new name put on my RealID? I know I need to bring a copy of my marriage certificate, will they require my new name to be on my social security card as well?

    Thank you so much for all you do!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      so I was shocked when I saw my birth certificate for the first time when I was 11 and learned I legally only had 1

      While your birth certificate may only show one middle name, are you certain the Social Security Administration's record of your SSN card doesn't list two middle names?

      As my second middle name has nothing in common with either of our last names, I'm assuming this would be an expensive court name change, correct?

      Well, it's $400+.

      I currently have an appointment for 10/23. In your experience, will this be enough time after the wedding to get my new name put on my RealID?

      It could take up to 60 days for your new driver's license to arrive.

      I know I need to bring a copy of my marriage certificate, will they require my new name to be on my social security card as well?

      You'll want to update your name with social security first. Then it's a good idea to wait about 24 hours before updating your driver's license. The DMV will electronically verify your name with the SSA. If there's a name mismatch, they won't process.

      Reply
  20. Sammy

    I recently married in Las Vegas and live in CA. On the marriage certificate, I opted to change my last name to my husband's last name. However, for work purposes, I want to use my maiden name. Is this possible still?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      However, for work purposes, I want to use my maiden name. Is this possible still?

      Your employer would have to accommodate your preference. Make sure your W-2s are in your legal name, which is the name that's on file with the SSA and IRS.

      Reply
  21. Lynn Stevenson

    I need clarification please as I'm confused!

    Marrying and living in California you can opt to change your name on your application for a marriage license.
    If you put a new name on the license application, are you then required to change your name with the SSA, DMV, IRS etc.?
    If you do not make that change what would your legal name be? Still your previous name? Is that OK?

    Could you change your name in the future easily with the SSA/DMV/IRS etc because you indicated it on the license?

    If you do NOT put a new name on the application for a marriage license, but later, you decided you DO want to use/change to your husbands last name, will the SSA/DMV etc. accept the marriage certificate at any time to change your name to husband's last name? Would it still be possible to change your middle name or have you lost that chance?

    What's the best thing to do to have options?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      If you put a new name on the license application, are you then required to change your name with the SSA, DMV, IRS etc.?

      No. Just because a new name appears on your marriage certificate doesn't mean you have to follow through with it. It just gives you the option to do so weeks, months, years, or decades after marriage.

      If you do not make that change what would your legal name be? Still your previous name? Is that OK?

      Correct. Your legal name would remain the same name you had before marriage.

      Could you change your name in the future easily with the SSA/DMV/IRS etc because you indicated it on the license?

      Yes.

      If you do NOT put a new name on the application for a marriage license, but later, you decided you DO want to use/change to your husbands last name, will the SSA/DMV etc. accept the marriage certificate at any time to change your name to husband's last name?

      You're talking about leaving the new name fields blank, which'll essentially retain your current name. If you read documentation on California's Name Equality Act of 2007 (PDF), it touches on this with the following:

      "This law shall not abrogate the right of either party to adopt a different name at a future date through non-fraudulent common law usage or to petition the superior court for a change of name"

      With "common law usage", you just pick a name and use it day to day and that's your name. Seems vague and flaky.

      Okay, so what does common law usage mean in real world terms? The California courts website tries to clarify this by suggesting that it's borderline useless.

      If you really want to change your name, you need a document that allows it, such as a marriage certificate.

      California is different from many states because it allows you to choose a new name during the application process. If you don't chose a new name, you're retaining your pre-marriage name. You also can't amend your marriage certificate after marriage with another name.

      Would it still be possible to change your middle name or have you lost that chance?

      You'll have to decide on your middle name and last name at the same time, when you apply for your marriage license.

      What's the best thing to do to have options?

      Specify your choices when you apply. Decide ahead of time to take advantage of what the Name Equality Act allows. If you're later dissatisfied with your choice, you can always pursue a court ordered name change.

      One more thing, let's say you get a marriage license, choose a new name, but regret the choice. If the marriage ceremony hasn't taken place yet, you can just reapply for another marriage license, choose a new name, then discard the old license.

      Reply
      1. Lynn S

        Thank you for all this information.

        I understand that by leaving the name change fields blank on the marriage license application you keep your maiden name.
        I also think I understand that SSA or DMV are not obligated to change your name to your husbands if you haven't indicated it on the marriage license one or both of them might ask for a court order to do so?

        Reply
        1. Valera

          I also think I understand that SSA or DMV are not obligated to change your name to your husbands if you haven't indicated it on the marriage license one or both of them might ask for a court order to do so?

          That appears to be the case. For example, take a look at the San Diego County Clerk marriage license FAQ (PDF). Specifically the second bullet point on the third and final page.

          It refers to your marriage license application new name choice as the one opportunity to change your name through marriage and avoiding the courts.

          Reply
          1. Lynn S

            I appreciate your information so much!
            Thank you.

  22. Katia

    I was married in California in 1991. Two years later (1993), while still living in California, I legally changed my name by I filling out a state form and including my marriage license as the required support. I combined my first and middle maiden name into my married first name, used my maiden surname as my married middle name and took my husband surname as my surname. Where or to whom do I apply to receive a certified copy of that name change form?

    Maiden: X (first) Y(middle) Z (surname)
    Married: X Y (first) Z (middle) A (surname of husband)

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Where or to whom do I apply to receive a certified copy of that name change form?

      If you're talking about a court-petitioned name change, you'd contact the California Superior Court that handled your case.

      Reply
  23. Kylie

    I married in Nevada and opted for new last name on the license but live in CA. However, do I need to change my last name right away, or can I can continue using my maiden named and change my last name at a later time? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      do I need to change my last name right away, or can I can continue using my maiden named and change my last name at a later time?

      You can wait for as long as you'd like.

      Reply
  24. Maria

    I just discovered that I hyhenated my name on my drivers license and my passport BUT not my Social Security. I would now like to drop my maiden name (on my passport and drivers license) and just use my married name. How do I do this? I live in California

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I would now like to drop my maiden name (on my passport and drivers license) and just use my married name. How do I do this?

      You'll need to get a name change court order.

      Reply
  25. Gabriela Castanon

    Hi, my husband and I just got married and on the marriage certificate we said our new names would be hyphenated. We changed our names at the social security office to our new hyphenated name but now I am having regrets since some new information has come out with my last name. It have become unfavorable to use.

    If we wanted to change our names just to my husbands last name and not use the hyphenated name what would we have to do?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      If we wanted to change our names just to my husbands last name and not use the hyphenated name what would we have to do?

      You'll have to change your names through the courts at this point. Neither the Social Security Administration nor DMV would permit a subsequent name change using your marriage certificate.

      Reply
  26. Steph

    I recently got married in CA. When filling out the marriage license, I took my husband's last name as my new last name and attempted change my middle name to an important family name but one which is not currently part of mine or my husband's names. They informed me that I could change my last name to my husband's but that the middle name change counted as an adult name change and would need to be done through a court decree.

    Should I wait to receive a certified copy of my marriage license, inform social security of the updated last name and then file for the middle name change through the courts? Or can I file for the middle name change now and at which point should I list my last name as my maiden name or my soon to be new last name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Should I wait to receive a certified copy of my marriage license, inform social security of the updated last name and then file for the middle name change through the courts?

      You could, but then you'll have to notify them again following your second name change.

      Or can I file for the middle name change now and at which point should I list my last name as my maiden name

      You don't want to do this, because the SSA will only be able to change your name the second go round back to your maiden name.

      You can't use two name change documents at the same time. This could result in a collision. You can't use your marriage certificate to change your last name and your court order to change your middle name. It's either-or.

      or my soon to be new last name?

      This is the more sensible option, assuming you're skipping the interim name change using your marriage certificate.

      Reply
  27. Cleo

    First I want to say that I love that you respond to every single comment! Props to you! :) So I have a problem. I'll be getting married in Colorado. I'm from Texas, he is from California.

    He is a daca recipient and has two last names. So it goes hisfirstname middle hisfatherslastname hismotherslastname. No hyphens. I find his fathers last name to be basic and I don't like his fathers family history..so on the Colorado marriage certificate can we both just put our last names as his mothers and not use his fathers at all?

    In the future I plan to change both of ours to a completely random last name to make our own without a mess of bad memories attached..but I have to wait till he gets a green card and becomes a citizen etc. So If we can just have his mothers for now that'd be great if it's possible?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      so on the Colorado marriage certificate can we both just put our last names as his mothers and not use his fathers at all?

      No, you'd have to put your current legal names. It would have to match your ID.

      Reply
  28. Denyse Enriquez

    I've never had a middle name. Only first and last.
    When I got married, I dropped my maiden name so my marriage certificate only reflects my first name and my husbands last name. I'd like to begin the process of a name change but now want to use my maiden name as my middle name. Would I need to revise my marriage certificate in order to do this? I never had a middle name so it wouldn't be a change to middle, more of an addition.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Would I need to revise my marriage certificate in order to do this?

      That kind of revision isn't possible in California.

      I never had a middle name so it wouldn't be a change to middle, more of an addition.

      You had to specify that when you got your marriage license. The SSA won't deviate from the new name on your marriage certificate. At this point you'll have to change your name through court petition.

      Reply
  29. Michelle

    I got married less than a year ago (10 months) in San Francisco and didn't left the new name part blank on our marriage license as I thought it would affect my paperwork / registration in grad school. Now that I've completed my degree, I would like to change my last name to my husband's.

    I called social security and they said I can simply bring in my marriage certificate as documentation for my name change (to take on my husband's last name or hyphenate my last name). Is this correct?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      and didn't left the new name part blank on our marriage license

      This part is unclear? Did you leave it blank, or did you specify a name? If you left it blank, you'll have to go to court to change your name. If you chose a new name when applying, using your marriage certificate would work fine.

      Reply
  30. Janette S. Shaw (mother of the bride)

    My daughter recently married in CA. By mistake at a rushed office visit, her current middle name was used on the marriage certificate — not her maiden name. The wedding took place on Oct. 4th. Can the certificate be corrected to show (1) First Name – (2) Maiden Name (Shaw) – (3) Husband's Last name. Only the middle name (#2) is incorrect…which should be her maiden name, not her birth middle name (Leigh). What's the process…didn't see it covered above. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      What's the process…didn't see it covered above.

      The county clerk's office where she obtained her marriage license will not make such a change. They'll tell her to petition the court.

      Reply
  31. Samuel

    My wife added my last name as her middle name when we got the marriage license. Now that we got the marriage certificate, we want to remove the middle name and keep her name the same as it was before our marriage. Is this possible? We just want to avoid reporting the new name to DMV, SS, etc. We live in California.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Now that we got the marriage certificate, we want to remove the middle name and keep her name the same as it was before our marriage. Is this possible?

      No, you wouldn't be able to make such a change to your California marriage certificate.

      Reply
  32. Helena

    How soon do I have to change my name after getting married? I live in Los Angeles if that matters.

    Reply
    1. Helena

      Sorry forgot to mention I'll be getting married in Dallas but live in Los Angeles.

      Reply
    2. Valera

      How soon do I have to change my name

      There's no time limit. Change it immediately, wait or year, or ten years, or never.

      Reply
  33. Kimberly

    Getting married soon and I definitely want to be able to take my husbands name. This will be a second marriage for both of us and I currently have my ex-husbands surname. The complication is that my fiance's first wife has the same first name as me. We live in a small town and I don't really want to be 'Mrs. X' the second. Can I hyphenate his middle and last name for my new surname? (my first name,my middle name, his middle name-his last name). We live in California.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can I hyphenate his middle and last name for my new surname?

      You can't alter your last name like that, mixing the middle and surname. Not through marriage.

      Reply
      1. Kimberly

        Thanks so much for clarifying. Am I able to hyphenate both of our middle names (for a middle name) or am I limited to 'my maiden name-his middle name' for the middle name?

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Am I able to hyphenate both of our middle names (for a middle name)

          No.

          or am I limited to 'my maiden name-his middle name' for the middle name

          You can't do that either. You can't insert his middle name into your middle name in any way. You can combine your middle name with your spouse's current last name or birth surname though.

          Reply
  34. Judy KIrk

    I was married 19 years ago and never changed my name but want to do so now. Hyphenated Spouse name-Maiden Name. Can I do this without a court order?

    Reply
  35. Timothy

    Hello
    My partner and I are getting married in a few months. We are in Los Angeles CA. We both want to create new first names and a new last name together. Should we legally start the process prior to the wedding, or do we use our intended new names on the marriage license?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Timothy. You can't change your first name through marriage. You'd have to go through the courts. If you're going that route, you could change your entire name in one step, before or after marriage.

      Reply
  36. Z

    I live in California and have been using a made up last name for 20+ years (I didn't want to use my abusive father's name). Utility bills, at work, hospital, pretty much everything is under this name except for my driver's license and social security. I've never had it changed through court order, just through usage.

    I'm getting married soon and my spouse wants to take this last name I've been using. Is she able to? Am I able to legally change it to that when we get married? Or would I have to take her last name on the license and then get a court order later?

    Reply
    1. Z

      As a follow up, I know we can combine parts of our last names. Do these parts have to be in order, and can those partials be re-used? If our names are Johnson and Smith, would something like Minos work? Or Minno?

      Reply
      1. Valera

        I know we can combine parts of our last names.

        True.

        Do these parts have to be in order

        I'm not sure what you mean by "in order." If you're asking if one's name portion has to come before another, then no. If you're asking if you can omit letters between a segment, then no. For instance, you can't take the surname Williamson and cut out the letter "a" to make "Willim."

        can those partials be re-used?

        No, you can't repeat segments.

        Reply
    2. Valera

      my spouse wants to take this last name I've been using. Is she able to?

      No, as you wouldn't be able to produce acceptable ID showing that legal name.

      Am I able to legally change it to that when we get married?

      No, you'd have to go the court order route.

      Or would I have to take her last name on the license and then get a court order later?

      You don't have to take her name at all. If you're going to go to court, you can do that in isolate, before or after marriage. If you do it before marriage, then your spouse could take your name when applying for the marriage license.

      Reply
  37. Anne

    I changed my name on marriage certificate but did not change it with SSA or DMV or anywhere else. Will I need to change it for buying properties in the future? Also what about when I want to establish a trust or will?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Will I need to change it for buying properties in the future? Also what about when I want to establish a trust or will?

      You'd use your current legal name for both, not the new name shown on the marriage certificate. It would be the reverse if you actually changed it with the SSA, DMV, etc.

      Reply
  38. Chanel

    I got married Nov 2019. My husband and I both changed our last names on the marriage certificate to a hyphenated version.

    Just getting around to going through the name changing process and realizing what a hassle it is. My question is, is that even though we changed our names on the marriage certificate does that mean we HAVE to change it with SSA/DMV and so on?

    My W-2 came in and it's reflecting my maiden name but under the status married. Could we file taxes jointly with using our maiden names?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Chanel. It doesn't matter what's on the marriage certificate. You don't have to go through with the name change. Your W-2 is fine in your maiden name. That's what it should show. You can file jointly or married filing separately using your maiden/birth names.

      Reply
  39. Lisa

    Hi,
    I live in California and I am getting married soon. I want to change my FIRST name, keep my middle name, keep my last name, and also add my husband's last name. My question is..
    1. Should I add my husband's last name when I file for a marriage license? Then file petition for name change (to change my first name).
    2. Do not take my husband's last name when I file for a marriage license. Instead, do it altogether (when I file petition for name change) to change my first name and take my husband's last name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Lisa. Option 1 means two rounds of name changes. Notifying the SSA twice. Getting an updated driver's license twice. Option 2 lets you get it done in one cycle.

      Keep in mind, if you omit your husband's name on the application and later decide not to go through with a first name change, you'll lock yourself out of a married name change using your certificate.

      Saying that you'll take your husband's name on the application keeps that lane open, even if you don't use it. There's no negative to doing so.

      Reply
      1. Lisa

        I appreciate your quick response!

        I just need some clarification. I'm just trying to figure out the best way to do this. I am definitely changing my first name. With that said…
        It is better for me add his last name on the marriage license, then file petition for name change (even though it means 2 rounds of name changes)?
        Or to change both first name and add his last name in Option 2?

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Hi Lisa. If you know you're going to court, what you put on the certificate doesn't matter. You would never use your certificate for name change purposes. The court order will supersede it. You wouldn't even have to wait to get married before getting your court order.

          Reply
  40. Cynthia

    I got married in 2017 and did not take my husbands name as my new name at the bottom of my marriage certificate (New names section). Can I take his name now without having to go through the court order process.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can I take his name now without having to go through the court order process.

      Unfortunately, no.

      Reply
  41. Kristine

    Hi!

    Thanks for having this blog! I am getting married soon and want to add my mother's maiden name (Fisher) to my last name while my fiance keeps his original last name (Johnson) so that I become Smith-Fisher and he remains as Johnson.

    Is this possible or do I need to go through the court?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Kristine. Unless your mother's maiden name was your birth name, you can't change it to your last name after marriage.

      Reply
  42. Elizabeth

    My Fiance and I want to take his mother's maiden name as our new last name. Does my fiance need to change his name with a court order, or can this be accomplished on the marriage certificate if his current 2nd middle name (his mother's maiden name) will be our new last name?

    Currently, Fiance's first name: Steven, middle names: Brian Campbell, then LN of divorced father.
    Desired new name after marriage: first name: Steven, middle name: Brian, new last name: Campbell

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Elizabeth. Unless your fiance's last name at birth was his mother's maiden name, he'll have to go to court.

      Reply
  43. Harry

    Hi!

    I’m planning to be married in CA.
    I have first middle and last name. I’m wondering if I can take my original middle out, use my old last name as a new middle name and have my partner’s last as my new name. I learned that I can add previous last name into the original middle name but I wasn’t sure if it’s possible to take my original middle name out for marriage license application.

    Reply
  44. Isabelle A

    Hello,

    I'm really struggling with finding information about my case, I'm an inmigrant legal resident in California. All of my documents like SSN, Resident card, IRS etc are under my maiden last names ( I have 2 last names since I'm from Mexico) but my marriage certificate has my first last name and my husbands last name as a second last name. ( this was a mistake since I didn't want to change my name in the first place)

    I basically just need to change my marriage certificate second last name. What can I do? I can't fill out a change name form since I don't want to change my name.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Isabelle. If the incorrect name referenced on your marriage certificate is for your current last name, then you may be able to amend it by submitting their affidavit form. You'll have to provide proof.

      However, if the incorrect name is part of the name after marriage spot, then that wouldn't be subject to amending.

      Reply
  45. Elizabeth

    I got married in October 2019 I changed my last name to my husband’s but kept my middle name which is my moms last name can I have that removed ? I would like to just have my husbands last name.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Elizabeth. You can't change your name through marriage twice using your certificate. You'll have to go to court and file a petition for an adult name change.

      Reply
  46. Maresa

    Hello!

    I'm getting married in California and want to keep my last name but my fiance really wants me to use his last name as well. I've been doing research on hyphenating our last names (Simth-Jones) or just putting a space instead of the hyphen to have two last names (Smith Jones).

    I don't mind going by just my maiden or my married name in certain situations and I don't love the idea of having to always deal with such a long combined name if I hyphenate.

    From what I've been reading it sounds like if I use two last names without the hyphen, that I can opt to use either name interchangeably in situations such as at work and on credit cards (I know I will have to use both in legal situations). Is this true? Are there benefits to using a space instead of a hyphen (or vice versa)?

    Thank You!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Maresa. Whether you use a space or hyphen, there's nothing stopping you from using a portion of your last name informally. One "benefit" a space has is it can cause confusion by others mistaking it as part of your middle name. Or mistaking your first and middle name as part of your first. Perhaps such confusion is desirable?

      For credit cards, banks, and other financial institutions, you'll need to use your legal name, which matches what's on your social security card. However, you can request the name that's printed on your checks and credit cards be shown differently.

      Reply
  47. Laura

    Hi, I have two middle names and two last names (one from my father and one from my mother). I will be getting merried soon and i will be taking his last name.. Is there a way for me to keep my two middle names , and have my husband's last name before my father's?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Is there a way for me to keep my two middle names

      Yes, you don't have to drop either middle name. Treat it as one solid block.

      Reply
  48. Christina

    I’m getting married shortly and would like to maintain my middle name and my last name but also take his name as a second last name. I live in California. Do I have to hyphenate or can I simply have two unhyphenated last names?

    So I would be able to be first name, middle name, and then my last names would be maiden name and his last name, with no hyphen? Just a space? The marriage equality act doesn’t seem to say non-hyphenated names are ok.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      my last names would be maiden name and his last name, with no hyphen? Just a space?

      The California Department of Health removed references to "hyphenated" in their Equality Act materials in January 2017. A space-separated, non-hyphenated last name would work fine.

      Reply
  49. Anastasia

    Hello,
    If I get married and would like to take my husband's last name but add "a" at the end (Russian female last names end with "a" and I don't want to have male version) – is it possible?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      If I get married and would like to take my husband's last name but add "a" at the end

      California allows segmented last names. Meaning you can take a part of your name and your spouse's. If your current surname or surname at birth contains the letter "a" you should be good to go.

      Reply
  50. Diane

    I married in CA in 2013 I now want move foward with changing my last name on legal documents. On the 'new name' section of marriage certificate I have hyphenate last names. Name, MiddleName, MaidenName-HisLastName.

    I want to move foward without using my Maiden name.
    Name, MiddleName, HisLastName.

    Would I need to do a court order change? Or proceed leaving my Maiden name out?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Would I need to do a court order change?

      Unfortunately, yes, you would need a court order. To use your marriage certificate, you'd have to use the new name as-is.

      Reply
  51. Mayra

    Hi,

    I was married in California and my marriage license reflects that my new last name is “Miller Ramos,” I have never used that last name though as I just continued using my maiden name and decided that I just want my new last name by marriage to be “Miller.”

    Am I able to amend my license without a court order?

    Or would I have to seek a court-ordered name change for this?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Am I able to amend my license without a court order?

      You cannot.

      Or would I have to seek a court-ordered name change for this?

      You would if you want to change your name to something other than Ramos.

      Reply
  52. Tami Reich

    Hello, I was married in Austin, TX in 1973 and I took my husbands last name. Now I would like to add my maiden name, is that possible? We live in California.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Now I would like to add my maiden name, is that possible?

      Yes, by starting over and petitioning your Superior Court.

      Reply
  53. Lili

    So i got married in CA last year (2019) and i choose to not take my husband's last name (I even specified on the application with all the info for the marriage certificate). Now my question is, why on the New Name section of my marriage certificate it list my husband's last name and not my maiden last name? Does that mean I'm obligated to use my husband's last name?

    Reply
  54. Julia

    Hi, I got married 6 years ago in CA, I didnt take my husband's last name back then but now I want to. I have my marriage certificate, where do I go to start changing my name with it, is there an additional form I need to fill out ? Also, are you familiar with naturalization process I want to apply but not sure how to fill out the form due to this name change, please advise. Thank you !

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Julia. You can use your marriage certificate if your new name is specified on the certificate. Otherwise, you'll have to go to court. For naturalization, you can use your marriage certificate or court order.

      Reply
  55. Nikki

    Hello, I currently have 2 first names, 1 middle, and 1 last (A B C D). Can I drop both second first name and my middle name, then combine my last name with my future spouse? (A D-E)

    Reply
  56. Camila B Vale

    My husband and I got married in Florida in 2018. I didn’t change my last name to his, because of all the docs I would have to change, but now I changed my mind and want to change it. Can I do it after almost 3 years married? If so, what do I need to do?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can I do it after almost 3 years married? If so, what do I need to do?

      Yes, you can still change your name. The process is no different: social security, passport, dmv, etc. Use a certified copy of your marriage certificate.

      Reply
  57. Carmina

    I have two middle names:
    E**** C********
    I’m about to get married in a couple of months. Can I drop C********* without going to court by omitting it in the middle name field on the marriage license?

    Reply
    1. Carmina

      Part 2 of my previous question-

      If I have DO have to petition the court to drop C******* (the second part of my middle name), would it make my life easier if I filed the petition now? Or should I get married first (in a few months), and petition to drop C****** AFTER I get married?

      NOTE: I am planning to drop my last name and keep my fiancé’s.

      Thank you!

      Reply
      1. Valera

        Hi Carmina. You do have to go to court. You can do so before or after marriage. If you do it before, you'll want to make sure you'll be able to update your social security card and driver's license (if applicable) to your new name before applying for your marriage license.

        Reply
        1. Carmina

          Hi Valera,

          I greatly appreciate your help. Thank you!

          I was thinking…. would I be allowed to use ONE court order request to drop my second middle name AND request my fiancé’s last name-all in one swoop? I’m wondering if it’s even okay to request his last name if I’m not even married to him yet? We are thinking of marrying in January.

          That way I won’t have to go to the DMV, SS office etc. twice. Perhaps I can use one court order for my complete new name instead of my marriage license?

          Thanks again!! :)

          Reply
          1. Valera

            would I be allowed to use ONE court order request to drop my second middle name AND request my fiancé’s last name-all in one swoop?

            Yes, smart, efficient.

            I’m wondering if it’s even okay to request his last name if I’m not even married to him yet?

            Yes.

            Perhaps I can use one court order for my complete new name instead of my marriage license?

            Yes, you're on the money.

          2. Carmina

            You just helped me make my decision. Thanks a million, Valera! :)

    2. Valera

      Hi Carmina. You can't drop a portion of your middle name through marriage.

      Reply
  58. Bec

    Hello! I live in California. I currently have First Name, Middle Name, Last Name. I want to keep my middle name and add my maiden name as a second middle name, and take my husband's last name as my last name: First Name, Middle Name, Second Middle Name, Last Name. Is this possible with the marriage license? Thank you so much for the information here.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I want to keep my middle name and add my maiden name as a second middle name

      That'll work.

      Reply
  59. Chris

    Hi! I'm a green card holder marrying an American Citizen in CA and would like to wait for my citizenship, in two years, before I change my last name to my fiance's.

    #1 Would being a green card holder and waiting two years to update my name cause any issues with the name change or becoming a citizen?

    #2 If I declare on my marriage certificate the goal to change my name will this be enough to finalize the change during the citizenship process?

    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Would being a green card holder and waiting two years to update my name cause any issues with the name change or becoming a citizen?

      No, for both.

      will this be enough to finalize the change during the citizenship process?

      You can change your name as part of the citizenship process in and of itself. You don't even have to reference your marriage certificate.

      Reply
  60. Eva

    My husband is from turkey and I am a us citizen. We are both living in California and starting his green card process right now. We eloped a few weeks ago during the pandemic in Las Vegas.

    On the marriage certificate, I put that I am changing my name by adding hyphen with his last name. I didn’t realized that changing last name was such a big issue, ei inform your employers, changing all government documents, passport and pretty much all bank institution.

    We have already lots of paperwork to deal with for the green card process and would like to lessen the headache. I am planning to change my name when we have children like 1 to 2 years from now when things are more settled.

    Will this be an issue with immigration officer if I put that I’ll change it but didn’t?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Eva. It won't be an issue with immigration if you decide not to change your name. Regardless of what's shown on your marriage certificate.

      Reply
  61. K

    Hello,

    I got married in CA in 2019 and kept my maiden name. If we eventually move to another state that doesn't require you to change your name on your marriage certificate, such as Nevada, can I use my CA marriage certificate to change my last name to my husband's through the SS Admin and DMV without a court order, since I'd live in Nevada doesn't require you to change your name on its marriage license?

    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      If we eventually move to another state that doesn't require you to change your name on your marriage certificate, such as Nevada

      You do specify your name change in Nevada when applying for a marriage license. This is a gray area in Nevada's statutes. It doesn't speak on this either way. Still, you should be fine since you're simply taking your spouse's name as-is and nothing more elaborate.

      Reply
      1. K

        Hi Valera,

        Okay, thanks. So if someone who got married in Nevada didn't choose a new last name on their marriage license, but wanted to change it, and they now live in CA, can they just submit an application to SSA, or do they have to petition the court?

        Also, is there something specific I can Google for me to look up name statutes to understand if I moved to that state, if I could use my CA marriage license (with only my maiden name), to avoid having to petition to the court? Realistically, I am moving to Oregon or Colorado for college, so I'd like to look up their name statutes.

        Thank you in advance.

        Reply
        1. Valera

          can they just submit an application to SSA

          Correct.

          is there something specific I can Google for me to look up name statutes to understand if I moved to that state

          You can search for "State Name statutes" or sometimes "State Name revised statutes", but what you'll find are codes specific to their own state's marriage and name change laws, not what another state does.

          As previously mentioned, you're opting for a standard last name change, so you shouldn't face any resistance or need to petition.

          Reply
      2. K

        Hello,

        Apologies, one more question. If I live in CA, but mailed or visited (once COVID is over), an SS application for a corrected name in a different state, will this not be allowed if I am not a resident there yet?

        Thank you so much!

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Hi K. It ultimately doesn't matter which office you mail your application to. They're federal and follow the same rules set. Those local field offices don't even print and mail your cards anyway. That's handled by the central hub in Baltimore, Maryland.

          Reply
  62. Luaren

    Hello! My husband and I were unaware of different options we had to change our name when we filled out our marriage certificate. FYI we never went ahead and did any formal name changes (DMV/passport/etc) after we sent in our marriage certificate.

    We found the affidavit to amend our name online, and we were about to complete it but had a question. If our surnames (using an example for discretion) are Fitz and Gerald, and we want to combine to read FitzGerald, how do we denote on the affidavit the two capital letters in a combined name, no spaces? Is that possible?

    And is the affidavit to amend the only way to sort this out?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Luaren. You can't use the affidavit to amend your marriage certificate unless you have a court order.

      Reply
  63. Nikki

    Hi Valera,
    My fiance and I are getting married in California but will be living in Virginia after. I am a physician completing training and would like to keep my last name and add his as a second last name (no hyphen) while dropping my middle name so professionally I can still practice with my last name but the appearance could look like my maiden name (family life).

    We are currently applying for the marriage license and trying to figure out if this would this be allowed or would it require a formal court ordered name change (which would likely need be done in Virginia) and if that matters if the marriage certificate is from California. If a court order is the case, then on the marriage certificate I would leave me name as is? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Nikki. A space-separated last name is allowed in California.

      Reply
  64. Julie

    I never changed my last name after the divorce and continued using my ex-husband’s last name. Now I am getting married again and would like to take my fiancé’s last name. Will not having changed the name at the time of divorce be an issue?

    Also, I’m a permanent US resident and will need to apply for a new green card due to the name change, but that will take months to receive. If I travel abroad meanwhile with my current green card still showing my old last name be an issue if my passport already has the new name?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Will not having changed the name at the time of divorce be an issue?

      No.

      If I travel abroad meanwhile with my current green card still showing my old last name be an issue if my passport already has the new name?

      You're fine to travel using your old green card. Just bring a certified copy of your divorce decree and new marriage certificate to document your name transition.

      Reply
  65. Rebecca Smith-Johnson

    Hi! My current middle name is Anne and my current last name is Smith-Johnson however Johnson comes from dad who was not a part of my life and I have always wanted to drop it.. My fiancées last name is Quinn. During the marriage process will I be able to change my name to Rebecca Anne-Smith Quinn? In other words is it ok to add Smith to my middle name without Johnson?

    Thank you so much!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      In other words is it ok to add Smith to my middle name without Johnson?

      No, it's all or nothing. You'd have to use your full last name.

      Reply
  66. Eugenia

    I moved from Russia in May 2020 and got married in September 2020 to a US citizen and took his last name.

    Then, we sent documents to the immigration office and now my case is processing but I still have neither SSN nor EAD or green card, which could prove that I changed my last name. All my other documents are Russian and contain my previous last name. The only evidence of my new last name is our marriage certificate.

    So, I am wondering if it is possible to get a driver's license on my current (husbands') last name, considering that I will show them my marriage certificate as proof. Also, the same question regarding vaccination. I would love to get vaccinated but I don't want to get the certificate with my previous last name. Can I bring my marriage certificate and ask to give me a certificate for my new last name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I am wondering if it is possible to get a driver's license on my current (husbands') last name

      You can get a driver's license. If you're not able to get it in your married name, you can replace it later when you have your green card in your married name.

      I would love to get vaccinated but I don't want to get the certificate with my previous last name.

      You can get vaccinated in California.

      ask to give me a certificate for my new last name?

      That shouldn't be a problem.

      Reply
  67. Irma Dean

    I am so confused. My boyfriend was once married and apparently his wife never took his last name. They separated one day and now he has been single for 7 years. During the course of 7 years he had no idea where she was as she just disappeared with his child. One day on facebook he found out that she changed her name and is now married to someone else. How is this legal? Can she do this?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      One day on facebook he found out that she changed her name and is now married to someone else. How is this legal? Can she do this?

      Your boyfriend's wife may be guilty of bigamy. Or she may fit within one or more exceptions where she's not guilty. Take a look at this article regarding California's bigamy laws.

      Reply
  68. Julie

    I got married 8 years ago. On our marriage certificate it states I changed my last name to his. But I never changed it on any of my documents, SSA, ID etc. We have bought a house, have two kids, etc. and for everything I’ve used my maiden name.

    Can I after all these years change my name on the marriage certificate to state I am keeping my name? If not, will it be a problem that I never change my name to his? And continue using my maiden name?

    If I decide to change my name to his, will I need to change my name on all legal documents like my mortgage? Even professionally with my degrees?

    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can I after all these years change my name on the marriage certificate to state I am keeping my name?

      Not possible.

      If not, will it be a problem that I never change my name to his? And continue using my maiden name?

      That won't be a problem.

      If I decide to change my name to his, will I need to change my name on all legal documents like my mortgage?

      You don't have to, but it's better to update your documents than not.

      Even professionally with my degrees?

      That's optional.

      Reply
  69. AJ

    Hi,

    My fiance and I plan on eloping before our actual wedding ceremony at the end of the year. We live in California.

    I want to change my name to his, but not publicly until after our wedding ceremony at the end of the year. If I change my last name to his on the marriage certificate, do I have to immediately change it with SSA, DL, and my employer? Or can I wait until after our wedding ceremony?

    After we elope, we will start the green card process for him. He has been a student in the states for 9 years. As his spouse and family based sponsor, will I then use my maiden name or the name on the marriage certificate?

    Thank you for your help.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      If I change my last name to his on the marriage certificate, do I have to immediately change it with SSA, DL, and my employer?

      No.

      Or can I wait until after our wedding ceremony?

      You can wait until then or any future point in time. There's no deadline to change your name in California.

      will I then use my maiden name or the name on the marriage certificate?

      Both. The marriage license application will ask for your current name and new chosen name.

      Reply
  70. Amanda

    I just found out about this!

    I’m debating to hyphenate or keep my birth last name. I was thinking keeping my birth last name because of my professional licenses (RN & NP licenses). I worked too hard with my birth last name to change it. If I hyphenate it on the marriage license R*****-S*****, do I HAVE to change it on SSN, DL, RN, NP, passport, etc.? If I hyphenate, does my husband have to hyphenate it as well to R*****-S*****? Or can he just keep his last name?

    My future kids, will that affect their last name at birth? How does last names work with kids?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      If I hyphenate it on the marriage license R*****-S*****, do I HAVE to change it on SSN, DL, RN, NP, passport, etc.?

      No, it keeps your options open, but isn't required.

      If I hyphenate, does my husband have to hyphenate it as well

      No, your name changes are independent. Even if one changes, the other doesn't have to.

      My future kids, will that affect their last name at birth?

      It'll default to your last name.

      How does last names work with kids?

      It's up to the mother to choose. You can give them your current last name, hyphenate with your spouse's, or name them your spouse's alone.

      Reply
  71. Greta Sievert aka Greta Traugott Binkley

    Hello!
    I would really appreciate your help.
    I have recently changed my name legally to my husband's name (re-marriage 2 years ago). I have changed my name with social security, California driver's license, tax ID; however I have not changed banking, professional licensure or contracts, or pension information.
    Am I obligated to do so? It seems like a real hassle and my professional reputation of over 20 years is in my previous name.
    I have read that this is legal and ok in California but I am confused as to whether I need to do a DBA or FBN.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Greta. You should check with your state's licensing board regarding the use of your previous name. They may require to maintain your married name on file, while you continue to use your prior name in professional contexts.

      Banks are similar. Notifying them is useful. They tend to accommodate name preferences. Permitting the use of your preferred name on printed checks and signed checks while having discreet knowledge of your legal name as documented on your social security record.

      Reply
  72. Andrea

    I was married in California in 2001, so my marriage certificate does not have the "new name" field. However, I only needed to submit my marriage certificate for a new SS card, Drivers Lic, passport etc. with my married name.

    I am now in need of document to prove my legal name change and I don't know what my options are. I'd really like to not have to pay $435 and wait several months.

    Any ideas?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Andrea. Your marriage certificate confirms your authority to change your name. Your updated social security card, driver's license, and passport are documents showing your new legal name. Could you use those?

      Reply
  73. Jessica

    I got married in florida 2 years ago, but didn't take my spouses name because we were in the midst of an adoption process. We just moved to California and want to legally take my spouses last name. How do I go about that?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jessica. The process is the same. Get a certified copy of your Florida marriage certificate to effect a name change with federal and California agencies.

      Reply
  74. Jenny

    Hi, I got married in May of 2019 in CA and on the marriage license I changed my last name to my spouses. My marriage license shows my old name and new name. However, we stopped talking 4 months after we got married, but am barely doing the dissolution of marriage. I never changed any legal document (SSN, ID, DL, Passport) to my new last name placed on the marriage license.

    Now that I am filling out divorce papers it's asking me if I want to change my last name back to my maiden one. Do I have to change my last name back if I never legally enforced my spouses last name as listed on the marriage licensee/certificate?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Do I have to change my last name back if I never legally enforced my spouses last name as listed on the marriage licensee/certificate?

      No, that section is irrelevant for your situation. There's nothing to change back to as you never legally changed your name after marriage.

      Reply
  75. Elizabeth Smith

    hello! I’m applying for marriage and I really want to get rid of my middle name, but here in California, it looks like it doesn’t give me that option. I just want my name + my fiancée’s last name. Any way around this? I really despise my middle name.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I really want to get rid of my middle name, but here in California, it looks like it doesn’t give me that option

      You can't drop your middle name through marriage in California.

      Reply
  76. Jasmine

    Hello I recently got married and put my husbands name on the marriage certificate. I also filed a petition to change my first name with the courts, but put my maiden name down unknowingly. Is there any way I can use my name change petition and marriage license showing my new last name to change my SSN and other documents? I don’t want To go through this whole name change process again

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jasmine. Unfortunately, that won't work. You can use your marriage certificate to update your last name only. But when you try to use your court order it'll update both your first and last name, which will override your prior surname change.

      If your court-petitioned name change is pending, revise your court filing. If it's already been granted, you can try and request a revision. Explain your situation and provide your marriage certificate as justification.

      If the judge grants your request, your amended court order alone is enough to change your name. Otherwise, you'll have to file another name change via court petition.

      Reply
  77. Julia

    HI! I want to take my fiance's last name as my middle name. Will I need to change my name of my SS card, DL/real ID, passport, and bank accounts?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Will I need to change my name of my SS card, DL/real ID, passport, and bank accounts?

      Only if you want your name change to be reflected on official documents. Otherwise, it won't take effect beyond your marriage certificate.

      Reply
  78. Michelle

    Hello! My husband and I got married in CA in 2019, at the time I did not select a 'new name' when completing the marriage license because my husband was in the process of changing his last name to his mother's maiden name (this was not done prior to our wedding).

    Now we live in NC, my husband just completed his court-ordered name change. I know we need to submit an amendment to our marriage license to update his last name. Once the marriage license is amended can I use the amended marriage license to take his new last name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I know we need to submit an amendment to our marriage license to update his last name.

      This sort of amendment won't work.

      Once the marriage license is amended can I use the amended marriage license to take his new last name?

      You'll have to file your own court petition name change.

      Reply
  79. Kim

    Hi! I'm getting married in California and about to apply for the marriage license. My fiancé wants me to take his middle name (which is his mom's maiden name) as my new last name after marriage. Is this allowed?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      My fiancé wants me to take his middle name (which is his mom's maiden name) as my new last name after marriage. Is this allowed?

      No, you cannot take your spouse's middle name as your new last name through marriage in California.

      Reply
  80. Jessica

    Hello,

    We're getting married in California. I currently have a hyphenated last name and would like to also incorporate my Fiance's last name. It is possible to drop the second part of my last name and add his?

    E.g:

    my last name: Alpha-Beta
    his last name: Gama

    Can my new last name be "Alpha Gama"?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      It is possible to drop the second part of my last name and add his?

      Yes, that would work as California allows partitioned name changes.

      Reply
      1. Jessica

        Thanks so much for the reply! Would this require a court order or could I make the change through the marriage license? If it's the latter, I'm not clear on which of these options that change would fall under?

        -The current last name of the other spouse.
        -The last name of either spouse given at birth.
        -A name combining into a single last name all or a
        segment of the current last name or the last name of
        either spouse given at birth.
        -A combination of last names.

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Would this require a court order or could I make the change through the marriage license?

          You don't have to go through court. You'll denote the change on your marriage license application, which will get reflected on your marriage license and certificate.

          I'm not clear on which of these options that change would fall under?

          All of the changes you cited would work. You'll pick whichever new name scenario you prefer. The "Alpha-Beta" to "Alpha Gamma" example you cited in your original comment would work find. The latter is the name you'd put in the "new middle and last name" portion of the marriage application.

          Reply

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