A Complete Guide to Legal Name Change in Colorado

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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.

Same-Sex Marriages

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:

  1. Keeping your married name was not in the written separation agreement you and your former partner have worked on together.
  2. The court deems this agreement not unconscionable as to support, maintenance, and property.
  3. 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

This includes:

  • Employers
  • Schools
  • 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.

31 Comments

  1. Vivian

    I changed my name on social security but now wish I could undo it. Can I just go and change my name back? That's all it's changed on. Do I just show my marriage certificate? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Vivian

      Forgot to mention I married in Florida but live in Colorado if that makes a difference.

      Reply
      1. Valera

        Forgot to mention I married in Florida but live in Colorado

        Where you married or currently reside doesn't impact your situation.

        Reply
    2. Valera

      Hi Vivian. Since you've already changed your name on your social security card, you'll need to obtain a court order to change it back to your prior name.

      Reply
  2. Margene A Kennedy

    Sir,
    My Grand Father settled in Colorada around 1906-1907. His name at time was Edward John Marcinkowski, dob 2 July 1885. His daughter was born in 1910 with the given the name – Flora Marcinkowski. However, His son, my father, was born in1913, with the give name – Edward John Martin.

    I would like to determine when our name was changed and was it done through the courts. Could you please point me in the right direction.

    Reply
    1. Kellie

      My family had a similar situation during the same time period. My grandfather changed his surname, a long, difficult to pronounce Polish one, into a shortened version along with anglicizing his first name. This was all done by common law, and we have yet to discover any court records.

      Reply
  3. Baemon

    I never liked the name i was given at birth and im getting divorced so i figured now is the time to fix that as well as my last name. Are there more steps to changing my full name? Or how would i go about doing that because the only name im keeping is my middle name (because its a family name).

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Baemon. You could ask the judge to include an order changing your name during divorce proceedings. It'll be specified in your final divorce decree. However, it's unlikely they'll allow a change to your first name. In such a case, you'd have to get your name changed through a separate court petition.

      Reply
  4. KD B

    What is the process to change my wife's last name if we already got married but didn't put it on the Marriage License? We got married in Colorado, wondering if we can just get the Marriage License adjusted.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      What is the process to change my wife's last name

      Same as it always is: using a certified copy of your marriage certificate.

      if we already got married but didn't put it on the Marriage License?

      You didn't because you couldn't. Colorado doesn't provide an opportunity specify a new name after marriage. That's why it doesn't appear on your certificate.

      We got married in Colorado, wondering if we can just get the Marriage License adjusted.

      Unnecessary. Colorado is one of the majority of states where you can't choose a new name applying for a marriage license. It's a non-issue. Your wife can change her name fine using the existing certificate.

      Reply
  5. Kate

    My husband has 2 last names do I have to take both of them?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Kate. If you were to take his name, it would have to be both. Partials aren't permitted.

      Reply
  6. RandyVT

    In 2010, I submitted a request to a Colorado County Court to have my legal name changed to be *exactly* the name I have used my entire life. Only my US Passport had the first name from my birth certificate on it.

    After the passage of the "Patriot Act" using my given name as firstInitial-fullMiddle name became problematic due to the arrogant white male paradigm. So I went to County Court in the county where I resided, and filed for a court order to change my name. Unfortunately, I was unaware that the final court order had to specifically state "first name = W Robert" for one particular Colorado state agency to recognize this change. (btw, my real name is not W Robert)

    Can I now ask that County Court to further clarify my previous request for name change and give me an amended final order? Or must I redo the whole process in the County Court where I now reside?

    I am *NOT* looking to change my name, I am looking to assure that the given name I've used my entire life is recognized as what might have been considered first initial-space-middle name.

    The US State Department recognized that 2010 court order and my passport now reflects that. The Social Security card I received in the late 1960s was correct, showing my name that way. Now want it to be legally and completely recognized, and my high school diploma, college degrees, real estate deeds, motor vehicle titles, tax returns, financial accounts, voter registration, everything I can think of has that name I've always used.

    Advice?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Randy. Getting another court order would result in another documented name change, not a clarification. You can contact the court and request an amendment or letter of clarification.

      Alternatively, consider completing a one and the same person affidavit where you specify your incorrect name and one true name. You'll have to swear to it and, of course, get it notarized.

      You'll want to contact that one agency that's giving you resistance if that will be sufficient. If not, can they document why?

      Reply
  7. Wendy

    What is the quickest way to change my last name back to my maiden name? My divorce was final in 2008.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      HI Wendy. If your divorce decree has a judge's order restoring your maiden name, get a certified copy of your divorce decree. Use that to change your name with various federal and state agencies.

      Reply
  8. Bob

    My wife and I were married in Sweden. The marriage certificate is in English and has the apostille seal. However I see that she cannot get her name changed on her driver's license in CO with a foreign marriage certificate? How would we go about changing her last name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Bob. Why do you say your wife can't change her name with a foreign certificate? Is that what the Colorado DMV said?

      Reply
        1. Valera

          Hi Bob. You're right. This appears to be a thing. I did some research on this and here's the recommendation.

          Apply for a Colorado marriage license, self-solemnize it (act as your own officiant), then get it certified at the same time. So it's one in-office transaction. Use that U.S. marriage certificate along with the foreign marriage certificate to effect a name change with the Department of Revenue.

          Reply
  9. Yuki

    If I keep my first name and take my husband-to-be last name, would I be able to add a middle name that is not my maiden name, just a new middle name to my marriage certificate without having to petition the court?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      would I be able to add a middle name that is not my maiden name, just a new middle name to my marriage certificate

      No, that's not allowed.

      Reply
  10. Becki

    If I am going to be married in Colorado and would like to take my future husband’s last name but also add my maiden name as a middle name (thus giving me two middle names), can I do that via my marriage documents?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Becki. I don't believe that's possible. At best you could drop your middle for your maiden.

      Reply
  11. Eric

    Married my partner in DC 2010, but marriage wasn’t recognized in Colorado until 5 years ago. I used my birth name on my marriage certificate, but want to take my husband’s last name. How would I go about it?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Eric. Same as usual. By using a certified copy of your marriage certificate for the SSA, DMV, etc.

      Reply
  12. Kimberly Nunez

    my husband was born in vail colorado but we got married and currently live in texas. his name was misspelled in his birth certificate and would like to correct it. could we do that without having to go to colorado ?

    Reply
  13. Susan Adams

    My husband and I filed for common law marriage in 2014. How would I go about changing my last name to his? I've read the method is different.

    Reply

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