Navigating the laws regarding name changes in any state can be rather tricky. After all, there are so many clauses and rules, it can be difficult to wrap you head around them. This guide will help you successfully complete a name change in Colorado through marriage, divorce, or court order.
Getting a Colorado Marriage License
Apply for Marriage License
The first step is to fill out an application for a marriage license issued by your county clerk's office. Because Colorado does not have a residency requirement for marriage license applications, you may apply for a marriage license at any county court clerk's office in the state. Both you and your partner must fill out separate applications.
This application must include your name, sex, address, social security number, the date and place of birth of each party getting married, and proof of date of birth—either by a birth certificate, a driver's license, or other comparable evidence.
If either party (or even both parties) was previously married, the party's married name and the date, place, and court in which the marriage was dissolved or declared invalid, or the date and place of death of the former spouse, must be included.
If either party (or both parties) has previously been a partner in a civil union, they must list the name of the other partner in the civil union, or the date, place, and court in which the civil union was dissolved or declared invalid, or the date and place of death of the former partner in the civil union.
Finally, you must include the name and address of the parents or guardian of each party and whether the parties are related to each other; if so, list their relationship. The state of Colorado prohibits marriage between an ancestor and a descendant or between a brother and a sister, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood. Additionally, it's prohibited between an uncle and a niece, or between an aunt and a nephew by half or whole blood, except as to marriages permitted by the established customs of aboriginal cultures.
After turning in both you and your partner's applications, you will then be prescribed the forms for the marriage license, the marriage certificate, and the consent to marriage.
Obtaining a Marriage License and Fees
While the application forms for the marriage license are free, obtaining the license itself is not.
After at least one party turns in the marriage application forms to the county clerk, you must pay a fee of $7 for the marriage license itself, an additional fee of $20 that will go to the Colorado domestic abuse program fund, and another additional amount established pursuant to section 25-2-121, C.R.S.—to be credited to the vital statistics records cash fund pursuant to section 25-2-121, C.R.S.
In total, the county clerk shall only issue you and your partner with a license to marry and a marriage certificate form upon being furnished $30. Cash is universally accepted. Some offices accept check. If paying by credit card, there may be an extra surcharge to cover the transaction.
Keep in mind that simply filling out a marriage license does not officially or legally mean that you are married in the eyes of Colorado law. It simply grants you permission to marry your partner within the state of Colorado, meaning that you cannot take this license and hold the ceremony in another state.
After earning the marriage license, you and your partner have 35 days to solemnize your marriage (that is, to hold the ceremony) before it is considered void and must then be returned to the county clerk as a cancellation.
When Can You Change Your Name?
When you first fill out your marriage license and certificate, you must sign them with your existing, pre-marriage name. Keep in mind that both the marriage license and the marriage certificate are on the same document.
To solemnize your marriage, you must either have your marriage certificate signed by a civil officiate such as a judge or magistrate, or a religious officiate such as a minister, pastor, reverend, priest, rabbi, or monk. You can also self-solemnize if both you and your partner sign the officiant's space with your pre-marriage names and write “self-solemnized” on your certificate. No witnesses are required for self-solemnization. You can find visual examples of how to fill out your certificate.
After this, you must return your marriage license and marriage certificate document to your county clerk's office 63 days upon completing it. You may either turn it in through the mail or in-person. If you return this document after the 63 day period is up, you may have to pay late fees of no less than $20, with $5 in additional fees tacked on for each subsequent day you fail to return your marriage license and certificate to your county clerk's office. The maximum amount in late fee penalties for this failure is $50.
If you would like certified copies of this document for name change purposes (i.e. assuming your spouse's name), send a check made payable to the Manager of Finance with your document. Certified copies are $1.25 each. You may then change your last name to your spouse's with these copies.
You can use these copies as proof of your name change to governmental facilities, your employer, schools, and with your friends and family.
Laws Regarding Name Changes for Marriage
Whose Name is Taken in Marriage?
Many women prefer to take their husband's last name once they are married. This is definitely an option, but there are no laws requiring a woman do this.
In a heterosexual marriage, the woman may choose to keep her own last name, hyphenate her last name with her husband's in whatever order she chooses, choose to assume her husband's last name, or even come up with a new last name altogether.
If you want to assume your partner's last name (either through assuming it entirely or by hyphenating your last names), all you would have to do is use your marriage certificate as-is to effect a name change.
If you are still attached to your maiden name even after taking your partner's last name, you can simply replace your former middle name with your maiden name when going through the name change process. That way, you are still able to maintain your pre-married identity and your family history.
However, if you or your partner chooses to change your last (or even first) names altogether, changing your names on the certified copies of your marriage certificate alone will not suffice. To completely change your names, you must file a petition for a name change in court.
All the same laws apply if the husband wishes to change his name in marriage as well, either by assuming his wife's name or by changing his last name entirely in a court-sanctioned petition.
There are several ways you can change your name after marriage, so let's go into more detail on that…
Assuming Your Partner's Name
Whether you are assuming your partner's name or hyphenating it with your own, you don't actually have to document this on the marriage application, license, or certificate. A certified copy of your marriage certificate along is sufficient to enforce a name change request. In order to receive these copies, you must request them from the county clerk's office as you turn in the initial marriage license and marriage certificate document for their records.
Remember, you must make a payment of $1.25 for each certified copy you request. It's even better to save time by preordering a copy at the same time you apply for your marriage license so that it's automatically mailed to your after your marriage license has been successfully recorded.
Assuming a Different Name
If you or your partner (or the both of you) decide to change your name into something different altogether, then you must file a petition for a name change in court.
This process can be tedious, and will require you to:
- Fill out a petition.
- File it with your local court.
- Verify the petition by affidavit.
- Give your reasons for seeking a name change.
- Pay for and submit a criminal history check to the court and disclose any additional criminal dispositions.
- Publish notice of your petition in a local newspaper three times and file proof of publication with the court.
- Attend a court hearing where the court will consider your petition.
If satisfied, the court will then issue an order changing your name. Be sure to get certified copies of that order, so you can update your name on your birth certificate, at governmental facilities, work, school, and with loved ones.
Colorado has no law prohibiting same-sex marriage (unless it was arranged prior to the proper dissolution of one of the partner's previous marriages). The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 2014, and Colorado law must recognize all same-sex marriages—regardless of whether they were conducted in-state or outside of it—as valid and legal, so long as the couple can provide all their papers.
As such, the name change processes are also the same as those for heterosexual marriages.
Can I Change My Name Through Common Law Marriage?
Colorado law respects the common law rule that says you can change your name whenever you wish, as long as you're not trying to commit fraud.
Does this mean you can change your name through common law marriage? The answer is no. There is no common law marriage name change loophole.
The Social Security Administration, DMV, and other federal agencies will not recognize common law marriage as valid grounds for a legal name change in Colorado.
You'll either have to get married with a marriage license or file a name change petition in court. A certified copy of your later marriage certificate or court order will serve as proof of your name change event.
Divorce and Name Changes
Can You Go Back to Using Your Birth/Previous Married Name?
Yes, with conditions:
- Keeping your married name was not in the written separation agreement you and your former partner have worked on together.
- The court deems this agreement not unconscionable as to support, maintenance, and property.
- You receive a copy of the decree of dissolution of marriage.
If these conditions are met, you may choose to go back to using your birth name or to change your name entirely.
If you choose to change your name completely, you can file a petition for a name change in court and follow the same steps as you would in the Assuming a Different Name subsection for marriage.
Of course, you are not required to change your name after divorce. Many people choose to keep their married name after divorce due to personal, familial, and professional reasons.
How to Update Your Name in Colorado Records
Whether you have changed your name through marriage or divorce, the process to have your records legally altered is the same: show an authorizing document that permits a name change.
Report Your Name Change to the Social Security Administration (SSA)
You can either complete your social security card name change in person or through the mail.
If you go in person, you must bring:
- A completed Application for a Social Security Card (SS-5).
- Evidence of your age and identity (such as your old driver's license or birth certificate).
- Legal name change documents—like your marriage certificate, a court-ordered name change form, or a divorce decree.
- Proof of your U.S. citizenship or proof of immigration status.
Keep in mind that it takes at least 24 business hours for changes to be processed.
You will then receive your new Social Security card in the mail. Note that your Social Security Number (SSN) itself will not change.
Update Your Colorado Driver's License or ID
Simply bring these to your nearest Colorado DMV:
- Legal name change documents, like your marriage certificate, a court-ordered name change form, or a divorce decree.
- Confirmation from the SSA (which can include either an official letter from the SSA confirming your name change or your new Social Security card).
- Proof of your address (which can be represented through a utility bill, bank statement, or rent or mortgage document).
- $28 to update your driver's license. Additionally, if you or your partner has a commercial driver's license, then you must also pay $15.50 to update that.
- $11.50 to update an ID card if you are under 60 years old. If you want to update an ID card and you are 60 and older, then the update is free.
You must notify the Colorado DMV within 30 days of changing your name due to marriage, divorce, civil union, or court order.
Update Your Vehicle Title
Simply bring these to your county DMV:
- Legal name change documents like your marriage certificate, a court-ordered name change form, or a divorce decree.
- Proof of your identity (which can include your driver's license or ID card, a U.S. passport, or a foreign passport with a valid visa and I-94 form).
- Your vehicle's VIN number or your Colorado title number.
- A completed Duplicate Title Request and Receipt form (DR 2539A).
- $8.20 to update your vehicle title.
Update Your Vehicle Registration
Requirements to change your name on your vehicle registration differ depending on the county. Call your county DMV for information on what fees and taxes to expect, as well as accepted payment options.
Notify Other Important Facilities
- Post Office (via change of address form)
- Department of Records or Vital Statistics
- Banks and Other Financial Institutions
- Telephone and Utility Companies
- State Taxing Authority
- Insurance Agencies
- Registrar of Voters
- Passport Office
- Public Assistance (Welfare) Office
- Veterans Administration
- Friends, colleagues, and family members
Be sure to update the name on your professional degrees and licenses, as well as notifying any pertinent medical or professional boards about your new name.
Keep in mind that if you have finalized a decree of dissolution of marriage, the clerk of the court shall give notice of the entry to the office of State Registrar of Vital Statistics in the Division of Administration of the Department of Public Health and Environment for you.
When You Cannot Change Your Name
If you are trying to change your name to avoid civil or criminal liability, in order to commit a crime, to mislead someone, or to something clearly offensive, racist, obscene, or even intimidating, courts can refuse to hold a hearing for you, regardless if you are supposedly doing it for marriage or not.