Do I Have to Change My Name After Marriage?

Woman Undecided About Changing Her Name

So you're facing the prospect of changing your name, but aren't sure if you have to go through with it. Maybe you're married, divorced, or either event is eminent and this name change question remains an unanswered, looming storm cloud.

Over the years, we've gotten this question many times. Across multiple articles. Of the thousands of queries posted throughout this site, "do I have to change my name" (or a close variation) remains in the top five.

This is a genuine point of anxiety, doubt, and stress. Dread of penalties, fines, being reported, and worry that they (whoever "they" are) will invalidate your marriage for failing to change your name. The stuff of post-marriage confusion.

These worries are much ado about nothing. Next, you'll see why when we dispel these myths.

Bottom line, is name change required?

So, TL;DR: Are you required to change your name after marriage, divorce, or court order? No, you don't have to change your name. It's not mandatory. It's optional. Thinking otherwise is an unfounded concern or assumption.

Woman hand holding placard with no sign

If you're resolved to keep your name unchanged, you could always reconsider. Next month, next year, next decade. There's no time limit to change your name. Do nothing, then nothing changes.

Will I get penalized for not changing my name?

There's no civil or criminal penalty for not changing your name. But various DMVs may impose a fine for not changing the name on your driver's license within 30 days or thereabouts.

Whoa, did we just contradict the lead up to this article? No, this occurs when you change your name with the Social Security Administration (SSA), but not the DMV soon afterward.

Happy man relaxing on sofa

In reality, whatever DMV fine may exist is minor to dismissible. There's often zero teeth behind these rules and regulations.

They're meant to prod people to not procrastinate and finish the name changes they've started. Not to force anyone to start a name change they don't want.

So, there's a penalty, but not really?

We contacted several DMVs to ask what happens if you don't change the name on your driver's license within X-days to match what's on your social security card as directed on their websites and referenced state legislature statutes.

Couple (man and woman) pondering a name change question

The most frequent response: nothing happens to you. There's no penalty. No clear enforcement mechanism to force you to update your name on file. Your license remains valid until it's time to renew.

But this is not a universal truth. There are name change deadlines in several states. With financial penalties. But their method of compulsion is often murky and flaky.

So why the veiled threat? Why the charade?

Consider this for motivation: If you update the name on your driver's license, there's a revision or reissue fee. Over two million people get married each year in the U.S.

That's a large pool of potential funding for cities and counties waiting to get collected year after year. Someone's gotta scoop up all that cheddar.

Woman sits atop big mountain gold coins green banknotes

Plus, it offers the useful purpose of making sure driver name and address records are up-to-date. Name changes do often coincide with address changes.

What if my marriage certificate lists my new name?

When you apply for a marriage license, they may ask you to choose a new name after marriage. Are you bound to that choice or can you renege?

Marriage license records search concept

In most states, the marriage license application doesn't ask the new name question, but if you're in one that does, it's decision time.

The new name slot on your marriage certificate gives you the choice to change your name—today, tomorrow, or many years later. But it's nonbinding.

But my marriage certificate will only show my new rejected name

Wrong. Your marriage license and certificate will show both your current and new name after marriage. So, if you decide not to change, there will be a reference to your pre-marriage name, a.k.a. old name, a.k.a. current name, a.k.a. legal name.

Nine times out of ten, it's your maiden name. (Birth surname for men.)

I was told my new name takes effect upon marriage

The marriage license clerk or application might have expressed language to the effect that when you get married your new name choice becomes your new legal name.

Smirking marriage license office clerk with paper stack on desk

Maybe you were told that, but in the real world name change after marriage isn't automatic. It only becomes real once you update ID. We're talking social security card and driver's license.

Think of it this way. You may have a winning lottery ticket, but you aren't a millionaire until you claim and cash it. Do nothing, and it has zero value.

Will someone report my refusal to change my name?

Who's going to tattletale on you for refusing to change your name? And to who? The SSA? IRS? Or another shadowy state or federal entity?

Funny detective character looking through binoculars from bush spying

This is conspiracy theory, tin foil hat, going down the rabbit hole level of paranoia. Still, it's our duty to entertain it. For the sake of completion.

Will the SSA find out?

The Social Security Administration won't know of your name change, non-name change, marriage, or divorce unless you tell. No city, state, or federal authority will send an auto-alert.

Will the DMV figure it out?

City, county, and state offices that issue marriage licenses, certificates, and divorce decrees don't communicate name change related data or intentions to county or state DMVs.

Will the marriage license clerk snitch?

The city or county clerk will record your marriage license after you're married. There's no follow-up. They won't know or care if you've changed your name.

Will my divorce judge force my name change?

Once your divorce judge restores your maiden name or a prior name in your finalized divorce decree, the court won't get involved in your name change pontificating.

That will be your cross to bear.

Will I need new certificates issued?

You can't undo history. It's a waste of time. But if you must know…

How do I remove the new name from my marriage certificate?

If you've decided not to change your name, don't bother erasing the new name on your marriage certificate. Leave it alone. It's a historical document. A snapshot in time.

How do I remove the restored name from my divorce decree?

Assuming your divorce judge allowed removal of your restored name order, it's unnecessary. Your divorce is valid either way.

But I want it! I don't care; I want my new name banished!

Angry woman erupting over her new, unwanted name

Assuming you got your marriage certificate or divorce decree reissued (unlikely, as they're not mistakes or clerical errors), it'll arrive stapled to your old record.

Your indecision will live in infamy.

You are not alone

Here's a sample of actual comments posted on these pages, pondering the wonders of skipping that fussy name change stuff.

So if I want to change it legally, I can but I do not have to and if I do, I can do it at any point during the marriage?

Odette Manresa

Answer: Yes, you can legally change your name, now, later, or never.

Recently we have to file some immigration document. In the application form, it asks for my new surname after marriage. Can i not fill in the new surname? I supposed I have to declare since it is recorded in my marriage certificate.

Helena

Answer: Nope, your immigration document needn't match your new married name.

I haven't gone through the process of changing my name yet, and am now feeling that I'd rather just keep my maiden name. What are my options? Am I out of luck, or is there a way to fix this?

Christina Pauken

Answer: Nothing to fix. Take no action and your maiden name stays as your legal name.

If you get divorced and in the divorce decree, it says you will now be known as "xyz" (your maiden name); do you actually have to go through all the hassle of changing your name. Can you choose to just keep the name you have.

Sandy

Answer: Ignore your divorce decree's new name declaration. It's not the boss of you.

Now I worry that my current marriage is not valid, because I never followed with decree order.

Iryna

Answer: No worries. You can get remarried using your ex-husband's surname. It's your rightful name too.

Would I get on legal trouble if I don't change the last name on every document and I have been signing with my last name still.

Maria

Answer: You're committing no crime. The name change police aren't coming for you.

On our new marriage license I took his name, but am wondering if I should just continue with my old name on my legal documents like the bank and SS?

Regi

Answer: Name change doesn't affect social security benefits. Change it, don't change, it matters none.

Triumphant man planting victory flag

Alright, ladies and gentlemen, we could offer further examples. But you get the point.

Have we slayed the name change Boogie Man?

And, yes, it's spelled Boogie Man, not Bogeyman? This article has sought to dispel myths and common fears surrounding not changing your name. Did we miss a beat? If so, share your questions in the comments section.

Happy Never Name Change Folks!

We've helped thousands change their names, both before and after marriage.

Get Started

97 Comments

  1. Celine

    I do still plan to change my name but wanted to give a thumbs up to the Veruca Salt reference. Nice touch.

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      wanted to give a thumbs up to the Veruca Salt reference

      Glad you enjoyed the reference. I guess it wasn't too over the top.

      Reply
  2. Heather

    I wrote my husband's last name in the heat of the moment as we were filing out the paperwork in front of the clerk…instant regret. I honestly don't know why I did it, I grew up always saying I would never change my name and my husband didn't expect me to.

    We got married last year and because of covid-19 I wasn't able to get to the social security office and change my name legally, and it got me wondering if I could just pretend like I never switched the name.

    Not gonna lie I was afraid of the name police XD. I'm feeling reassured now though and pretty confident, I'm just gonna not switch it and be a happy camper with my maiden name. Thank you for this article! Definitely helped me out

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Hi Heather. You've made the right choice for yourself. Name change shouldn't be done under pressure.

      Reply
    2. Also Heather

      Wow, the same thing happened to me. I have been debating back and forth just because I really didn’t want to go through the process.

      But when we were signing the papers, the clerk pressured me telling me that I’d have to change it with the Magistrate court if I decide to do it later so I have to choose right now what I want my name to be. Then told me that “this will be your legal name.”

      The process felt daunting as I’m looking at the list and no longer want to go through with the process either.

      Thank you for writing the article!

      Reply
    3. Maggie

      Same thing happened to me and now I'm also a happy camper thanks to this article. Also glad I didn't put the extra work and effort in going through the process… I guess it was a blessing in disguise bc of the pandemic too. My legal marriage was at the end of 2019.

      Reply
  3. Tamika Wright

    On my marriage license it checked some where that I was not going to change my name. When I went to the SS office they wouldn't change my name because of the the marriage license. They state I have to go to court.

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      they wouldn't change my name because of the the marriage license. They state I have to go to court.

      What was their reason? They'd have to give an explanation, such as the name choice you specified was unsupported or insufficient identity documentation.

      Reply
    2. Lindsay

      Were you able to change it? I just got married last week in Vegas and I decided that I want to change my name at the time because my husband has 2 last names but I just wanted the paternal last name.

      So I decided to do it later but now I am reading online that I can't. I am settling on having both his last names.

      Reply
      1. Tyrone Jones

        Hi Lindsay. Your read right. You can't take just one half of your husband's last name in Nevada. (FYI, Nevada rules are Las Vegas rules too).

        Reply
  4. Tarley Temple

    I was married young, married for thirty years. I thought that when you married your name changes automatically to your spouses last name. I never changed my last name legally and have been using my spouses last name. Now that I know should I keep using my married name or start using my maiden name? Financially everything is in my married name. Legally what should I do?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Hi Tarley. You can make it official. Get a certified copy of your marriage certificate and submit your name change with the SSA. I'm assuming your driver's license is in your married name, so that's fine as-is. If not, commit your name change there too.

      Reply
  5. Ashley

    I dropped my middle name and added my last name as my middle name and added my husband last name at the heat of the moment while filling out paperwork with the clerk. I didn’t really think nothing but regret it… still haven’t went to social security office to change my name legally.

    I’m wondering do I legally actually have to go through all the process of getting a new social, drivers license, passport? I now don’t want to change my name at but I’m a little confused on it because my marriage Certificate says my new name

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      do I legally actually have to go through all the process of getting a new social, drivers license, passport?

      You do not.

      I’m a little confused on it because my marriage Certificate says my new name

      It merely gives you the option to change. It's nonbinding. You can ignore it if you have no intention of changing.

      Reply
  6. Brianna Smith

    I live in Florida and I plan to elope but I don't want to change my name until a few months after we get married.

    So if I am understanding correctly, I can put my husband's last name as my new name on the marriage license but nothing will be offical until I actually let the SSA know of the change.

    So that would mean that I can let go of the irrational fear of getting into trouble with the government for not changing my name?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      I can put my husband's last name as my new name on the marriage license

      No, you only put your current last name in Florida. Your issued marriage certificate is proof of a name change "event" allowing a change, which is optional.

      but nothing will be offical until I actually let the SSA know of the change.

      That part's correct.

      So that would mean that I can let go of the irrational fear of getting into trouble with the government for not changing my name?

      That's right.

      Reply
  7. Jasmine

    I actually have the opposite question. I originally did not want to change my name at the time of marriage but now I do 6 years later. I live in NC and my marriage license has only my maiden name. How do I now move forward to change my last name to match my husband? Is it a different process since I didn't use his last name on my marriage license?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      my marriage license has only my maiden name

      That's normal for NC.

      How do I now move forward to change my last name to match my husband?

      Same as before. Get a certified copy of your NC marriage license and update the name on your social security card, driver's license, passport, etc. You can review the name change on social security article for where to begin.

      Is it a different process since I didn't use his last name on my marriage license?

      No, the process is the same.

      Reply
  8. Jenny

    Hi I got married and my license has my name with my spouses last name. I never changed it with SSN, ID, nothing legal or even used it at all. Now I'm filing divorce papers and its asking me if I want to change my name back to maiden last name. Do I have to ask the court to change it back if I never legally enforced my spouses last name?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Do I have to ask the court to change it back if I never legally enforced my spouses last name?

      Nope. Since you've never changed your name on anything official, there's nothing to go back to.

      Reply
  9. Jess

    Hi! I live in CA and when we applied for our marriage license I put my first, middle and my husbands last name as my new last name. I really regret not putting my maiden name as my new middle.

    I know that I have to go through the courts now to change my name to have my old maiden name as my new middle name but will i get in any trouble since I changed my name to something other than what I said I would change it to on my marriage certificate?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      will i get in any trouble since I changed my name to something other than what I said I would

      No, you won't get in trouble. There's no penalty. The state doesn't get involved with name change decisions after marriage. And it doesn't track what people do.

      The new name on your marriage certificate gives you the option to change, but it's nonbinding. If you change your name through the courts, that document would then give you a second avenue to change your name.

      Neither document displaces the other. You could still use either one in the end.

      Reply
  10. Helen

    Hello,
    I’m getting married next month and we’re in TX. From the article I know that I can write down my husband’s last name as mine in our marriage cert. I’ll be going through some immigration docs afterward too and if I decide not to officially change my last name to his (not updating it on my ssn and DL etc), my immigration docs would still have my last name as my current last name, is it correct? Will it affect my green card in the future if I dont officially take his last name?
    Thank you

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      From the article I know that I can write down my husband’s last name as mine in our marriage cert

      In Texas you don't write down your new married name on the marriage license, application, or certificate. Just your current name at the time. That's the case in most states. That wouldn't prevent you from changing your name though.

      if I decide not to officially change my last name to his (not updating it on my ssn and DL etc), my immigration docs would still have my last name as my current last name

      That's correct.

      Will it affect my green card in the future if I dont officially take his last name?

      There's no impact.

      Reply
  11. Sarah

    Hi! My name change request is being processed by SS. I know I need to at least wait a week or so for the records to update, but do I need to wait for the physical card to come in the mail before I can change my name at the DMV? I am in PA and changing my middle name to maiden and taking my husbands surname. I have the original marriage certificate to show. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Hi Sarah. You don't have to wait until your new card arrives, as the DMV will perform an electronic query against Social Security's database to make sure your name matches.

      Reply
  12. Mari

    Hi, I am currently applying for naturalization process and I am unsure as to how to answer name questions. When I got married I had every intention to take my husbands last name, during that period my resident card needed to be renewed and I presented my marriage certificate to change my name to my married name.

    However, I never followed through with the name change with SSAand DMV. Meaning I have kept using my maiden name. Now that I am filing for naturalization the form asks for legal name? Used other name? Do you want to change name?

    I want to keep my maiden name, do I use my maiden name as legal name and my married name as other name used since that is what is on their record?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Hi Mari. The form will have multiple name sections. Legal name is the name on your birth certificate. The next line will ask for the name on our permanent resident card. Later in the document it'll ask what you'll want to change to.

      Reply
  13. Tiffany

    I'm in Florida. I got married in May 2021. Due to pandemic are SSN offices are closed and wants things sent via mail. No lie procrastination when I found out the process. I got my new SSN card with my new name.

    Next I wanted to change my driver's license but realize it says everything has to be done WITHIN 30 days. I way past 30 days. Will I need to take a new picture, start all over to get a new driver's license just to change my last name to my husband's last name, will I have to pay an extra fee?

    I haven't changed my passport yet, I heard that's a different process since the pandemic as well. So I'm all out of order.

    I was going to notify my job next after I update my driver's license so I have no issues with taxes. Then do my banks, accounts, state licenses, etc. Is this a problem that I haven't changed my passport yet. Ughhh

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Next I wanted to change my driver's license but realize it says everything has to be done WITHIN 30 days.

      Within 30 days of receiving your new SS card, not 30 days of mailing out your paperwork.

      Will I need to take a new picture, start all over to get a new driver's license just to change my last name to my husband's last name

      I'm not clear about your sequence. Are you saying you tried to update your driver's license too early and had to back out?

      will I have to pay an extra fee?

      If you're referring to failure to update your name within 30 days, Florida's change of name or address statutes says they'll apply a $30 nonmoving traffic violation penalty fee.

      I haven't changed my passport yet, I heard that's a different process since the pandemic as well.

      The passport process is the same. It just takes longer than usual.

      I was going to notify my job next after I update my driver's license so I have no issues with taxes.

      It's your social security record that matters, not your driver's license. You can alert your employer now.

      Is this a problem that I haven't changed my passport yet. Ughhh

      No, you can keep it unchanged until it's time to renew. Just make sure you book your travel tickets to match the name on your passport.

      Reply
    2. sue

      I would love to know what was the penalty in Florida for license? I am in the same boat. I am over 2 months late in changing last name at DMV.

      Reply
  14. Tracy K

    I'm in Iowa and just got married. Just like others, I put my husband's name down as my married name. I'm DREADING changing everything now and wish that I had just put down my name as my married name.

    So, in Iowa, if I don't change everything with SSA, drivers license, etc. I don't have to worry about it? LEGALLY, I can continue on as I have for my many years of life? Even if we file taxes together, I would still use my original name??

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Hi Tracy. Yes, it's still legal to use your original name as it still remains your legal name.

      Reply
  15. Mari

    I have 10 year green card and getting divorce soon. For how long time I need to change my ex surname on green card? Is it mandatory to change it if I change all other documents like my passport?

    I mean It can stay like is it for 5 years when I will take naturalization application but meanwhile to travel with old surname on green card and new on passport (because on passport I will change it)?

    I read that I need I-90 but it takes a lot of time to get a new green card… So for how long I can travel with my green card on ex husband's surname if my passport is already on my maiden name. Thank you 🙌

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Is it mandatory to change it if I change all other documents like my passport?

      It's not mandatory.

      I mean It can stay like is it for 5 years when I will take naturalization application but meanwhile to travel with old surname on green card and new on passport

      Yes, but you should bring certified copies of documents showing your name transition, including your marriage certificate and divorce decree.

      So for how long I can travel with my green card on ex husband's surname if my passport is already on my maiden name.

      As long as you prefer, but make sure the name on your travel or airline tickets matches the name on your passport.

      Reply
  16. JAM

    Hi! I’m looking to get married soon and do not want to change my name until later. Honestly I’m still considering it. I plan to hyphenate on my marriage license but wait until I’m ready to legally change my name.

    We live and are getting married in TN. Is this okay? I want to make sure we can still present our marriage license (including my current and ‘new’ name) as proof of marriage if necessary.

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Hi Jam. Yes, that will work. You can defer your name change until later.

      Reply
  17. Faye

    Hello do you know the rules for New York if recently married and you've added your husband's name as the surname. I know everyone Is pretty much asking the same question, duh. But you are so kind to take the time to answer.

    So is there a time line as I was told by the clerk I have a year to change – and is there a penalty if I do not do it in the time frame or at all?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      is there a time line as I was told by the clerk I have a year to change

      No, there's no time limit to change. It's unclear to me what they're referring to with their "one year" metric. Could you clarify this point?

      is there a penalty if I do not do it in the time frame or at all?

      Once you've initiated a change on your social security card, deadlines may kick in. For instance, the New York may impose a fine for failure to update the name on your driver's license within 10 days after updating your social security card. But their enforcement methods are vague.

      If you're not changing your name on official credentials—your marriage certificate doesn't count—these worries won't come into play.

      Reply
  18. Sofia

    Hello,
    I wanted to say that I am so so thankful for this article! It explains everything in a straightforward and clear way.

    So, we filed our marriage license today and because we are getting married in NH, I was required to add the preferred “new last name”. Initially I thought I could use two last names without a hyphen, but the clerk mentioned that this is not allowed. So I felt rushed and wrote my new last name as (My_last_name)-(His_last_name).

    I have been using my maiden name my whole life professionally and all of my accomplishments have my maiden name on them. I love my fiancé dearly, but the idea of the hyphened last name is driving me bananas and has given me a lot of anxiety.

    I assume I cannot recall the marriage license right?

    We will be filling for green card soon, and I was wondering if I can just keep my maiden name on the green card application, even though our marriage certificate will have my new hyphenated last name. Also, I don’t want to change my SSN, IDs etc…

    Thank you so much!!!!

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      I assume I cannot recall the marriage license right?

      If you're not married yet, you can discard the old marriage license and apply for a new one. But you may have to reapply from scratch. If you don't intend to perform a change a change in the future, getting a new license won't serve much purpose.

      Still, if you're sure you're going to maintain your maiden name and you want your marriage certificate to reflect that, getting a new license will accomplish that goal.

      I was wondering if I can just keep my maiden name on the green card application, even though our marriage certificate will have my new hyphenated last name.

      You can keep it as maiden. They don't have to match if you don't want.

      Also, I don’t want to change my SSN, IDs etc

      That's fine too.

      Reply
  19. Alisa

    Hi I’m from Virginia
    When I got married I didn’t want to change my last name but I do now. I didn’t write my spouse’s last name on the marriage certificate only my maiden name. So how do I go about changing my name?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Hi Alisa. You can change your name using a certificate copy of your marriage certificate as-is.

      Reply
  20. Manda

    Hi!
    I live in California and eloped in Feb 2021 with my marriage certificate having my maiden last name as my middle name, then adding my husbands last name as my new last name.

    It's been a year since we got married and I haven't changed it with Social Security, nor Drivers License. I have also not notified my job of our marriage, so all my tax forms from my current employer and past employer in 2021 has my full name (not including my husbands last name)

    We plan on filing our taxes together this year and I want to try to get my name change with the Social Security and DMV within next month but I'm worried this will interfere with my taxes. Do you have any insight on this?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Hi Manda. When you update the name on your social security card, the Social Security Administration will automatically notify the IRS of your name change. You'll want to make sure documents submitted to the IRS, such as W-2s are in agreement.

      Keep in mind, that just because you're filing taxes jointly doesn't mean your name must change before or afterward. You can defer your name change until a later date if you'd prefer.

      Reply
  21. Des

    So if you get divorced and are restored to your maiden last name, but you decide after a months it's way to much to do, no can get in any trouble?

    Reply
  22. L.A.

    I got married in February 2022. I didn't put my husband's last name as my new last name on the marriage license & certificate – it didn't ask if I wanted to take his last name.

    Since I don't think I will be taking his last name, do I still have to contact SSA? Can I legally use his last name when I sign anything? Do I have to contact our bank that we are now married? When I file taxes next year, does the IRS need any documentation stating that we are married?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      do I still have to contact SSA?

      No, there's nothing to do there.

      Can I legally use his last name when I sign anything?

      No, you should continue using your own name.

      Do I have to contact our bank that we are now married?

      Not unless you're opening a joint account. Otherwise, you can keep your accounts as-is and separate.

      When I file taxes next year, does the IRS need any documentation stating that we are married?

      No, you don't have to provide anything such as your marriage certificate. And just because you're married doesn't mean you must file jointly. You can file as married filing separately or married filing jointly.

      Reply
  23. Monica

    What an awesome forum I found! Thank you! So many questions were answered but I still have one. I'm getting married and plan to hyphenate my last name (or have both last names without being hyphenated).

    If I report that to SSN, does that still require me to change my name with DMV, passport, etc.? Or does the hyphenated name (or both last names) allow me to pick and choose?

    Reply
  24. Olga Simanova

    I got married in NV in October 2020 and chose not to change my last name as I was traveling after it for 1.5 years and had no time to change my last name. Now I want to change my last name to my husband's last name in NY (where we live). Can I go to the SSN office with my marriage certificate and change it? Or do I need to go to court?

    Reply
    1. Lindsay

      Were you able to change your name? I got married in Las Vegas but didn't change my last name. I just want to know if you were still able to change it.

      Reply
  25. Julia

    Hi,
    On my marriage certificate, I moved my maiden name into middle name and added my spouse's last name as mine.

    I am having second thought, and would like to move my maiden name back as my last name and append his last name to it i.e. my Last name would be: maidenName spouseLastName.

    Is it possible to request this new name change through SSA with the current marriage certificate? Or will I need to go through the court to make the correction/change it first?

    Thank you!!

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Is it possible to request this new name change through SSA with the current marriage certificate?

      No, they'll only recognize the new name as shown on your certificate.

      Or will I need to go through the court to make the correction/change it first?

      You'll need to go to court to pursue a court-petitioned name change. Not to correct or modify your marriage certificate. You'll use the eventual court order to change your name.

      Reply
  26. Linlin

    Hello. I am planning to get married on December and my fiancee and I would like to have our honeymoon in the Philippines on May (so that is 5 months after our marriage).

    I am a Green Card holder, residing in CA, and I am worried that I need to IMMEDIATELY update all my IDs to my husbands last name and we wont be able to travel because all my IDs are on the process of being changed (or still need to be changed.) Just to clarify. If I get married on December, i DO NOT need to file name change right away, correct?

    **P.s. this is such an awesome article :)

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      I am worried that I need to IMMEDIATELY update all my IDs to my husbands last name and we wont be able to travel because all my IDs are on the process of being changed

      You can complete your name change until after your honeymoon. What's important is that the name on your airline tickets matches your passport name.

      If I get married on December, i DO NOT need to file name change right away, correct?

      That's right. You can defer your name change until you're ready.

      Reply
  27. Susan

    Hello, I changed my name with SS, but not on my license. What happens if I do not change my name with the DMV until two months later in Florida? I am wanting to wait since I am traveling and my ID has to match my boarding pass.

    Reply
  28. Melay

    I am getting married soon yet I'm having confusion coz up to now I still use my ex surname… Will the county clerk ask for such issue and will it be a problem if i decide to change such last name to my soon to be husband's last name? pls help🙏

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Will the county clerk ask for such issue

      In Florida, it's the clerk of the circuit court.

      and will it be a problem if i decide to change such last name to my soon to be husband's last name?

      They'll only ask for your current legal name when applying to get married.

      Reply
  29. Megan

    Renewing my DL in Texas…it has my maiden name on it but I legally changed my name on my SS card to my husbands last name when we married. Do I have to change my last name on my DL?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Hi Megan. You're supposed to update the name on your Texas driver's license within 30 days of changing the name on your social security card.

      Reply
  30. Mrs. G?

    Just wanted to say thank you for this informative article & comments. I'm planning on getting married this year in California and am considering hyphenating the 2 last names.

    Weirdly I'm getting apprehensive about it. I don't want to replace my middle name & actually like the idea of being Mrs. So & So, having the option of being officially called that; however, I don't want to go through the whole process of having to legally change everything.

    My son had a teacher a few years back who finally changed her name to her married name & she said it was such a hassle having to file all the documents to change it.

    Honestly that scared me so it's great knowing I can put my new name down & refer to myself as that, but not have to officially/legally change it.

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      scared me so it's great knowing I can put my new name down & refer to myself as that, but not have to officially/legally change it.

      This approach makes sense. The only reference to your new name will appear on your marriage certificate. If you later change your mind and want to hyphenate, that option will remain available as long as you specify it on the marriage license application when the time comes.

      Reply
  31. Misty

    This has been a very informative article! I was married once before but never legally changed my name. Just changed my DL and SS card. Now I am remarried and am going to do the same, just change those but not legally change my name.

    So if I don't ever legally change my name is my name, for all intents and purposes, my maiden name and I'm just using my husbands name?

    I was young when I was first married and had no idea you had to legally go to court to change your name. I just thought once you changed your DL and SS card you were good to go. LOL Now I'm curious what my legal name is!

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      I was married once before but never legally changed my name. Just changed my DL and SS card.

      That is a legal name change. Changing your name through marriage or court order has the same legal weight. It's two different ways to get to the same destination.

      my maiden name and I'm just using my husbands name?

      Your legal name is your husband's name.

      had no idea you had to legally go to court to change your name.

      You only have to do this when your marriage certificate isn't a viable name change document.

      For instance, if Susan Marks married Jeremy Fischer, but wants to changer her name to Susan McFischer, then a legal name change through marriage won't work. She'll have to petition the court. But if she went with Susan Fischer or Susan Fishcher-Marks, a legal name change using her marriage certificate would suffice.

      I just thought once you changed your DL and SS card you were good to go.

      Those are the principals. Afterward, all remaining government and nongovernmental documents should get updated to match.

      Now I'm curious what my legal name is!

      The name on your current social security card is your legal name. Which is the name the IRS has on file. Which is the name background checks and credit checks would reference.

      Reply
  32. Lindsay Stephanie Almanza

    Hi so I just got married in Las Vegas Nevada last week. My husband has 2 last names, his paternal and his maternal.

    When I applied for our marriage license, it would not let me choose just his paternal so I figured Oh I will change it later. Is this true? So now I am waiting for our Marriage Certificate but upset that it will not have my married name on it. I would like everything to be with my new married name.

    For example his last name Smith Jones. I wanted just Smith.
    Is that possible at all?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      it would not let me choose just his paternal so I figured Oh I will change it later. Is this true?

      It's true. You can review the Nevada name change article for an explanation of what you can and cannot change to.

      For example his last name Smith Jones. I wanted just Smith. Is that possible at all?

      No, you can't take half of your spouse's last name in Nevada.

      Reply
  33. Mary L.

    When I married I checked the box and stated I would use my spouse's last name, but never changed it at dmv, ssa, etc. And have used my maiden name during the course of my marriage. I am now getting ready to file for divorce. Do I use my maiden name and the name on all my documents in my divorce petition or do I have to use my spouse's last name which is on the marriage certificate? Macomb County, Michigan. TIA

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Do I use my maiden name and the name on all my documents in my divorce petition or do I have to use my spouse's last name which is on the marriage certificate?

      You should use your maiden name on your divorce documents (which is your current legal name) since you've never formally changed to the married name listed on your marriage certificate.

      Reply
  34. Bonnie

    I changed my SS# 30 years ago when I got married but I never changed my passport – that is still in my maiden name. I live outside the US and it was necessary to hold on to my passport & maiden name for banking etc that was set up before I got married.

    I am now separated & coming back to the USA and want to just use one name. I would prefer to take back my maiden name since it is the only government issued photo ID I have — I read on the website where it says I need to change my name legally… but since I never changed it on my passport, and only changed it on my SS# did I actually change it legally? Do I need a divorce decree to take it back or can I just change it now while we are separated?

    And since I don't currently live in the USA, can I visit social security office in any state?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      but since I never changed it on my passport, and only changed it on my SS# did I actually change it legally?

      Yes, since you changed it on your SS card.

      Do I need a divorce decree to take it back or can I just change it now while we are separated?

      You can look into the reversal option.

      And since I don't currently live in the USA, can I visit social security office in any state?

      Yes, and there are social security offices around the world.

      Reply
  35. Sam

    I’m from GA, and got married 2 years ago. I completely forgot to change my name on my drivers license, but changed it with social security.

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Hi Sam. Technically, there's a license update deadline of 60-days in Georgia following the update of your social security card. When it comes time for you to renew your driver's license, you'll have to update your name then. Sooner or later, you'll have to update it to match your social security record.

      Reply
      1. Jmc

        It that the same in Ohio sir? I thought I put a comment on here the other day but can't seem to find it or an answer. I changed my name on my SS card but haven't on anything else so I'm wondering if I have to or not? Tia.

        Reply
  36. Tam

    Hello! I’ve taken my husband’s last name on the marriage license but now I’ve decided not to take his last name anymore and keep mine. So I would do nothing and keep using my names as usual right? Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      So I would do nothing and keep using my names as usual right?

      That's right. Take no further action and your current name will remain unchanged.

      Reply
  37. Edna Braganza

    Hello I came to USA as single. I petitioned my children as single. Went to my birthplace got married. Right now am still using my birth certification last name.

    When the time comes that my children are going to write details (immigration documents) what will they put on my status. Single or married. I am married but I did not update it to USA govt.

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Hi Edna. You're not required to update your marital status with the USCIS if that's what you're asking. If you're referring to something else, please reply back and clarify.

      Reply
  38. Bella

    Hello, thank you so much for this helpful article. I am still not sure if I want to take my fiance's last name, but I want to have the option available and don't want to go through the court order process, so knowing I can do it on the marriage license/certificate and not have to apply it legally indefinitely has eased my worries so much.

    My only other concern is, I am a citizen but we are going to start the petition process for my fiance to get his green card after we get married, and I was wondering if the name change on the marriage certificate will be a problem if I use my maiden/current name on all the forms for the petition (my IDs and SSN will also not be changed). Will it matter if they don't match? Thank you so so much for your help!

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      I was wondering if the name change on the marriage certificate will be a problem if I use my maiden/current name on all the forms for the petition

      This is fine since your marriage certificate will always show your current name.

      Will it matter if they don't match?

      Depending on the state you apply to get married, the application may ask for your new name after marriage. Even in such cases, the certificate will show your old and new name. This document can serve as a link between names to explain the divergence.

      Reply
  39. Joanne

    I got married a while ago and have not changed my last name legally. Everyone knows me by my husbands last name, however work is upset with the difference between the legal and what I go by due to paperwork.

    I sign everything with my legal name since that's what is legal. I plan to change it eventually, but am worried that going by my married name and not being legally changed is wrong (I know it can be inconvenient sometimes).

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      however work is upset with the difference between the legal and what I go by due to paperwork

      However they feel, it's crucial that they use your current legal name, especially for tax purposes.

      I sign everything with my legal name since that's what is legal.

      That's proper.

      but am worried that going by my married name and not being legally changed is wrong

      It's fine, as long as you don't have trouble managing it. Some folks only use their married name in social settings with no intention to execute a legal change.

      Reply
  40. Heather

    I got all excited and changed my driver's license toy husband's name but never changed anything else. Now I want my name changed back but the DMV said they needed proof of divorce in order to change my name back to my real name. I'm not divorced or planning on divorcing. It's a pain having an id that doesn't match anything else. I just want my name back! How do I do this?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Hi Heather. DMV name change rules vary per state. The DMV you went to explains that they need a new legal name change document to process a follow-up name change. They cannot reuse your marriage certificate. So your remaining option is to petition the court for a name change and bring that court order to the DMV.

      Reply
  41. Jmc

    I got married but ONLY changed my name on my SS card. Do I have to change my name on everything else since I already did the SS card or no?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Do I have to change my name on everything else since I already did the SS card or no?

      If you intend to keep your new name, it would make sense to change it elsewhere. When it comes time to renew your driver's license or state-issued ID, it would need to match your new name. When you apply for a loan, credit card, or job, they will verify your name against your social security records. So you're delaying the inevitable.

      Reply
  42. Becky

    Long story…

    Hello. I have been divorced for several years now. I chose to keep my married name at time of divorce. I had just started the process to have my name changed back to my maiden name.

    Low and behold, my bf proposed. May I: get married, change my name to my maiden name or possibly just add the new married name in lieu of going thru the court proceedings to have my name changed back to my married name?

    For example: Current name Smith. Maiden name Brown. New husband's name Jones. May I change my name to Brown Jones?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      May I: get married, change my name to my maiden name or possibly just add the new married name in lieu of going thru the court proceedings to have my name changed back to my married name?

      That depends on the state. Could you specify which state (or country, if not in the U.S.) your marriage will take place?

      Reply
  43. Robert

    When my wife and I got married 44 years ago, she began using my last name, but never legally changed it. Even her U.S. passport has her "married" name.

    IRS and Social Security has her maiden name, but we would like to change EVERYTHING to her maiden name. How does she do a "legal" name change without changing her actual name.

    We need documentation (court order?) to change her passport, Global Entry, some credit cards, and various airline programs from her (not valid) "married name" to her legal maiden name.

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Hi Robert. Your wife is in an odd spot since she underwent a legacy name change several decades ago that would be difficult to achieve today. A court might be necessary, but you can try a non-guaranteed workaround beforehand…

      For the passport, since you can't provide a new name change document, you can try submitting a new application (Form DS-11) instead of a renewal application. Supply photo ID, proof of U.S. citizenship, and the necessary processing fees. You can update your Global Entry by appointment after updating your passport.

      For other documents, your wife can supply those entities with proof of ID in her maiden name (e.g., social security card, passport), her marriage certificate bearing her maiden name, and an explanatory letter detailing her predicament. Worst case scenario, she would have to pursue a court order to satisfy any leftovers who refuse to cooperate.

      Reply
  44. Kelly

    I got married 10 years ago, but our marriage got off to a rocky start so I never changed my name. We have been on solid ground for awhile now and I am finally ready to change my name. But on my marriage certificate I put my maiden name as my new middle name, but since have changed my mind and would rather keep my middle name as it is and only change my last name. Is there a way I can do that?

    Reply
    1. Tyrone Jones

      Hi Kelly. That could be a problem. When a new name is shown on your marriage certificate, government organizations may only honor that name.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *