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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647 Comments

  1. 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
  2. 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.

  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. 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
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. 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
  26. 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
  27. 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
  28. 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
  29. 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
  30. 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
  31. 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
  32. 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
  33. 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?

  34. 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
  35. 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
  36. 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
  37. 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
  38. 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
  39. 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
  40. 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
  41. 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
  42. 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
  43. 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
  44. 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
  45. 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
  46. 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
  47. 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
  48. 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
  49. 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
  50. 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
  51. 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
  52. 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
  53. 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
  54. 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
  55. 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
  56. 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
  57. 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
  58. 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
  59. 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
  60. Myrna Evans

    I got married 9 years ago in CA. I kept my last name due to business. I have now retired and want to use my husbands last name. Can I do that without going to court?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Myrna. You can change your name without going to court as long as your marriage certificate lists your husband's last name as your preferred new last name.

      Reply
  61. Sharon

    Hi Valera,

    I plan on keeping my last name but taking my fiance's last name as my middle name (I don't have a middle name at the moment). Am I able to keep my given name and just add a middle name to my marriage license? After doing so, do I still need to change all other legal documents to include my new middle name?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Am I able to keep my given name and just add a middle name to my marriage license?

      Yes.

      After doing so, do I still need to change all other legal documents to include my new middle name?

      If you were to change your name, it would have to be the complete name matching your marriage certificate.

      Reply
  62. Jenn

    Hi! My fiancee and I are planning to get married soon and we would both like to change our last names to his nana's last name. It is not a blend of our names whatsoever. Would it be best for him to file for a name change before our marriage or can we just take the new last name when we wed? We live in California

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Would it be best for him to file for a name change before our marriage or can we just take the new last name when we wed?

      Filing a pre-marriage name change would make sense, since you're unable to segment your names in any reasonable combination.

      Reply
  63. Candice Duff

    I've been separated for 7 years and want to change my name Before the Divorce. I dropped my first name when getting married and used my middle name, maiden name, then his last name. Now, I just want my middle name and my maiden name. Is this something that the court would consider? Or, will I be able to do the same with the divorce…just go back to Only my middle name and maiden name, leaving out my first name on my birth certificate?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Is this something that the court would consider?

      You can change any aspect of your name when going to court.

      Or, will I be able to do the same with the divorce…

      Divorce name changes are for middle and last names. First name changes require a court order.

      Reply
  64. adriana

    Hi there

    I am in the medical field and just got married. I have tons of licenses and certificates with my maiden name, if I change my name to his, I believe I have to change all my licenses and certificates, but if I hyphenate it, do I also have to change all my licenses and certificates? and If I hyphenate it, when I sign can I just sign with my new last name and not include my maiden name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Adriana. You'd have to contact your licensing board of any change to your name. How you sign is up to state regulations and your employer. It's possible you can continue to operate under your maiden name, as long as the proper agencies are contacted about your legal name change.

      Reply
  65. Ramya

    Hi,
    My fiance and I are getting married in a few weeks. I have no middle name, but a two word last name. One of the words overlaps with segments of his last name.

    My last name: Marigold Johnson
    His last name: Marinet

    Could I change my last name to just Marigold?

    Reply
  66. Kris

    Got married in CA, on my marriage license for new name is it stated as first name, middle name, and husbands last name. At the time I didn’t think about putting my madien name in my middle name. My question is when I renew my dmv license I want to keep my name as my birth name but add my husbands last name. So it will be first, middle, madien and husband last name. Is that possible?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      My question is when I renew my dmv license I want to keep my name as my birth name but add my husbands last name. So it will be first, middle, madien and husband last name. Is that possible?

      They'll only change it to match what's on your marriage certificate.

      Reply
  67. Mitsuko Grube

    We got married in 2007 – my husband would like to take my last name. Can he take our marriage cert to SS to get his name changed?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Mitsuko. He could only change it to match what's on the marriage certificate's new name after marriage section.

      Reply
  68. Sasha

    I was married in San Diego, California in 2006.

    At the time I have changed my last name through SS office and CA DMV based on my marriage certificate, even though in 2006 my new last name was not shown in my marriage certificate.

    I now need additional proof of my last name change.

    The new names now show in marriage certificates based on The Name Equality Act of 2007 (AB 102, Chapter 567, Statutes of 2007 amended by AB 1143, Chapter 512, Statutes of 2009)

    Social Security Starting August 1, 2014, Social Security offices across the county will no longer offer Social Security number printouts

    How do I get proof of my name change?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      How do I get proof of my name change?

      Your social security card and driver's license would be your proof. Your marriage certificate is also proof that you had a legal right to change your name.

      Reply
  69. E

    Hi,
    My husband and I live in California but got married in New York this past September 2018. I changed my last name to my husbands on our NY marriage license but I have yet to change my name officially with social security and dmv.

    Is there a time limit in which I need to change my name with SS and DMV?

    If I’m planning on still using my maiden name professionally, do I still need to change all legal documents to my married name?

    And is it mandatory that marriage license, SS and DMV all list the same last name?

    Thank you,
    E

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Is there a time limit in which I need to change my name with SS and DMV?

      There's no time limit.

      If I’m planning on still using my maiden name professionally, do I still need to change all legal documents to my married name?

      If you do change your name on your legal documents, how it applies to your professional documents varies. For instance, if you were a physician, you'd have to contact your licensing board to determine if credentials have to be reissued.

      If you're concerned about your professional identity, then consider a DBA in your established professional name.

      And is it mandatory that marriage license, SS and DMV all list the same last name?

      Name change is optional. You don't have to move beyond the marriage license. If you update your name with the SSA, it's unlikely you'll be able to renew your driver's license in a name that doesn't match what the SSA has on file.

      Reply
  70. Joy

    When my husband and I applied for our marriage license we decided that I would take on his last name and take out my maiden name. But I have since changed my mind after we got married. Would there be any issue if I don’t ever change my last name to his?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Would there be any issue if I don’t ever change my last name to his?

      No issue will crop up. There's nothing to be concerned about.

      Reply
  71. Leslie

    When I got married in 2013, I kept my maiden name. Our marriage certificate (in CA) shows my maiden name. But, I've since changed my mind and I'd like to take my husband's last name and make my maiden name my middle name. At this point, do I need to go to court to change my maiden name to my husband's last name? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      At this point, do I need to go to court to change my maiden name to my husband's last name?

      Yes, you would have to go to court.

      Reply
  72. Dee S.

    When I got married in CA in 1993, on the License and Certificate of Marriage, I used my "Current" last (family) name. At the time I thought that was my birth last name.

    Since, I have found out my bio-dad, been to court to change paternity & my birth certificate. I wanted to use my new name. The local county clerk suggested instead of the legal name change procedure in CA to amend the Marriage License & Certificate to show a maiden name which I did.

    Both my spouse and I signed the amendment. I signed it with my "new" maiden name-married surname. That was fine for SSA and the DMV, but the US Passport office will not accept the amended Marriage License and Certificate as a legal name change. I have my new birth certificate, court order showing paternity. Do I really need to do the legal name change for $435??

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Dee. Did they request additional supporting documents that you aren't able to provide or did they specifically say they needed a court order? Is this a passport renewal or new passport?

      Reply
      1. Dee

        They stated a “legal name change document.” I provided both birth certificates showing both birth names & marriage license and certificate & amendment. This is for a US Passport renewal. For what it’s worth, I have been going by the name of either first & maiden or maiden-hyphenated. Thank you

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Hi Dee. Oftentimes, what you're allowed to change to comes down to the leniency of the agent you deal with. You can try another office or mail in your application, if that's an option available to you.

          Reply
          1. Dee S.

            Thank you Valera. I suspected as much and plan to try a different office. I researched and researched as to what I was doing wrong and to what of my documents wasn't "legal" when I came across your site. Thank you for all you are doing.

  73. Lisa J.

    When I got married (in California), the clerk told me that as long as I didn't hyphenate mine and my husband's last names that I could use either or both. If I want to start a trust or buy property in Las Vegas using my husband's last name (leaving mine off completely) would I have to legally add my husband's last name to my driver's license and social security card first or could I use a certified copy of my marriage license as ID? Thank you so much!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      When I got married (in California), the clerk told me that as long as I didn't hyphenate mine and my husband's last names that I could use either or both.

      I don't know what the basis of the clerk's position was. Your last name is your last name, space or hyphen. I'm not aware of an updated clarification being made to the Name Equality Act.

      If I want to start a trust or buy property in Las Vegas using my husband's last name

      Your ID would have to be in your husband's name.

      or could I use a certified copy of my marriage license as ID?

      It's up to the financial institution, but it's unlikely. Your marriage certificate is for proof of marriage. It's not meant to be used for primary identification.

      Reply
      1. Lisa J

        Thanks! I confirmed (with an attorney on Avvo) that I could use either or both last names as long as they aren't hyphenated as the clerk suggested. I then asked if I could buy property without changing my last name (on my ss card and DL) and I am STILL waiting for a response which is I asked here. Thank you again.

        Reply
  74. Patrick

    My wife and I live in California but were married in Vegas, 2014. Our marriage certificate has her current last name (maiden name). She would like to change her last name to mine & basically hyphenate the names. Will she need to go to court to change her name? Thank You.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      She would like to change her last name to mine & basically hyphenate the names. Will she need to go to court to change her name?

      She won't have to go to court. The Clark County marriage certificate will work as-is.

      Reply
  75. Jolee

    Hello, I will be getting married next month, I am planning to change my last name to my fiance's last name. I also would like to add a middle name that is not my maiden name or combination of both last names. Is that possible?

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I also would like to add a middle name that is not my maiden name or combination of both last names. Is that possible?

      You may add you or your future spouse's current last name or birth last name to your middle name. Nothing else.

      Reply
  76. Thomas

    Hi. I'm planning on getting married to my fiancee this year and I had changed my name when I was a teenager to my stepdad's. I was wondering if it was possible when we get married to change it to my original last name. We also have a son who I want to change his last name to the original. I know I have to file a petition for my son but can i change mine through marriage?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I was wondering if it was possible when we get married to change it to my original last name.

      You can change to your birth last name through marriage.

      Reply
  77. Melissa

    Hi. I married in Los Angeles in 2013. I changed my last name to my husbands on the wedding certificate because he really wanted me to take his name. So at the time, I decided to change my maiden name and make it my new middle name. I have never reported the name change to DMV, Social Security, Passport, my taxes, and CA Board of Professional Licenses because I truly changed my mind after a month.

    The problem I'm having is with the bank. After our wedding we opened a new bank account with our wedding certificate as proof of name change. Wells Fargo will not remove the married last name even though I have no CA ID, Social Security card, or passport with the married last name. Wells Fargo asked for proof of Divorce or name change. How do I do provide that information when all I have is my maiden name? Please help.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Melissa. The rules governing how your name change is processed by your bank is decided by your bank. Will they accept documentation confirming your current legal name is your maiden name? Something from the SSA or DMV? Will they accept an affidavit or letter from an attorney confirming your legal name?

      Reply
    2. Alma

      The marriage certificate is a legal and binding document, so legally you changed your name whether you changed it in your other documents or not.

      Reply
  78. tracy

    I was adult adopted by my aunt in 2015, but never legally changed my last name. When I got married in June last year I had sentimentally planned to add my aunts last name, with no hyphen, to my husbands last name on the marriage certificate. The clerk told me I couldn't add her last name to mine because I'd never legally changed it beforehand – even though I had the adoption paperwork. is this correct?

    I would like clarification that if I want to add her last name, I would have to petition the court to have it legally changed: First, Middle, Adopted Last, Married Last. Alternatively, I could drop my middle name and just go by First name, Adopted Last, Married Last. Will DMV accept the two last names without hyphen? Is one more trouble than the other? Thanks in advance…

    Reply
    1. Valera

      The clerk told me I couldn't add her last name to mine because I'd never legally changed it beforehand – even though I had the adoption paperwork. is this correct?

      Yes, that's correct.

      I would like clarification that if I want to add her last name, I would have to petition the court to have it legally changed

      That is what you would have to do.

      Is one more trouble than the other?

      If you're going to court, any name change combination is allowed.

      Reply
  79. navabeh

    Hello,
    I became a US citizen last year and I added a middle name for my passport (I did not present any sort of doc for adding my middle name). Currently, I am in the process of applying for my licensure for work and the form was asking about any name change. My questions is whether adding a middle name constitutes as a name change and would that mean I have to go to the court and get a court order for adding a middle name in my passport?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Navabeh. If you already added a middle name to your passport, why are you concerned with getting a court order? Your name change is complete.

      Reply

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