Hyphenating Your Last Name After Marriage: Pros and Cons

Married Couple Joining Puzzle Pieces Symbolizing Hyphenating Names

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 identification cards.

The calm before the name change storm

Congratulations on tying the knot. You're in for… okay, we can't lie. While marriage is great, the wedding planning journey can overload your stress markers.

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:

  1. What is hyphenation?
  2. Is it a good idea?
  3. Is it disrespectful?
  4. Will it impact your kids?
  5. How to legally hyphenate your name?

When the bourgeois reigned supreme

Onetime, it was normal to expect a wife to take her husband's last name; abandoning her original name altogether.

Stressed woman hiding in box from society bullying
The public bullying you for asserting your own name.

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, 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 partner who understands why this approach appeals to you.

Still, the personal choice to retain your birth name may cause concern. Even if your spouse is okay with it, your in-laws might give you grief about your pick. (Your own family too.)

Angry, frustrated mother-in-law
Mother-in-law is not happy with your chosen name.

The naysayers—silent, gossipy, and vocal—may declare, "How dare you commit the selfish act of retaining your original identity after marriage?" What about the next generation?

But is there a win-win pathway? Yes, of course…

Ready, set, compromise

There are several decent ways to compromise on the whole "you wanting to keep your name and your spouse hating the idea" problem.

1. Create a different name

Many couples decide to invent a new last name to share, creating a unique identity together. By doing so, they 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.

Two last names vs. a hyphen

You shouldn't conflate hyphenating with a double-barreled surname, which has no hyphen and is more associated with using a space to separate surnames.

Young partners joining huge puzzle pieces
Partners coming together under one name, indivisible.

A hyphenated name is considered one last name, not two separate, independent names to be switched back and forth on a whim.

For instance, when alphabetizing a hyphenated name, the first part comes first. For a space-separated, double-barreled name, the last part would come first.

The hyphen makes it obvious for most people that you have two names, avoiding the confusing error of mistaking part of your last name for another segment.

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.

Hand stamping approved on official document
Hyphenated last names enjoy universal support.

Federal and state agencies will accept your new hyphenated name after marriage, from the social security office and passport agencies to motor vehicle departments.

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.

Leadership competition racing to finish line
Racing to position your last name first (or, uh, last?)

There's no hyphenation law or rule. But whoever opts to hyphenate their name will more often than not spell 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.

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.)

Woman in cap and gown, graduating from college
Name change needn't disrupt your academic triumphs.

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 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 pursuit.

2. Bucking tradition

You can take your spouse's surname as-is, or you could hyphenate it. There's no compelling reason to avoid two names, other than convention.

Young, relaxed woman meditating with eyes closed
You're in Zen mode: ignoring the formalities of name changes.

While name change traditions may be hard to break, they're not:

  • Rooted in good sense
  • Based on any legal rationale, or
  • Beyond what people have just done by default

3. Linking your personal and professional identity

A giant reason to consider hyphenation is to preserve your profile in your community—the persona you've spent your whole life building.

Smiling doctors happy after their name change
The joy of your career undisturbed after your name change.

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, and 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 huge pain worth avoiding by considering the following potential shortcomings.

1. Outdated, 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.

Stressed man facing computer error entering his hyphenated name
Battling to force a computer to accept the hyphen in your name.

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 two 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.

Anxious woman stressed with long list symbolizing her lengthy name
Getting stressed over your extra long name.

You might run out of space filling out online forms that set max lengths. And paper forms too. Chiefly form fields with 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 or snobby.

Distraught woman thinking and struggling over her choice
Getting worried over everyone's opinion on your chosen name.

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.

Suddenly, self-appointed linguists and spelling bee experts are eager to debate how to address you by your new last name, as if inconveniencing them were your life's mission.

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.

Young, unhappy couple quarrelling and sitting in different rooms
Husband offended by wife not taking his last name as-is.

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 effect on children

Here's a common worry among parents:

  1. I'm hyphenated.
  2. My children are unhyphenated.
  3. Will they get confused, frustrated, or embarrassed?
Frustrated mother talking to her befuddled daughter
Child expressing confusion over their hyphenated name.

Kids with hyphenated names might become flummoxed or self-conscious when they're older and start making friends whose names aren't hyphenated.

And what happens if your son or daughter grows up and marries someone with a hyphen in their name? Will they face the prospect of hyphens atop hyphens?

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…

  1. Apply for your marriage license.
  2. Get married.
  3. Get your marriage certificate.
  4. Notify the Social Security Administration, DMV, etc.
Woman changing her name in person with a government agency
Changing your name at a government agency with confidence.

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 didn't have a spot for a new name, your marriage certificate is still usable. 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
  • School
  • Diplomas
  • Professional licenses
  • Customers and clients
  • Memberships
  • Employers
  • Utilities
  • Social media profiles
  • Voter registration
  • Bank accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Among other records

If you're hyphenating and moving, submit a USPS change of address in both your pre-marriage name and hyphenated name to avoid lost mail.

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.

Furious woman yells no in protest
You can be adamant about not changing your 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 your spouse's name

You can go the traditional route and simply replace your last name with your spouse's last name, which is the default choice for most women.

Self-confident woman flexes bicep
There's nothing false with just taking your partner's name.

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 and a great substitute for hyphenating your name; the end results are very similar.

Woman with doubts and fresh ideas
Moving your birth name to the center? Could it be ingenious?

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 your 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.

Woman holding emotions masks
Why not rotate between your maiden and wedded name?

It's not the name you'd use to sign legal documents, tax filings, or job applications; those demand your true legal name. But amongst 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 epitomizes compromise, where both sides prevail in the tug of war over whose last name will carry on for future generations.

Lucky for you, we can help streamline your name change after marriage. Our online name change kit, from forms to step-by-step guidance, make the process a breeze.

Wishing you a seamless name change journey ahead!

Our name change kit helps you change your name, either before or after marriage.

Start Your Name Change


  1. Hello!

    My last name on my marriage certificate is hyphenated (my last name-his last mame) I never took the time to change my last name with SSA. I have now change my mind and I don't want my last name hyphenated. I want to have his last name only. When I go to SSA to change my last name will they use what is on the marriage certificate? In other words will they forced me to hyphenate my name? Can I just have them switch it to my husband's last name only?

  2. I will be getting good married in a few months. I am divorced and kept my married name due to having it for 26 yrs. I have several licenses, certifications, etc that have my married name on it. If I hyphenate my name, prior married name-new married name, will all my licenses, ss, DL, etc still be valid and legal or do I have to change everything? Trying to avoid having to change everything.

    • Hi Regina. They'll still be valid. You'll have to contact your licensing board to determine if records are required to be updated and documents reissued. Some require notification of name or address changes, while others don't. Some may be willing to allow a prior name to stand on your license while making note of your name change internally.

      If you have any licenses that require you to reregister every X number of years, this is something you'll want to be prepared for ahead of time.

  3. Hi
    I'm getting married in a week and I'm putting my fiances last name first then mine do I have to change my (ss,dmv etc.)or can I leave it as it is and also can I keep sighning with my last name or I have to start sighning with his lasts name

  4. Hi my name is Heather & this is how I feel about Marriage name change. I have been in a 6 year relationship off and on. I have decided when marriage comes. I'm going to keep my madden name and my future husband's name.

    1st off I have always liked my last name, my mom and dad split when I was 8. My mom keep my dad's last name because she has 2 kids with him, and she felt like she would be abandoning her kids by changing her name back to her madden name. Plush she is still married by law, so technically I am the last female on my dads side with his last name (Johnson), also I'm the only daughter he has so I do not see anything wrong with my name being Heather Jean Johnson (Cooper)! And I would put his name last.

    Because when we do have kids, I want them to have there dad's last name. In my eyes that's who they are/will be. I know they will be half (Cooper) and half Johnson. But I guess I'm kinda old school I have my dad's last name, and I want the same for my kids ,and if they do ever come to me, and say mom why did you keep your madden name. And not just daddy's like your kids. I will explain to them that I am the only female left in my family with the last name Johnson. ( that is blood not tru marriage ) and I will reassure them. That I love your daddy so much I took his last name too. That's why your last name is (Cooper) like daddy's and mom's.!!?????????? (This is my opinion on the whole taking your husband's last name or not. Why not keep yours, and take your husband's too.I don't see anything wrong/disrespectful about it. ?
    ✌ AND ? # Hyphenated

  5. Hi. I am going to get married next year. I want to keep my maiden name legally to prevent me from changing my name on a list of legal documents that i've had.
    Would it be okay to drop my maiden name on the marriage certificate and take his while maintaining my maiden name legally?
    Secondly, I am a new green card holder and he is British. Would this decision affect any citizenship process in the future fro both countries? Or would i have to change my name legally as it is on the marriage certificate?

    • Hi Krissy. You don't have to change your name, regardless of what's on the certificate. It shouldn't affect your citizenship, as name change is optional for all.

  6. Hi Valera, I recently got married almost 2 months ago. I chose to keep my maiden name and hyphen my husbands name but am having second thoughts.. So my question is, since I haven't changed my name anywhere else besides the marriage certificate what would I have to do to be able to change my last name to just my husbands last name? We are moving next month so I havnt changed any documents (drivers license, bank cards etc)

    • Hi Savannah. You'll need to get a certified copy of your marriage certificate, then use that to go about changing your name with the various institutions (e.g., SSA, DMV, passport office). There's a possibility you may run into complications with the DMV due to the name on your certificate not matching what you're changing it to. This is only the case in some states, such as California. It can also depend on how flexible the agent you're working with is.

  7. I am planning to get married later this year. I was thinking that due to being a business owner of a c-corp for the past years, notary, etc., I would like to keep my last name and hyphenate with my last name with his.
    If I do so, can my signature stay the same for work proposes (my maiden last name), and my personal accounts signature different (using my first name and my finances last name)? I understand that legal documents such as bank accounts, drivers license, SS card, Passport, loans, etc. will need to signed with full hyphenated last name, correct?, or at least in the "print name" area?

    • Hi Doreen. It can vary from state to state, so you'll have to consult your state's guidebook. And, yes, such legal documents should display your hyphenated name in print and signature.

  8. I read through everyone's comments and didn't see one similar to my situation, so I was curious your thoughts: I'm marrying someone whose ex wife has the same first name as mine. They have 2 children together, so she is keeping his last name. I'm wondering if it would be confusing to merely take his last name as well…. then both myself and his ex wife would have the same name? Should I consider hyphenating it, modifying it, or retaining my maiden name to lessen any confusion?

    • Hi Jennifer. There's no better or worse. I'd advise you to choose whichever "you" prefer and can live with and don't put much stock in what others may think.

  9. I'm in NY and my same sex partner and I are getting married. The marriage license says surname after marriage, optional. My question is, if we leave that blank and just keep our pre married names (which we plan to do ). Will we have to carry around our marriage license to prove were married? Example, bank accounts, hospitals etc. we own our house which is already in both of our pre married names as well as our car insurance. What this approach affect anything else I'm not thinking of? Thank you

    • Hi Jeffery. Even if you did change your name, that wouldn't be proof of marriage. A certified copy of your marriage certificate will serve as sufficient proof of marriage (name change or not), if an entity requires such documentation.

  10. I am getting married in July – my current name is Carole Laverne Friend – I will be a 'Southwell' when married – can I use my middle name and hyphenate it to my new married name

    being………………. Carole Laverne-Southwell

    I live in the UK – will this be a natural process when getting married or do I need to change it by deed poll??

  11. Hi,

    I've been married a little more than 4 years now. When I first got married I had already completed my undergraduate degree and had a house under my maiden name, so I decided to hyphenate to makes transitioning a bit easier. Any who… When I went to SS to have my name changed, the person who helped me insisted my married name had to go first followed by my maiden name. Recently my husband has been asking if I'd consider changing to the more common version of {first name, maiden name-married name} – which is what every other married woman with a hyphenated name I know has.

    My questions is: Is there an actual rule/law as to how I'm supposed to hyphenate my name? Considering I've had mine for 4 years now, I'm a little hesitant to change, especially considering the hassle it is to go through the checklist of documents/accounts I'll have to update!

    Many thanks!

    • Hi Mrs. Q. There's no standard rule, as there's only two options: maiden-married or married-maiden. The prior is more common, and universally allowed, while the latter is not recognized by all states. The one area where it becomes more ambiguous is when people opt to go for a mutated hyphenation alternative, such as a space instead of hyphen, or combining names without a hyphen, or segmenting parts of each name.

  12. Hello, I am entering a same sex marriage. We wanted to take each others last names and add the hypen. (ex: Alice Jone & Angie Smith so then our names would be Alice Jones-Smith & Angie Jones-Smith) when we were doing our license and asked they seemed very unsure then said we cant do that so either i would take her last name & could add a hypen with mine if i wanted or she could take mine but we both cant. I am in Georgia is this true? They said we would have to do a legal name change an petition to get hers to say both last names as mine is going to be.

    also if I hypen the last name do I always have to add the hypen or can i just do it with the space (ex: Jones-Smith but write it Jones Smith)

    • Hi Ashely. There's a more comprehensive Georgia name change page that you can review that discusses various name change options further. But, in summary, Georgia federal and state organizations, such as the SSA and DDS (Department of Driver Services) will honor the name specified on your certified marriage record. But that's not where you're facing difficulty. In Georgia, as you're aware, new names are specified on the marriage license application. So if the clerk handling your application isn't able to process what you've written, then your marriage record won't ultimately reflect your choice.

      Georgia is one of the more lenient states when it comes to name change options, although it's unclear if both spouses taking the last name is going to fly. Based on the lack of information on Georgia state legislature pages, and how the vast majority of states do actually impose a one person name change only rule, it's safer than not to assume what you've been told is accurate. But, as you say, they seem unclear. What you can do is ask them to specify the rule/statute that disallows it, and if it can't be furnished, would your applications still not be accepted and why?

      An alternative is to try another probate court, as a marriage license issued in whichever county is valid statewide.

  13. So, I was married and divorced some years ago, but I kept the married last name due to our children having his name etc. I just remarried, and haven't an issue with his last name, but was thinking to hyphenate it with my current last name of my ex-husband (same as my minor children) wit new married last name…if I do this would I be required to sign the entire hyphenated name or just my new married name even though it would be hyphenated?

    • if I do this would I be required to sign the entire hyphenated name or just my new married name even though it would be hyphenated?

      You'd sign your full hyphenated name for legal documents, taxes, employment, government forms, job applications, credit card applications, and so forth. Anything that would have a reasonable chance of querying an official database looking for a name match and it becoming a problem if it's not found. For informal situations, it doesn't hurt to just sign the last part of your hyphenated name.

  14. I have been hyphenated for 40 years…..it's been a pain, but I just dig in and stand tough. I hyphenated my son's name when he was born.
    Here is the most irritating part and I have never been absolutely sure what is correct. Most folks, rather than trying to make an effort to speak my name properly, simply call me "Mrs" Jones, rather than the "Ms" Smith-Jones. So, am I "Mrs." Smith-Jones or Ms. Smith-Jones? Thank you.

    • Hi Marla. Hyphenating is one of those things that other folks don't often catch onto. They may consider the first part of your hyphenated name as your middle name when you pronounce it. So, they'll just reference the last part of your hyphenated name. It's only really clear on paper.

      So, you are "Mrs. Smith-Jones", but all you can really do when other folks get it wrong is to correct them. Or you can preemptively state that your last name is hyphenated. Something like "Smith-Jones, last name hyphen."

  15. I got married in Sept. I have not changed my license or ss card..my new health insurance is through my husbands employer so we hyphenated it but Im learning its becoming such a hassle but after being married a couple of times and divorced, I am also the last of the Mason's in my family and I am adopted also I fought to get Mason back after my divorce 11 yrs ago, I dont want to lose my maiden name again plus I absolutely hate my husbands last name Odle..if it were pronounced the way its spelled id be ok but it sounds just funny as hell and even if I were to have just his last name I'd always have to spell it and correct the way people pronounce it so its not like I will have much more to explain when I say Mason-Odle. …I just want to make sure Im doing the right thing keeping both names before I legally change it on my license and SS card…it doesnt ring well together thats for sure and its a mouth full but I do not want Mason as my middle name..I happen to love my name Kimberly Beth besides Beth is a family name dating way back..but Ive heard horror stories about women who have chosen to hyphenate their names such as computer issues and people not know what to call them..my kids are grown as are his so there wont be any children born to us as a couple so that isnt an issue but I cant see people calling me Mrs. Mason-Odle ya know..so how does that work and how do you decide…

    • Oh I forgot to add that I am in the mists of getting approved for SSDI..so my attorney told me to wait to change everything as Im right on the verge of approval..and the name will change when I change my ss card …I do want to take on my husbands name I just dont think I want to lose my maiden name again but I hate the hyphen..

    • I just want to make sure Im doing the right thing keeping both names before I legally change it on my license and SS card

      There truly is no right or wrong. It's a matter of what you can live with and what you might regret. Do you think you might end up changing your mind after changing your name for real? At that point, there wouldn't be anything preventing you from going back, other than the time and expense of going through a court petition.

      Ive heard horror stories about women who have chosen to hyphenate their names such as computer issues

      Folks have reported this here as well, which is a bizarre roadblock to run into.

      I cant see people calling me Mrs. Mason-Odle ya know..so how does that work and how do you decide

      You've not changed your name yet, so you can still decide or decide not to decide, at least for the time being. Or even longer. Or consider an alternative, such as not going through with a change, deferring it to much further into the future, or just using the hypenated version informally.

  16. I'm getting married in February. I have a concern about changing my last name. I don't mind taking his last name, but for my Nursing degree I would like to keep Barzee.
    Is there a way to do this? I'm known by my ( ,Barzee) name. I've been a nurse for 13years. I don't want to loose my reputation and have to start all over. Or have to tell everyone who I am again and that I got married.
    Help me out.

    • Hi Stacy. That's typically not a problem. You'll still want to get in touch with the state's Board of Nursing to be aware of any particulars this may entail. Also, contact your HR department to determine if they'll allow it. Some employers are flexible, while others will want your legal name to appear on your badge and your write-ups.

  17. I will be getting married in a week and plan on hyphenating my name (my maiden name and his last name). I don't plan on making any name changes to any government docs, etc ( SS, drivers license , passport) but will maintain those under my maiden name. My question is, does this affect us filing jointly on our tax return? For purposes of filing jointly , will I have to make this name change with the social security office?

    • Hi Mel. You'd file your taxes with the name that appears on your social security card. So if you don't intend to change your name with the SS, then you'll file taxes under the name you've been using.

  18. i just got married a few days ago but haven't gone to the social security office yet or filed my marriage certificate that was signed yet at the clerks office. I'm from a small town and am a hair stylist. I dint want to have to change my salon licenses or my business check account. Can I keep my first name/middle name/ divorced name before my marriage/ then my new last name? If so can I just sign Kathy Smith for business but use My first/ middle/ last name before marriage/ new last married name use all for all legal documents ? Do I have to use all names for signing checks , etc??

    • Hi Kathy. That shouldn't pose much of a problem. You can contact your bank to see if they'll recognize your continuing to do business in your preferred name. That way you'll be sure there won't be future surprises when it comes to renewing, cashing, or signing checks.

  19. I'm 38 and just got married. I have a professional career where I am known by my maiden name. I will keep both my maiden last name and take his. When filing for taxes as a newly married couple it is very difficult to do so without the same last name. So my last name for the social security card will be my middle name follow by my maiden name. My official "last name" will be changed to his. Is this possible?

    • Hi Kara. Your name doesn't have to match your spouse's when filing taxes. It doesn't matter. Just make sure the name you're filing with matches what's on your social security record.

  20. My wife and I are a same sex couple debating on changing our last names. We have thought of hyphenating the two. If we do this do they both need to listed the same? For example both as Smith-Jones or (Smith being my last name, Jones hers) or can I go as Smith-Jones and she as Jones-Smith?

    • Hi Sheryl. That probably wouldn't be recognized through a marriage-related name change. There typically needs to be a matching name. For instance, the states that allow couples to change their names to something entirely new, it has to match.

  21. I took my husband's last name and when we divorced, I took my maiden name back. Several years pass, now I am engaged. My fiancé prefers I take his last name, but I am twice shy because of changing my name for marriage once before. I am considering hyphenation or no change at all, but I feel very conflicted about breaking our families' tradition. How can I explain my choice, while honoring the idea of family unity?

    • Hi Carrie. This topic is covered in greater detail within the keeping your name after divorce article. Ultimately, the choice is yours. You shouldn't feel compelled to make an immediate change, or any change at all, that you'll later regret.

      The procedure for changing your name as a result of marriage is fairly straightforward. Going back to reverse the change is far more time-consuming, so you'll not want to put yourself through unnecessary hassle, if it can avoided.

    • Same here, except in my second marriage to come next year, I will be hyphenating instead of losing my identity and the only thing that my deceased father left to me. If my Duane had an issue, then he wouldn't be the one for me. We are both very supportive of each other.

  22. Hello,

    I was married at 19 and divorced at 45. After the divorce I maintained my ex husbands last name for two reasons , my children and that fact that I carried his last name longer than my maiden name. I would also add that changing your name on all your significant documents is time consuming.

    I am now engaged and I really am apprehensive about changing my name. For the fact I am now 51 and for 32 years have carried the same last name. I know my fiance would want me to take his name. There really is no easy solution to this.

    Wondering what some of you thought. Thanks

    • Hi Julie. There's no right or wrong approach. You you can take your time to decide what to do, or not do. Have a look at the keeping your maiden name after divorce article, which covers this topic further.

  23. I have used my change of deed surname, I married for the second time and hyphenated my name with my husband….. the issue I have is with banks they question the fact of my legal document of change of name deed and say it not on my marriage certificate. This action has upset me… I have to wait for someone in the banking world to decide to go againts two rightfully legal documents…. why is this so any help out there ……

  24. Hello,

    I recently got married to my hubby who is from SD and we have discussed taking on his last name. To complicate things, I am still using my ex-husband's last name and would like to keep it for the sake of my children as well as for documentation purposes. Will it be okay to just hypenate my husband's last name to the current one that I am using? Will this be legal and binding for all documents going forward? Thanks.

  25. I recently got married and would like to hyphenate my maiden name and my husband's last name. Would I need to obtain a court order to do so in Pennsylvania or could I follow the same process as if I were simply taking his last name only?

    • Hi Emily. You don't need a court order. The procedure would be the same as just taking your husband's last name only.

    • Emily,

      Believe it or not, the process is not as complicated as some may think, especially changing your name on the SS card. My wife hyphenates and it was fairly painless as far as the paperwork.

  26. Hello, I have a unusual problem, I found my biological father several years ago, father's name was left blank on my birth certificate , my mother died 2 1/2 years ago, now my biological father would like for me to have his last name, I would like to drop the last name I was given by my mom because it belonged to her husband, I was not given a middle name but I am married with the last name Taylor , My father's last name is Mcafee, Can I take Mcafee as my middle name and be known as Veronica Mcafee Taylor, did I mention I am 53 years old☺️. Thank you for your help

    • I did not mention that I now go by Veronica Peaker Taylor, Peaker was the last name given at birth which I now use as my middle name , have I been wrong in doing so , should I have been signing my signature with both last names Peaker Taylor, when I change my name to Veronica Taylor Mcafee, How should I sign my name?

      • should I have been signing my signature with both last names Peaker Taylor

        You should if Peaker is part of your last name and not your middle.

        when I change my name to Veronica Taylor Mcafee, How should I sign my name?

        That depends on how you change it. If you want Taylor as your middle name, then you can sign with your full name or just Veronica Mcafee (omitting your middle name). If Taylor is to serve as the first part of your last name, then you'll sign all three names.

  27. My declared last name is hyphenated on the marriage certificate, but I want to drop the hyphen when I go about the process of changing my name on documents (so it would be "her his" rather than "hers-his.") . Is that allowed or does it have to be hyphenated? What forms do I have to fill out to drop the hyphen?

    • Hi Sharon. Such double-barred last names aren't as universally recognized as hyphenated. It's allowed in some areas and not in others. The forms you fill out would be the same, but it's just a matter of whether or not it will be recognized.

  28. I made the mistake of hyphenating my last name when I married. I kept my maiden name and then added my husbands name. I divorced several years ago and now want to drop his name. Does anyone know how to go about it? Do I just need to visit the SSA?

    • Hi Theresa. If you requested your maiden name be restored during the divorce proceedings, then you can take a certified copy of your divorce decree to the SSA to change your name. If you did not request the judge restore your maiden name, you can petition the court to change your name. Afterward, you can take your court order to the SSA to restore your maiden name.

  29. If a woman hyphened her name and the children do the same, then, hyphen named (children) married another hyphen named what happens?

    I think, this was simply adopted to avoid a longer thread of confusion and to have a degree of order, but in life, order is what we call it. So, what do you say??

    • Hi Tunde. Probably opt for a segment surname that uses either a part of one party's surname, or a combined segment surname from both spouses.

  30. When I filled out my application for marriage license, I wrote that my married name will be hyphenated. After being married for a while, I think it will be easier to take two last names instead of hyphenating. Can I change my mind without filling out extra paper work and just move forward with changing from my maiden name to 2 last names instead of a hyphenated last name?

    • Hi Jenna. It depends on the state. It's not assured that two last names without a hyphen would be recognized. Try getting in touch with your city/county clerk to determine what is/isn't recognized.

  31. I am divorced with one child and out of respect for him I'd like to keep my married name and hyphenate with my new married last name. My teenage son would like to hyphenate but my fiance is not on board. He's looking at it like it is my ex-husbands name rather than my son's. I am getting the impression from those around me that this is a strange idea. I am wrong in wanting to have the same last name as my boy? I don't want to insult either man in my life. HELP.

  32. Thank you for all your advice. My question is what do I do if some of my official documents (bank, IRS, work, Soc Sec) have me listed as Erica MiddleName MaidenName MarriedName with my two last names unhyphenated, but when I moved, I foolishly, for convenience sake, filled out others (DMV, Voter Registration, passport) with just MarriedName as last name and MaidenName as a second middle name.

    I am assuming I would need to petition the court for a name change so that everything is uniform. Initially I was thinking I would hyphenate the two last names to alleviate confusion that I seem to encounter around my two unhyphenated last names, but my actual preference is to keep the two unhyphenated last names and just make all documents uniform. However, on the name change forms in California where I live, they don't ask for your former last name, but for what your current name is and what you want to change it to – so it looks like I'm asking to change from Erica MiddleName MaidenName MarriedName to Erica MiddleName MaidenName MarriedName, which looks redundant and seems ridiculous.

    Is there either some way to indicate that I would like to use the two unhyphenated last names as my last name uniformly? (and as an aside, do I even need to list my middle name on the petition form?) Or is it just simplest in light of all the existing complications to just go ahead and hyphenate on my petition? (Sorry this question is so long and complicated). Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Erica. If you're referring the to present and proposed name fields, there should be multiple lines allowing you to specify the before and afters for your various name segments. Before you file your petition you can seek clarification from the court clerk that you've filled it out correctly.

  33. My partner (now wife) and I just got married and our social security cards were changed to our new married name Martin-Hornsby. We live in Texas and when my spouse went to change her license, the DMV said no, they could not change her name to Martin-Hornsby, that she could add my last name on to the end,but not hyphenate it as the first last name. Everyone I have spoken to says this is ridiculous. Straight couples- the male often hyphenates his last name adding hers to the beginning. Any insight into this? I spoke to my attorney who said this is wrong, try another office and if not, we will proceed with action to get it done.

    • Hi Lisa. Your counsel's advice does make sense. It may be worthwhile to try another office or clerk.

    • When I was changing my name I was also told I could not hyphenate my name – I could change my maiden name to my 'middle' name or make a long last name with no hyphens but hyphens were not allowed. (we are a straight couple)

      • Hi Shawn. I've not come across any text or statute that forbid a hyphenated name change. Are they suggesting hyphenation isn't possible because their software only accepts letters? Is it just hyphens or any non-letter character? For instance, would they force an O'Brien to be OBrien? If it's a software limitation, there's not much you can do about it.

  34. My future husband asked if he could take my last name….I said yes….is that strange. Acceptable which I really don't care. Just never had heard of that so just wondering if anyone else had their husband take their last name…marriage of proper male and female relationship

    • Hi Jennifer. I don't think there's anything strange about it. It may be less common, but neither odd nor unacceptable.

    • I think that is odd and may have something more to do with not wanting to be tracked down by past offenses. However, from a psycho/sociological position I don't know of any man or person for that matter, that doesn't see this as a horbinger of a lifelong power struggle and fight against the uniting of mind, body and spirit that the union is supposed to help foster.

  35. I appreciate all the great comments/questions on this site. My wife hyphenates her name and her workplace finally upgraded the employee directory to include her hyphenated name(we've been married nearly 2 years). Are there certain areas of the country where hyphenating seems more common? I'm from the great state of Arkansas, and there are more women here in The Natural State who hyphenate then a lot of people would realize.

    • Hi Shane. There's not much in the way of reliable last name data (typically provided by the census, last data refresh for 2000) as there is first name data (provided by the SSA, annually updated). I can tell you the top 1000 last names of the 2000 census doesn't include one hyphen. Which is to be expected. You'd have to get into the lower rankings to find real hyphenated references, and then try to cross reference them by state. Not an easy task.

  36. I would like to properly post my previous married name & my current married name on professional sites like LinkedIn. Right now I have Erika (Smith) Jones. With Smith being the old last name that is what a lot of people will recall. Since I recently remarried 2 yrs. ago there are quite a lot of people that know me only by my new last name of Jones. Just wondering if I did it correctly. Thanks!

    • Hi Erika. I think it's a reasonable approach for folks who have knowledge of your previous name, but for others the use of parenthesis can lead to confusion. It can be interpreted as a middle name, alias, or nickname.

  37. Hello,
    sorry if this was already asked, I searched the Comments but I couldn´t find anything similiar.
    I´m soon getting married in Germany to my german Fiance, the Problem is that by german law only one Person can hyphernate and the other keeps the Family name (He has to keep his name and I will be Nicole his-hers because they want to protect the future Kids from endless names) The officer said if I married by californian law ( I was born there) it may be possible that both can have a hyphernated name (both His-Hers). In the comments I think I read that Cali is different? Is it possible? Please help. Thank You!

  38. I recently got married and didnt hyphenate my last name for example my old name was gonzales vargas, when i got married i changed it to gonzales wilson but i never hyphenated the last names is that okay?

  39. I am getting married in Sweden in two months. I want to take his name as is traditional, but I am concerned about my passport and other documents as I leave the country and come back to the United States. How do I handle it? I apologize in advance if someone already asked..I tried to read all responses before I asked but there are so many!!! Thank you…

  40. I have been married for 6 years, but am considering petitioning the court to add back in my maiden name. I would like to do this without an actual hyphen. Would I register it as a second middle name, or 2 last names. I would like to be able to use them interchangeably depending on if it is work environment or another situation.

    • Hi Candice. If you're going to petition the court, you can compartmentalize it however you prefer.

  41. I would like to hyphenate and use my husband's name casually, as my daughter still has my maiden. Does it matter which order I hyphenate?

    • Hi Sarah. Maiden-Spouse is more common, but going with Spouse-Maiden is also done. The difference is the latter may require you to petition the court, in some states, while the prior does not.

  42. Hello, my husband and I got married in The Netherlands where they don't change their last names on the marriage certificate, and so therefore ours only reflects our original names. Even their passports show their original names and in small text below say "married to XXXXX". We'd like to hyphenate here in the US. Where do we begin? Everything I've seen says the marriage certificate must show the new hyphenated last name.


  43. Hi,

    I think my question may be already answered but my fiance and I are getting married next month and we are applying for our marriage license in two weeks. I want to keep my maiden name and add his last name. Maybe hyphenate it? Would I have to change it on legal documents, social security, drivers license, taxes, etc. or can I keep all my documents as is? I just don't really want to go through all the paperwork (if any) to change everything.

    Thanks :)

    • It seems that you're looking to use a hyphenated name informally/socially, while still maintaining your maiden name as your legal name? There's nothing out of the ordinary about that. If you keep your documents as-is, then your name wouldn't change. Your maiden name will remain your name. You wouldn't have to update any of the documents you cited.

  44. I am about to marry my boyfriend of 17 yrs….. but I own a home ….. How does me taking on his last name effect my paperwork on the house?

    • Hi Nancy. Unless you're advised otherwise, your current legal name would go on such paperwork.

  45. Hi! I'm married almost two years now and yet to change my last name! My husband want me to change my name completely. I'm the only child for my father and I know that this will definitely hurt him. I think you went over all the possible answers for the questions that I would ask… was just wondering if you have any suggestion on how to communicate my feelings with my husband. :-)…

    • Hi Brittany. You shouldn't feel obligated to undergo a name change. If you're unsure of making the change, then decide later. Even much later. If you're certain the change is not for you, finalize that decision and try your best to explain the reasoning behind that decision to your spouse. Think of it this way… two years have passed without your undergoing a name change, and chaos has not ensued. So it's just a matter of sticking to your choice and leaving things as-is.

  46. I am already married for now 17 1/2 years , now after i married my husband i wanted my maiden name back , but i want to add it to the married name , i just want to know how to go about it , i especially want it back on now that my dad has pass away, he has no son and i am the oldest , and can i add this to my children middle name?

    • Hi Janet. If you formally changed your name 17 years ago, you'd have to petition the court to change it once again. Your local courthouse can provide you details regarding the procedure, fees, and timeline.

  47. I'm getting married in 2weeks may 22 2015 I took on my future husband last name only. But I dont want to change my drivers license and SS card for personal reason. What will happen if I don't change any of them to my new marriage name ?

    • What will happen if I don't change any of them to my new marriage name ?

      Nothing will happen. Nothing will change. Your current name will remain as it always has.

  48. I am not sure if someone has commented on or asked this yet- BUT, I have been told that after you are married and you want to keep your maiden name and add your husbands last name there are two different directions you can take and both have different ramifications. If you choose to hyphenate, then you must always use that specific last name combo (i.e. Doe-Smith) on everything from social security cards to your passport. However, if you choose to have it spaced and treated as a second middle name (i.e. Jane Marie Doe Smith) then you can actually just drop the last name on most of your legal documents (or if you will- keep your original name = Jane Marie Doe). So essentially you would not have to have anything legally changed. Can you shed some light on this and let me know if it is correct?

    …and Just in case people were wondering why this would be an issue at all- As the article stated above, I have completed all my higher education in my maiden name (along with items published when I completed my doctoral degree) and also known to most of my members, colleagues, and business partners by my maiden name. So I feel it is part of my identity in most things I do daily- this is what most people know me by. However, my husband to be is the only boy in his family and would like to carry on his family name as well (in which he is part of a family business that all know him by). So I would like very much to be able to carry both names, BUT be able to drop his last name when dealing with work/professional things.

    So just curious if there is advice out there on which way would be better to go (the hyphen direction or the space direction- or does it even really matter).

    • Hi Robin. Whether you hyphenate or go with a space, your full legal name will be both last names. For those legal documents you cited, you would have to use both names. What you could do is use your maiden name informally/socially/professional, while using your preferred last name in full when necessary (e.g., legal documents, government forms).

    • I'm in the same boat… doctoral degree, publications, and current industry job all in my maiden name. I may go back to the academic world at some point as well to continue teaching and researching. I am getting married in a couple months and have been struggling with how to find a happy medium between keeping my professional/research ties to my maiden name and have his last name for familial unity when we have kids. Robin, what did you decide?

      Valera – Please correct me if I'm wrong here… just trying to wrap my head around the options… Hyphenating the two names would then file everything under the first letter of the hyphenation? However, it doesn't seem like it legallly matters which last name comes first in the hyphanation, correct? If a space is used to create two last names, then on legal documents (such as drivers license) one would still have to write both last names "first last1 last2", but on informal documents (such as professional journal publications) one could go by either "first last1" or "first last2", correct? If was to resume publishing articles under my new full married name of "first last1 last2", would search engines recognize two last names as TWO LAST names? Or would it assume that "last1" is instead the middle name, changing the search field to "first middle last2" ?


      • Hyphenating the two names would then file everything under the first letter of the hyphenation?


        However, it doesn't seem like it legallly matters which last name comes first in the hyphanation, correct?


        If a space is used to create two last names, then on legal documents (such as drivers license) one would still have to write both last names

        Yes, the complete name.

        but on informal documents (such as professional journal publications) one could go by either "first last1? or "first last2?, correct?

        You could, but for the sake of consistency and simplicity, you may want to choose one and stick with it.

        If was to resume publishing articles under my new full married name of "first last1 last2?, would search engines recognize two last names as TWO LAST names?

        If you're talking generic search engines (e.g., google, bing), then it's hard to say. I doubt it would be much of an issue considering search engines use a multitude of hints and cross-references to piece together a result set. I doubt it would be much of an issue.

        If you're referring to specialized search engines that query name data fields, then it depends on if records are stored in the proper format with the names correctly segmented. That's really something that would have to be dealt with on a per-site basis, or going direct to the source that's distributing the data to these sites and requesting a correction/clarification.

      • What if you are in the opposite situation? My education documents – teacher's certification, degree, etc is in my married name and am now getting a divorce. I have been married 1/2 my life and everyone in my field, (education) knows me by my married name and not by my maiden name. I have one child at home. I like my maiden name – but not to be called Ms. or Mrs by my students – I am used to be my married name as I was married for 25 years and taught for most of that time.

        Thank you for any help with this.

      • Hi Lucille. For marriage? Yes, if it's hyphenation. Maybe, but rarely accepted, if it's double-barreled (e.g., space instead of hyphen). If you've already changed your name after marriage, any subsequent name change would require you to petition the court.

  49. If i do not take my soon to be husbands last name will that affect his citizenship? He is not a legal resident of the United States (born in Mexico) and we are working on changing that. We have a daughter she is 4 months old. Can i hyphenate the name with my current last name and his?

    • If i do not take my soon to be husbands last name will that affect his citizenship?

      No, it would not.

      Can i hyphenate the name with my current last name and his?


      • Take his last name… I'm telling you from experience. You can hyphenate the name and still get his citizenship BUT it is MUCH easier if you change your apellido completely.

  50. I've been married for 3 years now. My name is Antoinette Jones. Jones is my husband last name. I drop my maiden name. I just got a petition granted for name change to have my biological father name placed on birth certificate which is George. Can I have my maiden George hypenated to George-Jones or do have to stay with the last name of Jones. Or do I have to go back to court again.

    • Hi Antoinette. If you've got a court order granting a name change, then you can use that document to change your married name again.

  51. I have a question which I am sure has been addressed here. See, I had my name legally changed (first, middle and last) to include a hyphenated name and now I am looking to marry my partner and we want to do a new hyphenation of her last name and the latter part of my last name. I am wondering if that can be done here in Washington state via the marriage license or would we need to do so through a court appointment. Thanks in advance for your response.

    • Hi Soren. It may be possible, assuming the portion of your pre-marriage hyphenated name is your surname. If not, then you'll probably have to go through a court petition. Either way, it may be worth calling your county clerk's office for clarification.

  52. I was wondering if it was necessary to change one's last name (me) as a hyphenated name to match my fiancé last name making it where I still have my last but also her last name too? Is this necessary for only I to do this before marriage (AN EXTRA CHARGE as a legal adult???) or could we both hyphenate both our last names AFTER MARRIAGE making them both hyphenated to match…will it be cheaper that way without a possible extra expense beforehand?…(not that I'm cheap but I do believe it is a fair question).

    If this makes sense…

    • I was wondering if it was necessary to change one's last name (me)…

      Well, necessity doesn't really factor into things. It's not required, if that's what you're asking.

      or could we both hyphenate both our last names

      Possibly. It depends on the state. What is (or will be) the state of residence?

      • The state of residence will be Washington. I guess I'm asking if the extra expense is necessary if this makes sense? Of changing my (soon-to-be husband) last name to the hyphenated name before the wedding or could we both just both hyphenate out last names together on the marriage certificate?

        I confuse a lot so I do hope this makes sense…

  53. My wife and I bought a house a couple of years back, the documents have her being hyphenated but she has not gone thru that process of being hyphenated yet, God forbid something should happen to me, and she has not done that yet, would there be a problem legally with the house? Does she have to do it or is it optional?

  54. I'm getting married in NYC, in my Marriage License I have my 2 last names as all my important ID's and then my fiance last name (dont have middle name) I want to keep my first last name and add my husband's one hyphanated. They told me that if I have my 2 last names I have to use it like that and then my husband, but is too large. Can I ask to the City Clerk to keep my first last name and then add my husband's? I'm not sure to use just him.

    • Hi Mabel. Folks may occasionally run into character length issues, although it's rare. Yes, it wouldn't hurt to consult with the city clerk to determine if this specified limit is accurate and can be overridden.

  55. Lots of good information on this site! It sounds like as long as you don't change anything on your marriage cert, you can change the last name later? I have an odd situation where we have a marriage certificate with the AFTER marriage names on it. Both of our names did not change (wife kept her maiden name). We have been married almost 2 years and now she is wanting to change her name. We changed her SS card without any trouble. With SS card and marriage cert in hand we went down to the DMV. They would not accept the Marriage cert as proof of name change because it has our AFTER marriage name on it (even though our names did not change at that time). They said we had to go through the courts to change her name. Why would the SS admin accept the Marriage cert and DMV wont?

  56. First off, thank you for a wonderful article and so much great advice. I read most of the q&a (comment section) and still need a little classification.

    I was married at eighteen, changed my last name only to his, and after the divorce went back to my maiden name. In the time since the divorce I have purchased a car (that I still have a loan on) and a home (also on a loan) in my maiden name. I also have a child support case for two children from said marriage in my maiden name. Because of these factors, along with feeling horribly and as though I lost a part of myself when I dropped my maiden name, and having a child with my new husband's name I chose to hyphenate my name now that I'm married again.

    I know that for legal state and federal things; ie. driver'slicense, social security, taxes and employment, I have to use my new full legal name. my question is of I have to (or should) change less formal things; my car loan, home loan, utilities in my maiden name, and things of that nature since my license and social will reflect my maiden. Also, can I keep my insurance in my mainden name of I continue to use only my maiden name in their office for visits. In a nut shell, can I legally use either or on non state and federal forms as long as I use the same name consistently (old accounts maiden name and new accounts new name). I live in the DFW area of Texas if that helps. Thank you so much in advance for your time and much appreciated advise.

    • …since my license and social will reflect my maiden

      If your SS and driver's license reflect your maiden name, can you clarify what you mean when you say you hyphenated?

      Also, can I keep my insurance in my mainden name

      You'll have to notify your insurance company of martial status changes. At that time, they'll ask you to provide your legal name, which would be what's on your SS card.

      In a nut shell, can I legally use either or on non state and federal forms as long as I use the same name consistently

      You can likely get by doing that without much issue for such non-federal/state forms, but it is optimal to get your records updated to reflect your legal name.

  57. Hello! I got married 11 years ago and hyphenated my name. I would like to drop the hyphen and just take my husbands last name. Can I do this thru the SS office? Thank you

    • Hi Ally. You'll have to petition the court first. Once you're granted a court order you can then go to the SS office.

  58. I've scanned the comments and think I've come to the right conclusion but please let me verify with you.
    I'm 68 and my fiance is 80. We've signed a pre-nup to protect the interests of our respective heirs.
    I have a daughter, and he has a son and grand children. We will continue to hold our assets separately. Next year we will file our taxes as "married filing jointly". It seems to me that I may sign the tax return with my current legal name, that hasn't changed since 1975.
    Also, as a military retiree drawing a pension and drawing SS in my own right, changing my legal name would be a hassle. I plan to leave my name as is in those two systems.
    However, in social situations, I will refer to myself either with my fiance's last name or with his and my last names.
    Am I on the right track?

    • Am I on the right track?

      Hi Marj. I think that's a perfectly valid way of going about things. It's an approach many have taken, and it works out fine.

  59. Hi. I have a hyphenated name and my fiance also has a hyphenated name. We cannot agree on which name to use once we are married and are considering hyphenating our already hyphenated names. We are concerned that our new double double barrelled hyphenated names will not be taken seriously and the thought of our children having such complicated names and maybe marrying somebody else who also has a hyphenated name and the whole idea just gets out of control. At what point does a hyphenated name just become kind of ridiculous?

    • At what point does a hyphenated name just become kind of ridiculous?

      Only you can decide that. If you prefer it and can live with it, then why not take it on? One thing to keep in mind is the possibility of exceeding database character length limits with the SSA and DMV.

  60. Hi, thank you for all your great answers! I am divorced and kept my ex's name for the kids sake. I now plan on marrying a different man and would like to hyphenate my maiden name (which was dropped with the first marriage) and the new husband's name. Is that possible? I am in the state of Georgia if that helps.

      • So I am still confused a little, I was married for 17 years and divorced, kept my ex's last name due to our daughter and I had primary custody so I just kept it, I have since re-married and would like to hyphenate my divorced last name and my remarried last name so that I can take my current husbands name but still keep my ex's due to my daughter. Can I do this with out court approval or do I have to petition the court to do this before I go to SSA and DMV?

  61. Hey there :D
    I will be marrying soon and having talked to my partner, he has no problem with me keeping my last names (I have two because I am latin american; also no middle name), but I have been thinking about the following:
    When we decide to have kids, would they only get their father's last name?

    In my country we get this combination: Name (s)+ Father's last name + Mother's last name. So, would my kid get that aswell? Just his? Just mine? The two that I am keeping plus his? It's all really confusing.

    Also… would I have to register the baby in both countries?

    • When we decide to have kids, would they only get their father's last name?

      You decide which last name (or names) will go on the child's birth certificate, not your partner. Of course, you can decide this in consultation with your partner, but you will have the final say.

      In my country we get this combination: Name (s)+ Father's last name + Mother's last name. So, would my kid get that aswell? Just his? Just mine?

      You can choose whichever combination you prefer.

      Also… would I have to register the baby in both countries?

      What do you mean by this? There would only be one birth certificate and country of birth. Are you seeking dual/multiple citizenship?

  62. Hi….I have been reading the post….I am getting married in a few days and I am struggling with the decision to change my last name. I would like to have two last names without a hyphen….so it would be like John Smith. Is this possible and I was told that if you don't have a hyphen, then you can use one or the other…you don't have to use both…..I am so confused. I just don't want to hyphenate I want the flexibility of using which ever last name I want.

  63. Hi! I got married several years ago, at the time I thought I would want to change my name. As it has almost been 4 years and I still have not, clearly I have an issue with changing it. However, the house is in my married name. Is there some way to hyphenate or something? I still want my maiden name somehow reflected in my name, as that is who I have been for 34 years! Also, I am not particularly fond of sharing the name with his ex, who is a horrible person.
    How should I go about this?

    • Hi Tracy. If you want to hyphenate then you'll have to change your name for real. You can acquire a certified copy of your marriage certificate from your vital records office, then go about changing your name.

  64. Hi,
    I got married two years ago and adopted an additional name (after i got married)apart from my husband's name. example birth name was Sophie Marie Eze and then after marriage Sophie Marie Grace Flint- Pebble(Flint-Pepple been my husband's name n surname). Is this adoption ok? and can it be written on my international passport? How do i go about the Affidavit? I also want to be known mainly as Grace Flint-Pepple. Is this possible?


    • Hi Grace. What do you mean by "adopted an additional name"? If you've legally changed your name as you specified, then you would use it in full as you normally would. As for being known as "Grace Flint-Pepple", that's depends on usage. If informally, then you can.

      Now, in your comment you reference "-Pepple" and later "-Pebble". Was that a typo or are you looking to informally make use of an alternative spelling of your hyphenated last name.

  65. I am 47 and plan on being married this year. I am in Texas. I want to keep my last name but my fiancé is adamant about me taking his last name. Am I able to have his name on the marriage certificate and still retain my maiden name on my credit cards drivers license Social Security passport documents.

    • Hi Gina. If you've only changed your last name on your marriage certificate, then you haven't actually changed it anywhere (for real). Your maiden name remains your legal name. Citing a name change on a marriage certificate doesn't obligate one to actually change it.

  66. Hi I live in L.A. county CA and my fiance has his mothers last name, he wants to change it it his stepfathers last name and that would be the last name I would like to change it to when we get married. Can we just change it when we get married or does he need to change his last name first before we get married.

    • Can we just change it when we get married or does he need to change his last name first before we get married.

      He'll have to change it first.

  67. Thank you for such a wonderfully interactive discussion.
    To be clear. If I want to keep my maiden name & take my future husband's I could either:
    1. "maiden-husband's"
    2. "maiden husband's"
    Would both be considered my last name? Or, if I used he second option, my maiden name would be considered a middle name. Is the hyphen mark necessary for both names to be considered my legal last name?

    • Would both be considered my last name?

      The second option would only be considered your last name if you specify it to be so. If you mark your maiden as middle, then it'll be your middle name only.

      Is the hyphen mark necessary for both names to be considered my legal last name?


  68. I have changed my last name to my husband's some time ago and wish to retain it for both personal and legal reasons but as I have a common first and last name, I would like to use my maiden name in some fashion for my academic career only. What are the possible ramifications if I hyphenate last names for my published works but not legally change it? I live in CA. Thank you!

    • Hi J. A general rule is to use your legal name for legal purposes (e.g., government documents, taxes, insurance) and your professional name for other purposes. You'll have to bridge the gap between your prior name and new name so that old references still point to you.

      • Thank you. The only issue that comes to mind is that if I become faculty at a university, I would be associated with my published works by the hyphenated last name so I would be listed accordingly (ex. Smith-Doe) in all references and therefore it may create a problem if I am only using single last name (Doe) for all legal stuff like the bank and on taxes.
        And here I thought I was making things easier when I took my husband's last name. Oh well.

  69. My lawyer told me that if I hyphenate my last name when I get married I can go by either name if I choose. He is saying that I don't have to sign both names to documents. According to your post it looks like I have to sign both. I'm confused.

    • Hi Michelle. It depends on the document and circumstance. Not all documents are legal documents that strictly requires the full legal name.

  70. hi,

    I am Puerto Rican and already have First Name, Middle Name, Father's Last Name, Mother's Last Name. Got married several months ago and have been using First Name, Father's Last Name[HYPHEN]Husband's Last Name socially but haven't changed it legally. I'm thinking of actually making the legal change but I think it'll be so much hassle which is what scares me the most? Also, don't know if I should keep it hyphenated so people KNOW that it's my married name or if I don't hyphen it and just put a space between the two will people think the second last name is my mother's instead of my husband's?

    • I'm thinking of actually making the legal change but I think it'll be so much hassle

      Many people go through name changes every day. It shouldn't be too much of a hassle.

      Also, don't know if I should keep it hyphenated so people KNOW that it's my married name or if I don't hyphen it and just put a space between the two will people think the second last name is my mother's instead of my husband's?

      If you choose not to hyphen, it's likely most people would assume the sole last name was the complete last name, assuming they don't have preexisting knowledge of your family name history. There's no right or wrong, better or worse. Choose whichever you prefer.

  71. HI.. I am frm Bolivia and I got married to an American in Ohio through a K1 visa I am now filling out the forms for AOS.. my question is.. I want to keep my last name Camcho and add his Nely.. so can I put my name plus Camcho Nely without being hyphoned.. I am not sure in Athe USA recognized 2 last names.. cause I want it to be seperated and not one name…will that later affect when we have children becuase he will not add mine he will just stay as neely…and should I put in the forms… when it says family name camcho with space Nely?

    • Hi Camcho. The name you choose won't affect the surname choice of your future children. "Family name" just means surname or last name.

  72. I think you've touched on these question before, but I just want to clarify:
    My birth name is 4 names, with 2 hyphenated middle names (ex. Jane Smith-Jones Doe). If I want to add husband's surname (ex. Clark) to mine as 2nd surname, I could be Jane Smith-Jones Doe Clark, correct?

    You've said I will have to use both surnames as my last name (because they are considered one name in spite of a space/hyphen)… All official documents should be signed as Jane Doe Clark (but actual signatures are vague, anyway). So on the "Print your name" I would write: Jane Doe Clark and on the "Signature" line, I can make my mark, which can be a shortened version of my name or nickname, because that's my signature. So I could still sign some sort of scribble that is essentially 'J. Doe'… Is that correct?

    If I sign marriage license with the new last name (Doe Clark), is it officially changed, then? I know I should change SSN, Passport, DL, Banks, etc. to the new combination name (Doe Clark), but what if I never get around to it? Could I still go by Jane Doe on those, or will there be legal problems?

    • Also – this is California. Marriage certificate says you can hyphenate last names and you may or may not use an actual hyphen in the name (so space is OK for Doe Clark)….

    • I could be Jane Smith-Jones Doe Clark, correct?


      All official documents should be signed as Jane Doe Clark (but actual signatures are vague, anyway). So on the "Print your name" I would write: Jane Doe Clark


      and on the "Signature" line, I can make my mark, which can be a shortened version of my name or nickname, because that's my signature. So I could still sign some sort of scribble that is essentially 'J. Doe'… Is that correct?

      Yes, your intent when signing is what matters, not the neatness of your penmanship. If there's no intent to commit fraud then you're good to go.

      If I sign marriage license with the new last name (Doe Clark), is it officially changed, then?


      I know I should change SSN, Passport, DL, Banks, etc. to the new combination name (Doe Clark), but what if I never get around to it?

      Then your name won't legally be changed.

      Could I still go by Jane Doe on those, or will there be legal problems?

      That would make sense, as that would still be your real and current name.

  73. If my fiancee last name is hyphenated. And if I want to keep my last name and add his. Do I have to take both of his last names or can I choose?

  74. I kept my married name when divorcing because my two sons have that surname, I prefer it to my maiden name, and my career is established in this name. If I ever remarried, I would prefer to still keep my current name. Is this unheard of?

    • Hi Teresa. That's nothing irregular about your preference. Folks choose to retain their prior married name for a variety of reasons. Yours is an especially common one.

  75. I'll be getting married in a month. My first name is Taylor. His last name is also Taylor. He wants me to take his last name, but I'd rather not be referred to as Taylor Taylor. What's the best and least complicated change I can make while also keeping him happy?

    • Hi Taylor. If you're looking to avoid the double name, options to consider may be shifting it to a middle name, reversing the hyphenation, or opting for a new last name that's a composite of both names. Please keep in mind that some of these alternatives may require a court petitioned name change, which isn't really complicated, just more involved.

  76. Hello! I was married about 2 years ago now and I regret not moving my maiden name to my middle name. Would I have to go through the courts to drop my middle name and keep my maiden name as my middle name?

    • Would I have to go through the courts to drop my middle name and keep my maiden name as my middle name?

      If you've already changed your name after you got married, then yes, you'd have to go through the court petition process.

  77. I was married in Colorado in 2009 and signed the marriage license with my husband's last name but never changed it on any legal documents nor do I use it socially. Recently he is having issues with the military regarding health and life insurance on me because our marriage license says his last name but my drivers license and ss card have my maiden name. What do I need to do in order to fix this. I do not want to use my husband's last name.

    • Hi Joyce. Name change is optional, so maintaining things as-is shouldn't be a problem. If this is a issue related to DEERS (or similar) then you may want to make an appointment to discuss your status. Bring supporting documentation (e.g., certified copy of birth certificate, social security card) showing your maiden name as your current legal name. Explain that you chose not to legally change your name and that the name on your marriage license isn't applicable.

      • From the comment above, it seems like it would be okay to sign the marriage license with my maiden name hyphenated with my husbands surname, and not legally change my name.
        If this is the case, can I use the hyphenated last name at my leisure as long as it's not on any legal documents?

  78. Let's say my Husbands last nae is already a hyphenated last name, like the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. If i marry a person with a Hyphenated last name, and take his last name, do I take the full last name, the whole "Gordon-Levitt" or just Levitt which is technically his Fathers last name. And would the children be Gorden-Levitt Jones(lets say that's my last name).

    Kind of confusing but wanted to know thank you.

    • Hi Sasha. Yes, that's typically the default. Think of the hyphen as just any other character, with no special significance. Name change flexibility does vary by state, so you needn't exclude the possibility of a partial name change.

  79. Hi Valera
    We are a same sex married couple living & married in New Mexico. My wife is Mexican so has 2 surnames ( Cruz Torres, her fathers & her mothers). Are we able to change our surnames to her first surname, Cruz, & my surname Smith so Cruz Smith?
    I have just gone through the immigration process & changed my surname with that to Cruz Smith on my permanent resident card.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Susan. It may be possible. You can contact your local SS office and inquire about segmented surnames. Some states do provide a partial surname change or the construction of a entirely new surname that's based upon portions of both partner's surnames. Make mention of the name change on your permanent resident card. If you go in office, bring that along with your certified marriage certificate.

Leave a Comment

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