Hyphenating Your Last Name After Marriage: Pros and Cons
Do you plan to hyphenate your last name after marriage? There's a vast array of name change factors that could impact your decision, beyond "does it sound good?"
This article will outline the pros and cons of hyphenating your last name, making the best choice for you and your spouse, and updating legal documents and ID cards.
The calm before the name change storm
Congratulations on deciding to get married! You're in for… okay, we can't lie. While marriage is great, the act of wedlock can overload your stress markers.
There's your wedding to plan and pull off, merging of two households (if you don't live together now), and ticking off post-marriage to-dos.
Of course, you must step back, take time to apply for your marriage license, and then determine whether it's even worth changing your last name after marriage.
Welcome to this brief hyphenated surname guide that will explain:
- What is hyphenation?
- Is it a good idea?
- Is it disrespectful?
- Will it impact your kids?
- How to legally hyphenate your name?
When the bourgeois reigned supreme
Choosing a new name after marriage can be difficult. Onetime, it was normal and expected for a wife to take her husband's last name; abandoning her original name altogether.
Polite society saw the act of keeping her maiden name taboo. Eyebrows raised straight off their faces. Shocked to discover the bride dared consider such a radical act.
But times and culture have evolved. Today, more women are deciding to keep their original names. (At least in one form or another.) And it's met with far less hostility.
Nostalgia, family, and keeping the peace
There are many reasons to keep your last name in play. (Your family legacy, for one.) Here's hoping you have a supportive spouse who understands why this idea appeals to you.
Still, the personal choice to retain your birth name may cause concern. Even if your spouse is okay with it, their family (or yours) might frown upon your pick.
The naysayers—silent, gossipy, and vocal—may declare, "How dare you commit the selfish act of retaining your original identity after marriage?"
But is there a win-win pathway? Yes, of course…
Ready, set, compromise
There are a couple of decent ways to compromise on the whole "you wanting to keep your name and your spouse hating the idea" problem.
1. Start from scratch
Many couples decide to invent a new last name to share. This way neither of you gets "your" way. You could then tackle the legalities of the name change process together.
Do you prefer to fabricate a brand new family name without precedent? Then you may have to file a court petition for a court ordered name change.
2. Hyphenate: the happy medium
The most popular compromise is to hyphenate your last name and your spouse's last name. This allows you to keep using your own surname while adopting your spouse's surname.
What is a hyphenated name?
A hyphenated name is when you join two last names with a hyphen (-). It's also known as a double surname. For example, Ms. Hall marries Mr. Miller to become Mrs. Hall-Miller.
You shouldn't conflate hyphenating with a double-barrelled surname, which has no hyphen and is more associated with using a space to separate surnames.
Hyphenation isn't limited to two names. You can hyphenate pre-hyphenated names; creating double or triple hyphens. E.g., Clark-Lee-Lopez.
Is hyphenation even legal?
Name change through hyphenation is legal. It's valid as taking your partner's last name as-is. It's no more or less lawful than any other name change through marriage.
Federal and state agencies will accept your new hyphenated name after marriage. From the social security office and passport agencies to motor vehicles, you can expect approval.
Which last name goes first when hyphenating?
Either you or your spouse's surname can come first or last when you hyphenate last names. And you should always capitalize both names in a hyphenated last name.
There's no hyphenation law or rule. But whoever opts to hyphenate their name will more often than not place their last name first. Still, you don't have to follow this custom.
For example, if Adrian Brown marries Drew Davis, the hyphenated last name could be Brown-Davis or Davis-Brown. It's up to you whose name comes first or last.
If your partner is hyphenating too, they can sync their last name sequence to equal yours, or reverse it. It's unorthodox, yet okay to have different last names.
Tip: Sign and spell out your name—both ways—on paper to make sure it flows well.
Pros! Why is hyphenation a good thing?
Compromise is the biggest reason so many people choose to hyphenate their names. You keep your identity while you honor your commitment to your new spouse.
1. Guarding achievements
Hyphenating your name is a great way to stay connected with what you've accomplished in life before getting married. (There goes the win-win we alluded to earlier.)
For example, many people choose to hyphenate their names because they've earned higher educational degrees and certifications under their maiden names.
They want their identities associated with work they've published or publicized. Losing or obscuring years of recognition for a basic change of name is an avoidable sacrifice.
The same logic applies to men who take their wives' names and same-sex couples. Sustaining your individuality and title is an understandable and sensible pursuit.
2. Bonding with my children
Hyphenating your name can be a great way to stay connected with your kids whose:
- Names are not hyphenated.
- Have been given your spouse's last name.
But you can still hyphenate your children's names to match. Ensuring your moniker will carry onto the next generation instead of ending with you.
You can further enrich the bond with your children by assigning your last name to their middle names, while keeping your name hyphenated.
3. Bucking tradition
You can take your spouse's surname as-is, or you could hyphenate it. There's no compelling reason to avoid the hyphen route, other than convention.
While name change traditions may be hard to break, they're not:
- Rooted in good sense.
- Based on any legal rationale.
- Beyond what people have just done by default.
Keeping your name and joining it to your spouse's through hyphenation is as legal and simple as just taking their name alone or not changing your name at all.
4. Linking my personal and professional identity
You'll still be you, even with a name change. But a giant reason to consider hyphenation is to preserve your profile on paper. The persona you've spent your whole life building.
Hyphenation can help bridge the gap between your personal and professional life. Providing an off-ramp if you're wary of giving up your accomplishments and name.
Further, hyphenating makes it easier for friends, family, and colleagues to transition to your newfound name since they'll have something familiar to latch onto.
Whether you're a doctor, lawyer, nurse, or other professional, name recognition among your peers and community is important. A hyphenated last name helps sustain awareness.
Cons! Why might hyphenation be a bad thing?
"I wish someone had told me these problems could've happened after hyphenating," is a future thought worth avoiding by considering the following potential shortcomings.
1. Dumb, legacy software and computer systems
Hyphenated names are harder for computers to handle. Deficient software may not recognize the hyphen as an accepted special character when you input personal information.
Apps and databases may choke—by intentional or flawed design—on non-alphabetic characters. If flexible, their character sets will allow apostrophes, hyphens, and accents.
This means you'd have to drop the hyphen or replace it with a space. Such name inconsistency can cause trouble later.
Caution: Agencies may drop your hyphen without warning; even merging your last names into one whole word instead of using a space separator.
2. Lanky, tongue-twister combination
Hyphenated last names are longer. (No kidding!) They get unwieldy if you and your spouse's surnames are already long. It could be a handful to write and a mouthful to pronounce.
You might run out of space filling out online forms that set max lengths. And paper forms too. Chiefly form fields with those restrictive, compartmentalized boxes.
3. Complainers, misogynists, and zealots
If outside opinions matter to you, know that large swaths of today's society consider hyphenated names annoying.
These sourpusses find it "snobby." Other cranks get irritated because they can't remember which last name they're supposed to say first.
Traditionalists believe that not accepting your spouse's last name alone (especially husband and wife) is an enormous sign of contempt and a lack of commitment.
And complainers may take offense over the hassle of figuring out your name; most often when they ask for its spelling. As if your goal was to inconvenience them.
4. Angry, old-school spouse
Your spouse might consider hyphenation disrespectful. Orthodox or conservative views may believe it's "right" for a woman to take her husband's name; even if she feels otherwise.
Whether your spouse insists on your legally adopting their current last name throws a red flag or not, it's still something you should take into consideration.
5. Negative affect on children
Here's a common worry among parents:
- I'm hyphenated.
- My child is unhyphenated.
- Will my child become confused or frustrated?
Even kids with hyphenated names might become flummoxed or self-conscious when they're older and start making friends whose names aren't hyphenated.
Mom, why'd you do this to me?Vexed youngster or adolescent.
Is the above question something you'll want to answer or imagine your son or daughter struggling to reconcile in silence?
And what happens if your child grows up and marries someone with a hyphen in their name? Will they face the prospect of hyphens atop hyphens?
These are genuine worries. But kids are tough. Upon entering adulthood, they may grow to appreciate the bond to family you've given them through their hyphenated name.
How do you hyphenate a married name?
Deciding to hyphenate your name is one thing. Applying it to your new social security card, driver's license, and official paperwork is another. Learning "how to" is your next step…
- Apply for your marriage license.
- Get married.
- Get your marriage certificate.
- Notify the Social Security Administration, DMV, etc.
When applying to marry, the marriage license application may ask for your new name after marriage. Fill it in so it'll show up on your marriage certificate.
If the marriage form had no spot for a new name, your marriage certificate is okay for name change. If you're unsure, a missing married name on your certificate could jam you.
When you get a certified copy of your marriage certificate, start by changing the name on your social security card. Then update your driver's license (or REAL ID) and passport.
And don't forget to update your:
- Doctor's office
- Professional licenses
- Customers and clients
- Social media profiles
- Voter registration
- Bank accounts
- Credit cards
- Among other records
Preorder certified copies of your marriage certificate—the name change legal document—when applying for a marriage license, as it's often separate from the marriage fee.
Alternatives to hyphenation
Are you decided on name change, but not 100% on hyphenation? Here are a few alternative name change options to consider.
1. No name change
If you're not sure that hyphenation—or any other name shift—fits your profile, name change may not be right for you. You can keep your maiden name as your legal name.
There's no right or wrong answer, whatever you decide. It's better to wait and be correct, then rush and panic to undo your legal name change.
2. Take my spouse's name
You can go the traditional route and just replace your last name with your spouse's last name. Most women choose it as their default.
Taking your mate's surname alone remains the reigning name change champ. It's a good, sober choice, in no danger of being dethroned.
3. Maiden name to middle name
Replacing your middle name with your maiden name is a popular choice. It's a great substitute to hyphenating your name. The end results are very similar.
It keeps your last name active while evading many of the pitfalls of hyphenation. But you'd have to ditch your current middle name, which could be tough to surrender.
4. Continue using my maiden name socially
There's nothing stopping you from changing your name while still using your maiden name on an informal or professional basis. You could even DBA your current name.
It's not the name you'd use for legal documents, tax filings, or job applications; those demand your true legal name. But amongst your family, pals, and coworkers, where's the harm?
In conclusion (or what it all boils down to!)
There are private and professional reasons to weigh when hyphenating your last name. The question is whether you're willing to compromise beyond your original last name.
Hyphenation is the epitome of a compromise. One spouse wants a complete name change. The other wants no change. Joining names allows both to "win" the argument (a bit).
Whether you keep your name or hyphenate your surnames, what matters is that you love each other and are going to be wed—hopefully for the rest of your lives.
Hi. I am married with children and never formally changed my name but sometimes use the hyphenated version of my maiden-married name. I’m purchasing family address labels and have this question. My hyphenated name is long can I abbreviate my maiden name and use my full last name. So if my name is Sunny Johnson-Rhodes can I purchase the stamp in this format…
“The J.-Rhodes Family”
Hi Senait. If you're usage is informal, then you can do whatever you prefer.
If I hyphenate my maiden and married name, will I have to change everything or could I keep just my maiden name on everything?
Hi Coleen. If you're just hyphenating your name on your marriage license/certificate, then it wouldn't actually change anything until you go through the steps of contacting various government entities about your new name change.
I got married last year, december. Almost of my records have my hyphenated surname but when I tried using it on TIN, the computer won't allow such, what my HR did is connect my surname and husband's without space. Do you think it will affect my records in the future?
Hi VJ. The computer should have accepted it as the hyphen is an acceptable character for a TIN's name control.
Hi so for mine I have my last name and and husband. My question is do when I sign for anyrhing do I put both last names or can I just sign my first and his last name
Hi Jess. Sign the full surname on legal and government documents, and use your best judgment for more informal situations. If you suspect the name you provide to be queried against a government database, use your full legal name.
Since I hyphenated my last name should I leave blank the space in filling out forms that say "Middle Initial"?
Hi Lourdes. Your middle initial is the first letter of your middle name. It doesn't have anything to do with your hyphenated surname.
Hello, I got married and my last name is hyphened because I didn’t want to go through the hassle of changing my name on all my documents (passport, DL, SS, etc.) I would like to know if when I’m filling out forms can I choose to use either last name if I don’t feel like using both (maiden and surname) ? For example; my husband is adding me to his health insurance, can I just use my first name and his last name without adding my maiden name even though it is hyphened? Thanks
Hi Velisha. You'll have to use your full legal name. You can only pick and choose in informal situations.
So, is it more common these days to have two last names instead of the hyphen? What percentage of women have two last names? My married name will be either:
Rachel Winchester Einertson
I am wondering what version most women do today who do not change to just the husband’s last name. I read the article, and I know about the computer difficulty with hyphen. Thank you!
Hi Rachel. Space-separated last names are less prominent than hyphenated names because not all states easily allow a change of the prior—using a certified copy of a marriage certificate—the way they all do for the latter.
I got married in 2009, changed my name in 2010- just on my social security card and at work… my first name, middle maiden-husband's name. This is causing lots of trouble ( recently anxiety) and I am fed up with it. My "full name" doesn't fit on my bank card so it has first name and married name, insurance has me as the same. The decision to hyphenate was to follow my father's wishes, dumb thing to do. How do I go about dropping my maiden name? How much would it coast? I live in Pa.
You'd submit a name change petition in your county's Court of Common Pleas. It'll cost approximately $100 to $300.
Hi: My current last name is hyphenated but it's long and people tend to have so much trouble pronouncing not only my maiden name but especially my married name (husband's last name). So now I'm considering changing it to where it will be my first name, initial (only of my maiden name) and married name. So it will be: Cxxxie D. Lxxxxxxx. My current SS card, DL, and passport all have the hyphenated name, do I need to apply for new ones? I don't need to go to court, do I? Thank you.
BTW, I reside in California.
Yes, you would have to apply for new ones. And, yes, you would have to go to court first.
Hi my name is queenet, I married since two years ago my husband is in my country I'm in Maryland and I'm pregnant how can I change to my husband name because I want my husband name to appear as my last name in my child birth certificate and also my husband name to appear in away child name.
Hi Queenet. You'd use a certified copy of your marriage certificate to fulfill a name change.
So I'll be getting married next year and I'm the lady sibling with my father's name. My partner is the lady daughter with her father's last name. We're both considering keeping our last names but i see in this aerial we can hyphenate with her last name then mine for myself. What all needs to be done. Getting married in Vegas but reside inn NM.
Hi Sylvia. You'll just need to use a certified copy of your marriage certificate to hyphenate.
Thank you for blessing us with your time and pertinent information. My story is as follows:
My name based on my Mexican birth certificate: First Name Father's Last Name Mother's Maiden Name (no hyphenation).
Name on other forms of legal documents (i.e., SSN, DL in CA): First Name Hyphenated Father's Last Name-Mother's Maiden Name (last name was hyphenated when I got my first passport because I had two separate last names as is typical in the Hispanic culture/tradition, where father's last name comes first and then mother's maiden name).
Now that I'm getting married in less than a week, I decided to keep every part of my birth name and add my fiance's last name. This is how it's on my marriage license as of now: First Name Mother's Maiden Name Hyphenated Father's Last Name-Fiance's Last Name (my Full Last Name begins with Mother's Maiden Name: S… M……..-H…). My question is, can I sign with my First Name and Fiance's Last Name only on all documents? If so, when I am filling out information online, can I also put down First Name and Fiance's Last Name or if not, what will I need to put down? If I need to sign otherwise, what will that be?
Thank you in advance for your help!
Hi Adriana. You would enter or sign your full last name on all legal or government documents. Anything with a legal context should use your full surname. Sign how you prefer in non-legal/government contexts.
My 1st husband passed away years ago, I got remarried but have 2 young children from late husband. My son's biggest worry about me getting remarried is that I would have a different last name than them. I don't want to hurt my son but would also like to honor my husband and our marriage by taking his last name. Any ideas on what you think would be best.
Victoria J Clark Trower
Hi Victoria. You can consider hyphenating. Depending on the state, you may be able to take your late husband's last name as your middle name or current's husband's surname as a middle. You can also choose to take your current's husbands name informally, while keeping your official identity documents in your late husband's name.
I just read all of this information for a good 45 minutes. I have no questions but a great big thank you for all of your useful information.
Thanks for visiting.
When my husband and I got married over 5 years ago I hyphenated my name, kept my maiden and added his last name, now I would like to drop my maiden name and just have his last name. Would I just go back to the social security office to do that or do I have to petition for a name change now? I live in Arizona, would you happen to know what I would need to do? Thank you!!
You'd have to petition for a name change. You can review the Arizona name change page for how to go about it.
I was born and married overseas and got the US citizenship. Our child was born in the same country and got a certificate of citizenship. Our last name on marriage certificate and our child's birth certificate (issued by foreign country) is hyphenated but on our certificate of naturalization / certificate of citizenship is not hyphenated.
USCIS told us that they are using old programs and do not support the hyphen. All our other documents(driving license, US passport, social security card) were issued with non-hyphenated last name.(ex. instead of Smith-Armstrong shows Smith Armstrong). We had no problems so far but I'm worry about my child (minor child) in the future because the hyphen is missing and looks like we have 2 last name.
What should I do and where can be an issue in his future? To change the name I do not want because the certificates of naturalization are very expensive. This problem is stressing me so much.
Thank you in advance and much appreciated!!
Hi Lara. Your child does have a birth certificate with the hyphenated name, which is a significant document. It can be used to verify identity as long as it's the original copy or a certified copy.
Hi Valera, thank you for the answer. I have few more questions:
Is the hyphen considered a legitimate part of the name?
I'm assuming that if all our documents were issued without hyphenated name it should be okay.
Yes, it's considered a genuine part of your name, as any other alphabetic character.
I recently applied for a SSC. I got the receipt stating my SSC will be in the mail. (Besides the point) On the receipt it has my first name, middle name, Maiden name, then married name. No dash or "hyphen".
IE: First Middle Maiden Married
Do you know if this receipt reflects how my name will be on my SSC? If so how do I go about changing doc's to reflect my new last name even though there is no hyphen.
Because there might not be a hyphen, what name do I use legally? Can I use either last name or still use both?
IE: First Maiden or First Married
My signature is totally illegible anyway, but do I need to change that?
If you specified a hyphen, the actual card should contain the hyphen. If not, you can contact them for a correction.
You'd use your marriage certificate, not your SS card.
The name on your SS record, but if it's in error, you can seek a correction.
Both should be used in legal contexts. In other contexts, you can choose to use it as you wish.
The idiots at the DMV hyphenated my wife's name backwards. Jones-Smith instead of Smith-Jones. She tried in vain to get them to change it back, but they were too dense to figure out how to do that. It was many years ago and this mistake has propagated through many other documents in our lives. Occasionally, we are asked to prove that we're married. I suspect in part that's because I'm white and she is black. I'm scared to death that one day she'll be in an emergency room and I'll be challenged to "prove that you're married before treatment can be authorized".
I want to hyphenate my maiden name with my husband's last name but an SSA rep told me over the phone that they do not print hyphens on social security cards because it is not "supported by the system" and instead the hyphen is replaced with a space. It is really important for me (for professional reasons) to have one last name, with my maiden name first. What should I do in order to successfully hyphenate my last name?
Hi Rose. A hyphen not being printed on your card doens't mean your hyphenated name isn't stored internally in its hyphenated form.
I am getting married in September and was wondering about what to put on the marriage license/certificate. I live in New Mexico. Particularly like my fiancé’s last name and I am unbelievably connected to my maiden name. However, I would like for us to be connected in our names and for our children to be connected as well. Do you know if New Mexico supports two last names that are spaced instead of hyphenated? Currently my name is Jennifer Jean Rex. His last name is McNair. So I was thinking to change it to Jennifer Jean Rex McNair. I’d prefer to pass the two last names down to our children not Hyphenated. Is this possible or do I have to hyphenate them?
Hi Jenny. I don't believe that option is supported.
Hello, I live in TN and will be getting married soon. My fiance wants me to take his last name or at least hyphenate our names. However, due to professional achievements, licenses, etc. I would like to keep my current last name from a prior marriage.
If I hyphenate my last-his last, will I still be able to be recognized by my current last name or will I have to change all professional licenses to the hyphenated form? Or, is it possible to have the hyphenated name on the marriage certificate only and continue to use my current last name on all legal documents, licenses, etc?
Depending on your industry, you may have to update your licenses, or at least notify the necessary boards (or equivalent) of your name change.
That's an option. To use the hyphenated name informally while not actually changing it on any official document.
Hi, I live in Florida and I have been married for 10 years using my maiden name.
I now want to hyphenate my maiden and my husband's last name, do I need a court order in order to do so?
No, just a certified copy of your marriage certificate.
Hello, I live in Mississippi. When I married 35 years ago, I moved my maiden name to my middle name and took his name. (ie Margaret Marie Smith became Marie Smith Brown). We had two children together (last name is Brown). He passed away a couple of years ago and now I am about to remarry. There will be no additional children.
I am planning to drop my just drop my maiden name and move my current last name to that spot and add his last name as mine. (Marie Brown Jones). (For professional reasons PLUS his ex-wife's name is MARY JONES. I am concerned that Marie Jones and Mary Jones will become confused (for bills, police records, medical records etc) and personal information could become merged by people just assuming that the name is misspelled).
I want to keep using both last names so I am trying to decide whether to hyphenate or not.
If I put my hyphenated name on the marriage license/certificate does that mean that HE ALSO has to use the hyphenated name?
If I do not hyphenate but use the new last name with my current last name as my middle name, will I be okay using my same Drivers license, Passport, Social Security etc?
It's possible. Good observation.
Mississippi marriage license applications, licenses, and certificates don't provide spaces to specify a new last name, so it's irrelevant.
If you don't change any of those documents, then your name hasn't actually changed. You'll still be Marie Smith Brown after your upcoming marriage.
I live in New York state and I got married back in 2015 and hyphenated my name but never changed it because I have always used the name on my social security card and all my legal documents for courts and school stuff. I guess my question here is can I get into trouble for that? I have been told that just because I hyphenate it doesn't mean I had to change it or use my name and my partners name.
I take it the hyphenation only appears on your marriage certificate. No, you cannot get into trouble for not formally hyphenating your name across credentials to match your certificate.
You were told correctly.
I got married and want to keep my old last name and add my new one without a hyphen, while keeping my first and middle name. No issue at SSA…my card reads first middle last1 then space then last2. The issue is I went to the Michigan DMV and had a huge issue. They say their computers will not allow 4 names and when she tried to enter my 2 last names without a hyphen the system added a hyphen. What can I do? Now I have a Mia-match. Help!
Hi Dana. There's not much you can do in this situation. It's a limitation of their system.
Hello I have a few questions so my first is if you got married and you put on the marriage license his current address and your current address that's on the nys license is that a problem? or were you supposed to put the address u want to live together? Another question is the surname I put his last name but never hyphenated it and I never change it on ss Ids or job tax etc. so does that mean I can't collect ss from him if God forbid in the future he passes or I pass away? Lastly can ifI want to change the surname and get it hyphenated would that be a problem in th state of NYC?
Your current address is proper.
It makes no difference one way or the other.
If that's what's specified on your license and certificate, it wouldn't be a problem.
I live in Utah. I was married 3 weeks ago. I want my name to be "First, Middle, Maiden, His last" with no hyphen. I can't find anywhere if Utah will allow me to have a double barrelled surname. Do you happen to know?
Thank you for your time!
Hi Rachel. I don't believe that's a supported option in Utah.
If I hyphenate my last name and my husband's name , must he also do same and must my children have hyphenated last name
Hi Kris. You can hyphenate in isolation.
I am divorced (after 27 years and 5 children) and haven't taken back my maiden name. I am getting married next year and want to continue using my current name from my first marriage (it's the same as my children) but still establish a connection with my soon to be husbands family name. If I check the box on the form that says I will take my new husbands name do I have to change all my documents (DMV/SSN/ Passport) or can I continue using my current name?
No, you don't have to commit to any change. You can keep on using your prior husband's name.
I will be getting married in California (currently living in Colorado) and feel strongly attached to my maiden last name. However, I am thinking about adding my fiance's last name to mine in a hyphenated form. I currently have a hyphenated last name due to father and mothers last name, so my name is, for example, Janet Smith-Jones. My fiance's last name is Ramirez. Can I change my name to Janet Smith-Ramirez only on my marriage certificate without having to change it across all government entities (SSA, DMV etc). I don't want to deal with the hassle of having to change it legally. Will I still be able to use my birth/maiden documents without getting new ones?
Also, since I don't want to change it legally and only have it appear on my marriage certificate, can I still continue to use my birth/maiden name (Janet Smith-Jones) without any repercussion? For example, when filling taxes as married filling jointly or for jobs etc.
I had the same question and I wonder, if I don’t change it legally on my DL/SSC/Passport, would I be able to collect SS if (God forbid) my husband passed away? I also live in California.
Also, if I use a space rather than hyphenate our last names on the marriage certificate, do I have to change it across all government entities (SSA, DMV etc)?
Thank you in advance!
Your social security benefits won't get affects whether or not you change your name.
Name change is not mandatory, even if your marriage certificate cites a new name.
Hi, I’m getting married soon and want to hyphenate my last name because I have a daughter from a previous relationship with my maiden name as her last name. I want to do Maiden-Married legally, but just go by Mrs. Married. Is that possible? Or would I have to use the full hyphenated name? Or is it easier if I move it to the middle as 2 middle names? I don’t want to drop my name at all.
You can go by Maiden-Married formally and Mrs. Married informally and in social settings.
Just in official or legal situations.
Two middle names isn't well supported as a form of name change through marriage.
Hi. Im in SC and I want to hyphenate my name with my husband's but on my license they only put my married name and my SS still has my maiden name what steps would I need to take to correct my license? Would I need to go through family court or is there a different Option? And if I use the hyphen would I need to change my SS or could I just leave it in my maiden name?
Thanks in advance,
You'll have to contact the probate court where you got your license to seek a correction.
You can leave it in your maiden name.
How do you write a hyphenated last name when filling a form like social security.
Myers is my surname and Jones is my husband's name.
You'd use a dash. Are you having trouble with a particular form that's not allowing it?
My fiancé and I are getting married in April. Currently waiting on a call back from social security regarding this question. My issue is I have a ton of certifications in my maiden name; therefore, if I hyphenate my last name with my maiden and married name (Holcombe-Matthews) can I use either or last name on legal documents. Ex. all my certifications and prior credit cards, bank account is in my maiden name, so if I get on the marriage certificate the hyphenated name and go and switch my social security card to the hyphenated name can I keep all my other certifications as my maiden name and it will still be valid?
Your legal name should go on legal documents.
That depends on the regulations of your state and entities which govern your licenses. You'll have to contact them to determine if they mandate reissuing licenses or if they just require internal notification without reissuance.
You can inquire if the use of an alias is acceptable and how to register it.
I am legally married 25 years but separated. Will divorce one day. I’m seeking to add my maiden name to my married name, so it’s hyphenated. I’d like to use it. What steps are needed to do so?
Hi Robin. You'd have to file a court petition.
My fiancé’s last name is hyphenated. I am not sure if I would have to take both of his last names or just the last one.
You may or may not. It depends on the state. Would you care to share your state of residency?
Back when I got married in Florida I took my wife's last name. But the court wouldn't let me do it the traditional way. I had to actually file for a regular name change separate from the marriage application. Then once my name change was finalized I was able to get married. So for a while I had my wife's last name while still technically single. Of course this was back in the nineties so I don't know if things have changed any since then. It's just that at the time I thought it was silly that my wife could change hers as part of the marriage arrangements and I had to do mine separately before we even got married.
We were very young kids when we got married. I took her name and loved it because I never liked my own name. We've been divorced now since 2008 and I've kept her name all this time because I still love it and we are still close. But as I've gotten older I started feeling bad about losing the family name. So lately I've been thinking of hyphenating to two names together. If I do this, can I continue to use just the one name legally on my driver's license, passport and bank account? In other words after I hyphenate can I just keep everything the way they are and still be legal?
If you're talking about getting a court-ordered name change, it's nonbinding. You can petition the court and not follow through. In that case, your name wouldn't change.
Hi. I got married in 2016 in Hawaii to my husband. His name is hyphenated with his mother’s and fathers last names. He wanted to drop one of his last names but there wasn’t enough time between the decision and getting married.
So I originally was going to change my name to just one of his last names (the one he was gonna keep) and he would just change it after the wedding so we would have the same last name. However, I got freaked out last minute and after we already had the marriage certificate done, we called the officiant and he changed my declared surname to my maiden name, so I did not change my name.
Now, 3 years later we are gonna have a baby and he wants to change his name like we originally planned. His dropping one last name of his hyphenated name.
I plan to take his last name that he chooses and hyphenate it with mine. Is there anyway that I can do this without a court petition, or do I have to go through the courts?
Also does he have to go through the courts to drop part of his hyphenated name?
If I decide to not hyphenate my name and just take his last name, do I have to go through the courts, since it was the original decision to change to part of his hyphenated name but changed after the ceremony by the officiant to be my maiden name instead?
If I do decide to change my last name to a hyphenated of his soon to be one part of his last name and my maiden name, do I have to change my DL, passport, bank, credit cards and social security card?
If I do not hyphenate, and I chose to just fully take his new one part last name, will I have to do the changes for DL, passport, bank, credit cards and social security card?
Hawaii's name change statutes says your middle or last name can be "any combination" of either's current or prior middle name or last name, but it doesn't say anything about taking a portion of a name.
You'll have to go to court.
Yes, he has to go to court.
Changing to something other than the declared name on your marriage certificate could be a problem. You may find success with one agency and get turned down by another.
Whether by court order or marriage certificate, you don't actually have to update any document.
Same answer as above.
Well the declared surname on my license and certificate was his last name but then our officiant put in an amendment to use my maiden name as my declared surname, so can I just go back and have them take away the amendment and issue a new marriage certificate with his last name or do I have to go through the court change because the officiant put in the amendment? I declared that I would take his last name but changed my mind and the officiant put in the amendment.
So then if I took his last name would I have to go through courts for it since it was originally my declared surname. So then I wouldn’t actually be changing what was declared right? Or since I did the amendment, I now have to do a name change through the courts? Would that be a legal change that I would have to change my documents for? If I take his last name that he changes it to?
You you call Hawaii's vital records department about the possibility of amending your marriage certificate and its viability for changing your name afterward.
You can try changing your name through the Hawaii secretary of state office. There's a minor filing fee and a little legwork involved.
An interesting and unspoken issue related to name change. My wife of 30+ years and I have different last names. She had previously been married and while a paralegal and her law firm she changed her name back to her original last name.
On the birth of our first child, my mother came to the hospital to see her first grandchild by birth, my brothers kid was adopted. Hospitals maintain and register the child under the admitted patient's last name so our child in the nursery was the mothers last name baby.
My mother came to the hospital and looked in the nursery window. There was no my last name baby, among the newborns was our child, in the bassinet under the name of his mother's last name.
Mom comes down the hall, and on seeing me exclaimed, "where is Adam, my grand child." I simply said in the nursery. We went down the hall and in the nursery bassinet, was Adam. On it it read her last name. Mom in a concerned voice proclaimed , " he is a King, isn't he?" I said yes but, in order to keep track of the child to admitted mother patient, the baby is kept, while in the hospital, under the admitted patient/mother's name.
Just be aware, the whole last name thing is generational/traditional and comes with several things you may not anticipate. School is another, mother access to child and/or information to a dissimilar last named parent can be difficult or at the least interesting.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
Hyphenated names are retarded. IF everyone had hyphenated names, within 3 generations, you'd have 8 word surnames. There's a reason we have the tradition in place. Choose one and stick with it
My fiancé has a hyphenated last name. When we get married, do I have to take both or do I get to pick which last name I want?
His last name is Arrington-Whatley. I only want Arrington.
We live in Texas.
Thank you for your help!
Hi Meagan. You'd have to take both names.
I live in California. I got married a few months ago and I haven't started the process of changing my name yet because my children from my first marriage is having a hard time with the thought of having a mom with a different last name then them. I kept my married name after the divorce because I was also worried about the problems we would face with having different last names.
I'm look at my opinions if I should hyphenated the two names or in a past comment you talked about having two last names or what is the difference between these two options. Also when we got married I put on the certificate as if I only took my husband last name. Will that cause problems since I am second geasing my discussion?
Option #1: Hyphenate. Example: Mandy Hamilton-Williams or Mandy Williams-Hamilton
Option #2: Space-separated surname. Example: Mandy Hamilton Williams or Mandy Williams Hamilton
On paper, option #2 may cause people to confuse the initial last name as the middle name. For some people, this may be a preferred side effect.
Yes. You may only change your last name through marriage with the new last name specified on the marriage certificate.
Since you may not retroactively amend the certificate, you'll have to go through a court-petitioned name change to hyphenate or attain dual last names.
I just recently went the to DMV to change mine and my wife’s names to hyphenated version of both of ours. It is legally changed through SS but they told me that since my name is last, I cannot do that because my maiden name has to be first and that they don’t work with SS and that SS is wrong… That I have to be ‘taking’ someone’s last name to hyphenate. Is this true? The state is Illinois. Any info helps as I can’t find much online stating this is true.
Hi Anna. I'm not clear on which combination you've chosen: old last name, maiden name, spouse's old last name, spouse's maiden name. Please clarify.
Got married on the 22nd of this month, will have Hyphenated last name on mrraige license… Do to the hassle of changing last name on all gov't /legal forms, I've decided to wait to do it formally with agencies. Will this be a problem in the future? Or having my marriage certificate be good enough once I decide to make the formal change?
It won't be a problem.
Yes, the process will be the same if and when you decide to change.
My wife moved back to puerto rico and now she has a social security card in both last names , maiden and my last name , no hyphen when we got married she changed her name legally to my last name name she goes to school in puerto rico under her maiden name is this legal?
Hi Ameen. If both social security cards have the same number, then one's just an old copy. If she has two numbers, then that'll have to be corrected at her closest SSA office.
Hi. I'm divorced, recently got married and kept my former husband's name because of my children. I don't know if I made a mistake because I used my first name, my new husband's last name and hyphenated it with my previous husband's last name. Can I do that? or will it look as if I'm still married to my previous husband?
Yes, you can.
The name may match your ex-husband's, but it is your name. Your identity. There's no right or wrong about keeping a prior spouse's name. You'll have to choose whichever you're most comfortable with.
I will be getting married in July of this year and wanted to hyphenate my name. We both have nine letter in our name so it would be really long. Do you know if this would be allowed? Or is there a requirement to how long a name can be?
Hi Gina. There is no maximum length requirement.
I live in Florida. I got divorced in 2001 and took back my maiden name by court order (Smith). I got remarried in 2004 to Jones but my marriage license has my maiden name on it — like others I did not know I could write my new married name in the space.
I went to SSA with my marriage license and changed my name to Susan Marie Smith Jones. No hyphen. Over the years I started hyphenating my last name on everything on my own (Smith-Jones) although no official name change was done.
My passport was issued with Smith-Jones and until recently my D/L was Susan Smith Jones. Now I want to remove the Smith- (maiden name and hyphen) and just make my name Susan Marie Jones.
Do I need to do a name change petition, fingerprints and background? Seems stupid since my name isn't really changing.
Yes, all of that.
Even removing one letter is considered a change.
My husband's ex-wife didn't change her last name after their divorce. Now, she had recently remarried, and had decided to STILL keep my husband's name and hyphenate with her new husband's name. Out of curiosity… Is this a new trend? Appropriate? Socially acceptable?
There can be several reasons why she chose to maintain her name. There's no right or wrong, good or bad, or typical use case. It's certainly lawful.
Hi, my last name is already a hyphenated one, how can I still keep it and also use my husband’s last name. We are both Nigerians.
How about a double hyphenation?
That will be too complicated.
Hi Omon. How about replacing your middle name with your pre-marriage hyphenated surname?
Of course, we're just talking about formatting and not getting into if this can be implemented through marriage or some other means, such as the courts. The latter depends on your residency, where your marriage took place, and if you've already changed your name to something you didn't like.
Hi I have a question, what if I already legally changed my last name after marriage, it's been 4 years and my husband has argued about that for 4 years! He hates it , is there a way I can drop my maiden name from my last name to just keep his last name?
Since you've already changed your name after marriage, you'll have to go to court to do it again for the same marriage.
I just got married. My name is Mary B. Smith and I just took my husbands last name Jones. I hyphenated with SSA. Legally I'm Mary B. Smith-Jones. We live in Wisconsin. We are expecting. My question is when our child is born, am I able to use my husband's last name on our child's birth certificate? I don't need for my child to carry my maiden name.
Yes, it's up to you.
I have another question. In Wisconsin, they recently change their policy for marriage license. Marriage license no longer includes Bride's option to change last name. They told us that I now have to apply to SSA to change my last name.
With that said, I read some threads on this site people were having problems with the DMV. Will that be an issue for me? I checked their website and it requires for me to change my name first at SSA than wait 48 hours in order for them to see the change.
I must still bring in a copy of my marriage license but that only shows proof of marriage not name change.
You should be fine.
Yes, still bring your certificate, as it signifies a name change event. It doesn't have to show a new name. This is standard operating procedure in most states.
I got married about 3 years ago, and have regretted not hyphenating since I am pursuing my doctoral degree and my own professional career. I would like to hyphenate, but I don't know where to begin. I've heard that in order to hyphenate after marriage, you need to do a court-petitioned name change versus the standard procedure of just bringing in your marriage certificate and birth certificate to the social security office and DMV.
Is there a difference, or do I just go about it as I did when I first got married? Would the name change kit that you offer work for this, or would I need to go through the court petition process?
If the name change kit does work, how does it work? When I first changed my name, I did it all myself by walking into the offices and got my new documentation through that venue, and then went through the process of changing my name at my work, school, etc. How does/would the name change kit factor into that?
Hi Natasha. If you've already changed your name after marriage, you'd have to get a court order to change it again while still married. The kit is used in conjunction with a document that signifies a name change event, such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order.
Hey I’m a Florida resident and I was wondering if I take my future husbands name on the marriage certificate do I have to change it at the social security office and on my license?
No, you do not.
Hi Valera! I was married 05/12/18 and have not changed my last name yet. I want to hyphenate mine with my maiden and husbands to Hochberg-Neill. We were married in Utah but were just relocated to Idaho. Do I need to submit the court petition for the name change through Utah or Idaho? Thank you :)
You don't need to petition the court to change your last name. Just use your Utah marriage certificate in Idaho.
I am from California. I got married almost two years ago, my wife and I decided to keep both our last names but with didn’t include the hyphen. Now we changed our minds and want to include it. Would that be a problem? And if it is possible to do it, can I get it done by using the Marriage Name Change Kit for both of us ? Thanks
In California, you'll only be able to change your name through marriage to what's precisely specified on your marriage certificate. Beyond that, you'll have to petition the court.
If hyphenate my maiden name with my husband's name, what would be my middle name then? Or is it necessary to put my middle name?
Your middle name would remain the same.
Put it on what? Please clarify.
Can I hyphenate a married man to a new married name and drop maiden name in N.Y?
Hi Dawn. I'm not sure what you mean. Could you provide an example?
My husband does not want a divorce, although I do. I do not want his last name any more, more so than wanting to be divorced. I looked up the 'hassle' and cost of changing my last name back to my maiden name. However, could I use: First, Maiden-Married without legally changing my last name to this, since my maiden name is on my 'records' as my original surname?
That wouldn't be considered your legal name. It could only be used informally.
I would like to go back to adding back my son's last name and add my now married name ,how do I go about getting this done
Hi Rhonda. Are you talking about performing two names changes: one for you and one for your son? Could you provide an anonymized Jane Doe, before an after name example of what you're looking to achieve?
Non Hyphenated Last Names
In the state of Wisconsin could someone tell me that if I chose to take my future husbands last name along with my current last name and omit the hyphen…..do I have to go thru a formal name change. I want to try and avoid changing all of government, banking and various documents and be able to use the two interchangeably. Could you guide me in the right direction. Thank you.
This is possible through marriage with the SSA, but not the DMV.
You don't have to go through any name change. The Wisconsin marriage license application doesn't provide a space to choose a last name anyway, so it's not as though a record will exist of your new name preference.
If you were to change your name as proposed, your legal name would be the full name. For government-purposes, taxes, credit card or job applications, or anything formal, you'd have to use both names with the space. For informal situations, use it interchangeably if you wish.
I was under the assumation that if you hypenate you can use either last name. I maintained my maiden name because my son's last name is my maiden name. My first daughter has my husbands last name so when we got married I said I would hypenate so I'd carry both of my children's name.
Currently I cannot remember what I wrote on my marriage certificate but I did get my name changed on my license. I never changed it with SSN because my name is now extremely long and it didn't fit with just my full maiden name.
On our joint income taxes my hypenated name is listed. My question is because I changed it on my state license but not with the SS office is that illegal?
Only informally. You have but one true legal last name.
Not at all.
Thank you!!! You are amazing!!! :o)
My question is if my future husband's last name is already hyphenated when we get married which name am i supposed to take?
Hi Danni. Depending on the state, you either must take it all or you may choose a subset. Would you care to share the state for a more exact answer?
I got married 2 yrs ago and my name is written as First name middle maiden- married on my marriage certificate. I was able to change it successfully on SS, DMV and bank documents however my husband is in military so I had to get a dependent ID card … they put my name as First name middle Married- maiden ( incorrect order). My husband was told this was OK but I don’t think so because it’s incorrect order… is this OK?
Hi Suzette. What do they mean by "Ok?" That's pretty vague. Your name is incorrectly listed and you're entitled to seek a correction and reissued ID.
I am divorced with 2 kids. I took my ex husbands name. I kept it after the divorce. I am getting married in October. My fiancé wants me to take his name and my son is upset about me not keeping their last name. Would it be ok to hyphenate my ex’s name with my new name?
Yes, that's allowed and valid.
If I added my husbands name at the end of my maiden last name and spaced it and are now married can I change it to hyphenate it or do I need to go through the court to do that!?
Hi Amanda. You'd have to go to court to effect a second name change.
I got married a month ago. My husband being born in Puerto Rico, his parents added both surnames( Fathers and mothers last name)on his birth certificate. We both agree that I would take just his father's last name. Is this possible? and will this affect me in the future when taking out passports? We live in Florida and have tried to change his birth certificate but in Puerto Rico, he has to submit a petition and see a judge.
Hi Kassandra. You wouldn't be able to take just half of his last name. At least, not using your marriage certificate. It's seen as one whole name.
I got married this April and my husband's name is Peter Atta Okpeh. We decided that I and the kids will take his middle name and last name as our surname, so that means my name will be Mrs Margaret fiyin Atta-Okpeh. The kids will be Soteria Ochanya Atta-Okpeh. I hope this would not cause any problem whatsoever in future for myself or the kids.
Are you certain this name change is possible for you through marriage? Beyond that, I don't foresee any problems as long as your name changes are executed legally.
Hi, I got married in Illinois in 2012. I'm German citizen and permanent US resident and my husband is US citizen. We've been living in WA State since 2013.
We never did an "official" name change, I just took his last name Schneider. Now we wanted to apply for a German passport for our son and I have to bring proper documentation about my name change in the German registry due to marriage. So legally I'm still a Henschel, not Schneider.
Now we have the option to choose American or German law. For the German law, only I can hyphenate my name to Henschel-Schneider and my husband can't. (as far as I understood)
After both of my parents passed away and my family history connected to my maiden name, I'd rather keep my maiden name and have my son also officially use it as he will continue the legacy with him passing it on (hopefully) ;). He'd be fine with it.
I guess my question is, with comparing the laws, the American law seems to be not as strict with choosing the last name and we could all just start using Henschel-Schneider altogether by common law and change it with all necessary authorities?
Or can we all choose, like me Henschel-Schneider and my husband keeps Schneider. I'd be thankful for clarification and your help to learn what our options are. Thank you very much!
You can change your son's name by court petition. You can review the name change in Washington article for details on how to do this for children.
You can do that using your marriage certificate. Your husband must petition the court.
Yes, that would work.
Hi, I’m married 2years now but I did drop my last name and now want it back to be added to my married name. I am waiting on USCIS to contact me for green card interview the name they have is my married name, I got medical insurance and I let them put it in my maiden and married name.
Should I let them change it to my married name since I have to present my insurance card at my green card interview? Then change my drivers license, ss and everything else after I got the green card and send back to USCIS for a name change on green card?
Hi Tee. You can request a name change during your green card interview. Then update all your ID documents to match.
A couple gets married. She is hyphenating her name with her husbands. She is now expecting and would like to have their child's last name be the hyphenated version. I think I just recently saw an article that said the couple can use the mother's maiden name, or the father's last name or the child's name can be the hyphenated name. Is there, or has there been any issues or problems that anyone has come across where they were told they can't do that?
I'm actually thinking it shouldn't be a problem since I'm writing a fiction romance novel. But, just wondered what your thoughts were if this were for real.
Hi Trish. Your interpretation is correct. The child's name can be any one of the three.
We live in FL and got married on December 12th 2021. We were not told about and didn't see an obvious place to use our combined hyphenated name on the license registration so it has us both listed with our unmarried names only. We want both of our last names to be changed to Mylastname-Hislastname.
I know only some states require you to add your new name on the license but I’m having trouble figuring out if FL is one of those states or not?
If FL is one of those states where we were supposed to use our new combined hyphenated names on the license, do we have to first revise our marriage certificate before moving forward with an official name change with SS? Or can we present our marriage certificate (which again just has each of our unmarried last names on it) to SS and they can change it then to hyphenated? Or do we have to do all the court mumbo jumbo?
I’m not sure why they made this whole system so complicated, I’ve had to do a lot of research but I’m finding differing answers so I would greatly appreciate some clarification.
There isn't one.
Florida isn't one of them.
Yes, this is the way forward.
Perfect. Thank you so much for clearing this up!
Hi. Would it be possible to hyphenate my mother's maiden name with my husband's? I've never been close to my stepfather who didn't really raise me.
Hi Sylvia. Two questions: 1) Which state (or country if outside the U.S.) will your marriage take place, and 2) was your mother's maiden name ever part of your legal name as a child?
Sorry for the late reply. It was California and my name was my father first then stepfather.
Hi Sylvia. You'll have to petition the superior court. It would have worked through marriage if you were born with your mother's maiden name as your legal surname, but you'll have to pursue a court order since that's not the case.
Hi I have a question, I’m getting married next year and I have 2 last names due to being adopted. I want to take my fiancé’s last name but I don’t want 3 last names. Would I be able to drop one last name in order to hyphenate his last name? I’m in the state of NY.
Yes, you can drop half of your spouse's hyphenated name and then either take whatever remains as your sole last name or hyphenate the excised portion with your surname.
This is my second marriage, and we are both 60 yrs old & established with homes, cars, cc, etc. If I hyphenate my name maiden name first then take his name will I have to change all bank accts, homes, cars, cc, etc to my hyphenated name or is it best to just keep my name?
Yes, you should update these accounts and records.
You'll have to decide for yourself if you want to go through the name change routine and all that it involves. If you're uncertain, you can defer your name change plans.
I'm getting married in November. Can I have my name and change last name with my first last name initial and follow with his last name together?
Ex. Veronica CGarcia?
Maybe. It depends on the state. Which state will your marriage take place?
Hello. My first husband passed away a while back and I am going to be remarried in July of next year. I want to hyphenate my name using my new husband's name along with my current name.
My question is, what is considered a legal situation or a non-formal situation? I know the government agencies, such as IRS, Social Security and DMV, will need my hyphenated name, but what about doctors and memberships, and so forth? How do you determine what an informal situation is?
Informal would be social situations that wouldn't attempt to verify your name, such as friends, family, newspapers, and magazines.
A formal example would be applying for a credit card under a name that wasn't your current name. This would result in a mismatch across your social security record and credit report. Giving your doctor another name might not be much of an issue, but it could result in a mismatch with your health insurance.
If whoever you give your name to might perform a lookup, then you should consider it formal.
So. What happens when the child of a hyphenated last name marries another likewise hyphenated already? Do they carry 4 hyphenated names, and whose name do you decide to get rid of? That seems kind of like an insult. So after 5 marriages, the new hyphenated last name will include 30 last names.
The child's name doesn't have to match their parents'. The child could be given either parent's name.
That's up to the person whose name is changing.
That's the sacrifice. (Or compromise.)
It could be, but such a name wouldn't fit on a social security card or driver's license. Reason must take over at some point.
I'm a little confused. If I chose to hyphenate my name on the certificate, do I then need to change all legal documents as well (ssc, drivers license, passport, teaching licenses, payroll, will, etc)? I would like to use a hyphenated name, but I'm in my sixties and am not sure if a legal hyphenation is worth all the complications.
Not if you don't want to.
There's a good amount of documents that'll need updating. You can see the name change procedure post to get a sense of what's in store for you if you choose to go down that path.
I just received my US passport in the mail. My marriage certificate has the hyphenated last name; however, my passport typed only one combined last name (2 last names combined with no hyphen). Will this cause problems for me later?
Hi PRcherry. You can use a copy of your marriage certificate to reconcile the differences upon demand. But you should look into getting your passport name corrected.