My Marriage Certificate Is Missing My Married Name. Now What?

Sad Bunny Costume

So your marriage certificate is missing your married name and you're wondering if you'll ever be able to change your name. What happened? What went wrong? You're not alone.

Today we're going to answer the following question from every angle:

Can I change my last name if my marriage certificate has my maiden name?

Asked by many-a-married person

What's the problem?

Folks in California, Georgia, Oregon, New York, among others, have it easy. When they apply for a marriage license, the application has a clear spot to choose a new last name after marriage.

But if you don't live in one of those types of states, you can't declare a new name on your marriage application, marriage license, or marriage certificate.

Are you missing out?

On the flip side, maybe you live in a state that allows you to choose a new name on the application, but you regret your choice. Or maybe you didn't choose.

Are you at a disadvantage?

In this brief article, we'll cover both angles. You'll find out how much trouble you're in and potential fixes to resolve your woes.

Once you've eased your concerns, you can use our online name change kit to fill out your forms with confidence, knowing you've covered every base.

They never asked me for my new name

Maybe the marriage license application asked for your new name, but you missed it.

  1. Did you forget?
  2. Did the clerk forget?
  3. What are you missing?
  4. Do you need to correct your marriage certificate?
  5. Does it even matter at this point?

If these are the questions you're asking yourself, you're in limbo. It's time to bring you out of the fog and get your name change back on track, minus obstacles.

Confused woman searching for missing married name
Searching for the new surname field on the marriage application.

Let's assume that you're sure the marriage license application never asked for your new name after marriage. Your memory isn't faulty. You looked for it and it wasn't there.

  1. Your marriage license only has your maiden name.
  2. Your marriage certificate only shows your maiden name.

If you're not married yet, you expect your marriage certificate to fall in line and show your maiden name after it's returned and recorded by the marriage clerk.

At this point you may wonder how you'll change your name if your marriage license or marriage certificate only has your current name or maiden name.

You can't be the only one facing this predicament, right? If this matches your experience, you're in the majority. This omission may appear to be a roadblock, but it's not.

Note: Although we reference maiden name, it could be your current name or birth name instead. It's the same predicament: lack of a new designated surname.

It just doesn't matter

Most marriage certificates don't show married names. Instead, they'll show a current name, maiden name, or birth name.

This is because the marriage license applications for most states don't offer spots to specify a new name after marriage. But this won't stop you from changing your name.

Woman expressing happiness and approval
Relief over your marriage certificate working out after all.

For those predominate states, a certified copy of your marriage certificate is proof of a name change event, even if it doesn't show your new name.

The act of marriage itself is what allows your name change to take place when your marriage certificate does not show a new name field because of its inherent design.

They did ask for my new name, but I screwed up

Everything explained so far only applies if your state's marriage license application didn't offer a space to choose a new name after marriage. But what if they offered it?

Woman cutting tree branch in act of self-sabotage
Self-sabotaging your name change plans.

You have a problem if they asked, but you left it empty—whether on purpose by accident. If you made a mistake choosing your new name, you have a problem.

If you mess up your marriage license, it will mess up your marriage certificate as well. Avoiding these problems starts with a flawless marriage application.

1. I left my new name blank

What if your marriage license application had a spot to choose a new name after marriage, but you left it blank? Did you miss your shot by omission?

Success vs failure, target split screen
Target your name change well when applying to get married.

Yes, you have missed your shot if your marriage ceremony has taken place. But you may apply for another marriage license if you're not married yet.

Remember, they tell you to review your marriage license before signing it for a reason. Your signature locks in your choices. Not choosing a new name is a choice.

2. I chose the wrong name

What if you specified a new name, but have since changed your mind? Today you want to pick out an entirely different name. Are you out of luck?

Success vs failure, assignment split screen
Be mindful when completing your new name pick.

Yes, you're out of luck, assuming your marriage has taken place. If you're not married yet, get a replacement marriage license in your preferred name.

Picking the incorrect name on your marriage license will cascade and get mirrored onto your marriage certificate. Avoid this ripple effect at the outset.

I signed my marriage license or certificate wrong

You should sign your marriage license with your maiden name if it's your current legal name at the time of signing. Bottom line, just sign your current name.

Woman worried that signed the wrong name (maiden name instead of married name)
It's unnecessary to worry if you signed your maiden name.

But it doesn't matter if you signed the wrong name, your maiden name, or your future married name on your marriage license or certificate. The fact is:

  • It won't invalidate your marriage.
  • It won't nullify your marriage license or certificate.
  • It won't affect your name change in any real-world sense.

Applying the wrong signature to your marriage record is an annoyance and red herring that's not worth mulling over, assuming it's not an egregious blunder.

Why am I stuck?

If you choose a new name on your marriage license application, it will automatically show up on your marriage certificate.

The Social Security Administration (SSA), DMV, and other government agencies will only use the new name shown on your marriage certificate when you update or renew your documents.

Worried husband trapped atop spider web
Getting stuck with the wrong name on your marriage certificate.

For instance, when updating your social security card, the SSA guidelines stipulate that any new name specified on your marriage certificate must be adopted:

If the document [e.g., marriage certificate] itself has an entry specifying what new name will be used, the SSN card must be issued in the legal name specified on the document.

Evidence of name change quoted from SSA POMS 10212.055.

That's why the wrong name appearing on your marriage certificate is a problem. You're locked into your new name unless you amend your certificate or seek a court order.

Next, we'll document a common failed name pick scenario.

1. Documenting your new name

For example, say you were to marry where the marriage license application asks you to choose a new last name. The form may even let you to adopt a new middle name.

Woman filling out name change on marriage license application with confidence
Serenity writing your new married name on the application.

On the application, you replace your middle name with your maiden name. You then take your spouse's current surname as your new last name. (This is a common preference.)

Arrive prepared to answer the new name question. Don't get caught flatfooted and panic respond. Your state may not ask for it today, but laws change and it may later.

2. Seemed like a good idea at the time

Now you're married, yet haven't changed your name with anyone. Your social security card, driver's license, and passport are still in your old name. Well, your current name, that is.

Young, irritated, frustrated woman standing and touching her cheek
Unease over your completed new name decision.

Now second thoughts, regrets, and doubts invade. Did you make a mistake?

3. Change of heart

Your marriage certificate arrives by mail. You're not happy. It shows the new names you chose, but they're no longer the names you want.

Stressed woman holding defective marriage certificate
Struggling to accept your new legal name as declared.

Now you want to restore your middle name to its original state. And you want to hyphenate your last name in reverse order—spouse's first, yours last.

4. Dejected and rejected

The city or county clerk refuses to alter your marriage certificate. Next, you visit the Social Security Administration and DMV and ask them to make an exception.

Indignant government employee
Indignant government clerk denying your name change waiver.

But they both refuse. They will only honor your undesired new name that is shown on your marriage certificate. No exceptions, overrides, or waivers.

Fix your mistake

You have three options if you're not satisfied with the name you chose (or didn't choose):

  1. Apply for a new marriage license;
  2. Change the name on your marriage certificate; or
  3. Petition the court for a separate legal name change.

Next, we'll explain the pros and cons of each potential solution.

1. Apply for a new marriage license

If your marriage ceremony has not happened yet, you're in luck. You still have time to replace your faulty marriage license by applying for a new one.

Triumphant woman escaping name change bear trap
Escape the name change trap with a new marriage license.

You must pay the marriage license fee again, assuming they do not offer complimentary, reissued licenses. (A meager sum to secure the name you want.)

2. Change the name on your marriage certificate

Marriage certificate amendments are not for changes of heart. They're meant to fix mistakes and typos. Yet the clerk may sympathize and allow for the change.

Woman feeling hope with crossed fingers
Hoping for a successful marriage certificate correction.

It's a Hail Mary pass, as you're not guaranteed a successful outcome.

Even if you could change the name on your marriage certificate, it may well snag you. Because they might attach (instead of overwrite) amendments to the original marriage record.

  1. Everyone would still see the old record.
  2. And both documents would remain public records.

If a vital records clerk forgoes or straight up breaks the rules, other federal and state agencies might consider your amendment questionable. (Assuming they even notice.)

Caveats aside, most city and county clerks and recorders have vast authority to change marriage certificates and other records within their discretion.

You must petition the court for a name change when you've run out of options. This is the worst-case scenario that's worth avoiding if possible.

Judge granting name change court order
Judge granting a name change court order.

Court may be an expensive and time-consuming process, but at least you're guaranteed to get the name you want. Your court order will assure acceptance by every organization.

You could even change your first name while you're in court. Or opt for a brand new middle name or surname. You can't do that with a marriage certificate.

Note: A court order supersedes—not supplements—your marriage certificate.

Will I get in trouble if I don't change my name?

No, you won't get in trouble if you don't change your name after marriage. That's a myth or misconception. There are even ways to return to your maiden name while still married.

Criminal bandit imprisoned
Zero consequences for not changing your name.

You don't have to follow through with a name change even if your marriage certificate shows a new married name. Maybe you'll defer it and change your mind two, 10, or 20 years later.

Is there a loophole?

We've had intrepid readers report unlikely name change successes dealing with city, county, social security, passport, and DMV clerks.

You may fail where they've succeeded. But you may find an opening where others don't even bother to venture; through grit, luck, or a forgiving clerk.

Did you find a name change loophole? Were you able to get your name changed when you thought it was impossible? Share how you did it in the comments section.

If all is well and you're ready to get your name change underway, you can use our online name change kit to fill out, save, and complete your required name change forms.

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

Start Your Name Change

1,054 Comments

  1. My husband and I got married July of 2023. I have not changed my last name yet due to personal reasons that we had talked about but want to finally do so. I submitted a request with SSA but I feel like I'm missing a step before that.

    We live in Missouri. My maiden name is on the marriage license, and I do not remember checking a box or filling anything out about my new last name when we applied for it. Is submitting through SSA enough or do I need to contact county clerk?

    • Hi Mykayla. You can submit your name change directly to the SSA, as Missouri marriage certificates don't list "new name" fields.

  2. Hello,

    My husband and I were married in Arizona in 2022. At the time I signed my marriage license/certificate using my birth/maiden last name and was not advised to sign it using my new last name.

    I always intended on changing my last name to my husband’s last name but put it off for professional reasons.

    We currently live in Montana. Will Montana accept my Arizona marriage certificate as is? Or do I need to get a revised marriage certificate?

    Thanks, Jules

    • Hi Jules. Your Arizona marriage certificate will work fine in Montana, as Arizona's marriage license application doesn't have a new name section to fill out anyway.

  3. Hi!

    I got married February 16, 2024. I can't remember if I elected to change my name when filling out the application, I'm pretty sure I did fill in my new last name as this was very important to me to take my husband's last name.

    We recently received our marriage license and my maiden name is what is listed. The line underneath for my new name is blank and a little box is checked stating new name is the same as previous name.

    Will I have a problem changing my name with SSA and the DMV due to this? I am calling the town clerk tomorrow as it's Sunday and very late. I really don't want to get re married but will if it's the only way to change my name on other documents.

    If the town clerks office made an error is it an easy fix? And if I somehow missed the spot on the application and left it blank, is re marrying the only way?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Amanda. If the clerk made a mistake by omitting your new name on your marriage certificate, they would have to issue an amended certificate without charge. They could verify this by reviewing your marriage application on file.

  4. Hello,

    I got married in 2018 in CA. On my marriage certificate I kept my full name and added my husbands last name without the hyphen. I never changed my name on any documentation and am thinking about doing it now since we moved to AZ.

    I now wish to only have one last name on my license. I was told since I technically have two last names on my marriage certificate, when I go to the DMV or social security office I can choose to pick just one. Does that sound correct?

    Also, if I changed my middle name to my maiden name and just took my husbands last name, would that be a legal name change and have to go through the courts.

    Thanks so much for your time & help!

    • Hi Lindsay. The SSA will only change to the new name shown on your marriage certificate. If you want to deviate from that (i.e., middle name or last name), you'll have to petition the court. The DMV doesn't much matter, since they'll require the name on your driver's license to match what's on your social security record.

  5. We got married by proxy in Montana in 2022. I elected not to change my name at the time on the paperwork, but the marriage certificate doesn't have a space for new names. Do I need to file in court to change my name now?

  6. Hello. My husband and I both reside in California, but got married in NJ. We have a copy of our marriage certificate – but no where on the license or certificate was there a place to file for my new requested name.

    All copies and documents I filled out and signed with my current maiden name. I even asked the registrar if I filled out the applicant correctly for a name change after and they said to contact Social Security office.

    I plan on going in person this week but am so nervous… especially being on complete opposite coasts. I've also read I will need to file a court order if my documents do not show the name change. I would like to take my husbands last name. Any advice is helpful. Thank you.

    • I've also read I will need to file a court order if my documents do not show the name change.

      The SSA is context-aware and understands that your NJ marriage certificate will only show your current name and maiden name. You'll be able to change your name fine using it as-is.

      Had you gotten married in California instead and omitted your new married name, then you'd have to obtain a court order to change your name.

  7. Different situation here…

    When we got married (NY) my husband used his maiden name on the marriage certificate. After a few months he changed his last name, he took my last name.

    Now we are getting divorce and when I went to fill out the paperwork it asks for the name that is on the certificate, but it isn't his legal name anymore.

    What should I do? Should I use the maiden name from the certificate OR use his current last name? His ID and SSN has his new last name.

    Thank you

    • Are you referring to the "Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage" form? If not, could you specify the name of the form so that I could see what it's asking for in greater context?

  8. I got married in New Orleans, but we didn't know that they use birth certificate names only for the marriage license. At the time my fiancé had all the paperwork for her legal name change, EXCEPT for the birth certificate because we didn't even know changing birth names was a thing.

    So on the license they used her birth name and not her legal new name. She has since corrected her birth name and now I want to change my last name to hers… we live in TX. If the license still shows the old birth name, what do I do?

    • Hi Megan. If the name your fiancé put on the marriage license application was not her current legal name, then she can contact the parish clerk to issue a corrected marriage certificate.

      Keep in mind, Louisiana marriage license applications will ask for both your current legal name as well as your last name at birth.

      Now, if you're suggesting your fiancé's last name underwent a legal name change after getting married, while the name on the marriage license was correct at the time, then you have unfortunate timing.

      In this instance, you can't use the marriage certificate to change your name. You'll have to petition the court instead. But based on your wording, it's not clear if this is the case. If not, please clarify.

  9. My wife and I married in Massachusetts in 2018. For professional reasons, my wife chose to keep her maiden name as her "name after marriage" on the marriage certificate.

    She will be taking my last name before we have children, and we've come to realize it probably would've been better to take my name on the marriage cert and just wait to go through the paperwork process later…

    We currently live in Virginia, and it seems many states have different rules and procedures for marriage certificates and how they connect the dots to arrive at what's considered a legal name.

    Will she be able to change her name with SSA, VA DMV, etc. using our marriage cert, even though she technically chose not to change her name by MA standards? My guess based on reading other comments is we need to petition the court, but I wanted to clarify.

    Additionally, how does getting her name changed via the Virginia courts affect our Massachusetts marriage certificate if we are unable to amend her name on it? I assume the cert will still be accepted as valid if we show the proof of name change from VA? Thanks!

    • Hi David. Your wife will be able to change her last name to your last name in Virginia using the Massachusetts marriage certificate, even though she omitted her new name during the application process.

      When there's a new name omission, Virginia (and most states) will allow the base defaults, which is taking your spouse's name and hyphenating.

      • Even though she didn't omit a new name, but wrote her maiden name as the new name? We wrote her maiden name on the "name after marriage" line of the certificate. It's technically not an omission because we didn't leave it blank. Hope that clarifies.

        • Hi David. It would be nice to be optimistic and assume the SSA agent who deals with the application would realize the birth, current, and new name are the same and disregard it, but you may want include a note with the application explaining the discrepancy. This may be a case where filing the paperwork in office has advantages over submitting them by mail.

  10. Hello. My partner and I are getting married today but I realized the marriage license doesn't have my middle names written… it's partly my fault because my passport doesn't have them (administration's mistake at the time) but my birth certificate does.

    I completely forgot to write them down during the process of getting the license. Could I redo it with my birth certificate? What should I do? (I I'm in Texas). Thank you so much for all the information.

    • Hi Audrey. You can contact the county clerk's office where you got your marriage license (which is the same office who will issue your your marriage certificate) about amending your marriage certificate after it's recorded.

  11. My husband and I married in 2018 in Iowa. I didn't change my name at the time, but have since changed my mind. We now live in Texas, and I'm wondering if I would need to file a marriage cert amendment with the original county in Iowa, or if it needs to be done locally?

    • You'd have to file your amendment request with the original custodian of your marriage certificate, which is the Iowa county recorder's office where you applied for your marriage license. But that's unlikely to work, as you're not correcting a typographical error or faulty data.

  12. Hi! My husband and I will be getting married in February in Illinois. Do you know if Illinois allows you to declare your new last name on the marriage license and marriage certificate?

    I was recently told by a friend to put my husband’s last name on the marriage instead of my maiden name to make it easier to legally change my name after the wedding.

    • Hi Kara. In Illinois, you do not put your married name on the application. You will be directed to put down your current last name and maiden name.

  13. Hi, I got married in NY in 2017 but did not elect to change my name at the time, so my marriage certificate just says my maiden name. I'd like to change my name now (planning to use my maiden name as my new middle name and take my husband's last name) but since I did not indicate the name change on the marriage certificate, do I need to petition the court for a name change at this point? Also, is there any issue with having waited so long (6 years) since we got married? Thank you!

    • Hi Samantha. You can take your maiden name as your middle name while taking your husband's last name as-is or hyphenate, but nothing more elaborate than that. Your new name omission relegates you to the those allowed defaults. And, no, waiting six years or more won't hamper your ability to change your name.

  14. Hello. I got married in 2018 in Florida. "Name of spouse" says my last name at that moment which was the same as my maiden surname. Is it right or I should of changed it at that time?

    So my application to marry and my certificate of marriage seem to be one page and my new surname isn't mentioned anywhere.

    I'm an immigrant, so when I applied for a green card I used my husband's surname and got the green card issued without a problem.

    But for traveling purposes I need a certificate of marriage that would clearly show that my name was changed and that I have my husband's surname now. How can I get this type of certificate?

    • I got married in 2018 in Florida. "Name of spouse" says my last name at that moment which was the same as my maiden surname.

      Florida's marriage license application will only ask you for your current legal name and your last name at birth. It will not have a spot to specify your preferred married name.

      for traveling purposes I need a certificate of marriage that would clearly show that my name was changed

      Your Florida marriage certificate as-is provides sufficient evidence of authority to change your name. It doesn't need to list your new married name next to your first name.

      The mere appearance of your husband's name next to yours is enough to extrapolate your married name from your spouse's.

  15. Hi there. My husband and I were married two weeks ago in Nevada. We reside in California. I missed indicating that I would like to take his last name and now our marriage certificate shows no new designated name for either of us. What do I have to do to change my name? Thank you!

    • Hi Arzu. Since you're changing your name in California with a non-California marriage license that omits your married name, you're limited to taking your spouse's last name or hyphenating.

  16. Married in WI. Only my maiden name shows on my marriage certificate. I did change my last name with SSA & the DMV to my married name, but now want to change my last name back to my maiden name.

    Because my marriage certificate shows only my maiden, would I be able to change it again from my married name back to my maiden name with SSA and the DMV without a court order?

    • Married in WI. Only my maiden name shows on my marriage certificate.

      That's standard in Wisconsin.

      but now want to change my last name back to my maiden name.

      Take a look at the undo name change article.

  17. I got married in Nevada in Nov 2022 and when filling out my marriage license I did not fill out the "New Name" portion, so my certified marriage certificate does not have my new name, and lists my maiden name. Will I have problems changing to my married name when I go to the Social Security office, or will they take the certificate as proof of marriage and update my name to my married name? Thanks!

    • Hi Tori. You can still change your name, but you're now limited to the basic options: take spouse's name or hyphenate.

  18. I got married in Pennsylvania a while back and am trying to use my marriage certificate from Pennsylvania to change my drivers license last name in California where I live. I have updated my social security card to reflect the last name change but the DMV has turned me away both times when I tried to update California DL.

    The first time I was turned away because they didn't like that the way Pennsylvania does the marriage certificate is by taking the marriage license and adding the signature/date/seal (it still says marriage license at the top). They were expecting a completely different document which is not how Pennsylvania handles. I even got a letter from the court in Pennsylvania to explain this but that didn't help.

    The second time I tried at a different DMV field office and was turned away because my new last name is not listed anywhere on the marriage certificate. This is how the process in Pennsylvania works, not an omission by me at the time of getting married. Any suggestions on how to handle? I am hoping to not have to go the path of getting a court order. Thanks!

    • Hi Chad. Two questions: 1) Are you trying to change your name to something more complex than taking your spouse's surname, such as combining a section of both your and your spouse's surnames (current or birth names), and 2) are you sure you presented a certified copy of your marriage record after it was recorded and issued by the clerk's office?

      In general, it appears you've encountered agents from two offices who were unaware of how another state's marriage certificate differs from their own.

      As you already know, not all states issue marriage certificates that say "certificate." For those states, the marriage license is the certificate. Only the status changes from license to certificate after the marriage is solemnized. The letterhead still shows "license" or "license and certificate of marriage." It's surprising the DMV agent from office #1 wasn't aware of this.

      As for the second office, not showing your new name on the certificate is standard for most states, but not for California. Is it possible you encountered two agents from separate offices that live in the California bubble? It's surprising.

      You can try another office or return to the same office and ask for a supervisor to override or at least show in writing the rationale for their denial. But make sure that they realize this is a non-California marriage certificate. If they weren't paying close attention and assumed they were looking at a California certificate, their reactions would have been understandable.

      • I really appreciate your response. In response to your questions. #1, my husband and I are combining and hyphenating our last names. My existing last name will go 2nd. And for #2, the copy that I presented was a certified copy (dated and with raised seal).

    • I have encountered the same issue for my husband. Got married in 2020 moved 2021 forgot about name changing until recently. He did change it with SSA but DMV will not allow it cause he has to have court approved of name change is what they told us.

      We said no we don't. Lady kept arguing with me. That our marriage license needs to have new names and court order stating can do a name change. No PA doesn't do that. They don't do name change.

      DMV in NY are giving us issues. Saying we need 6 points to change and you can't change bank without a new ID showing proof of name change. So we are back in circles.

  19. Hello, My (same-sex) spouse and I married in Denmark in 2021. Can we use the Danish marriage certificate (which is in both Danish and English) as a basis for a name change in the US (we live in NJ)? Thanks!

    • Can we use the Danish marriage certificate (which is in both Danish and English) as a basis for a name change in the US (we live in NJ)?

      Yes, your foreign marriage certificate will work fine for changing your name.

  20. I have a similar situation of getting married in Pennsylvania and I used my maiden name on my marriage certificate, live in NJ. On the social security website it says "You must provide a marriage certificate that shows your new name." But you're saying that's not the case and I can bring in my current one along with my driver's license/passport with my maiden name?

    • Hi Dena. "Shows your new name" doesn't mean your marriage certificate must say current name here and new name here. Your marriage certificate must list sufficient information to construct your new name.

      For instance, if you were taking your spouse's last name, the SSA would pull that name from your spouse's current name on the certificate. Like mixing and matching.

      • Got it, so I should be good with the marriage certificate I have for social security. But for the NJ DMV, it says I need "A certified copy of the court order granting your legal name change".

        Do you know if they'll take my marriage certificate and either my updated social security card or a receipt from the social security office?

        • so I should be good with the marriage certificate I have for social security.

          Yes, your marriage certificate is good for updating your social security card and driver's license.

          But for the NJ DMV, it says I need "A certified copy of the court order granting your legal name change".

          The official NJ MVC name change page states the following:

          Legal proof includes a certified marriage or civil union certificate

          So your marriage certificate is sufficient for name change purposes.

          Do you know if they'll take my marriage certificate and either my updated social security card or a receipt from the social security office?

          Your marriage certificate alone is enough. You don't need to bring your updated social security card or documentation from the SSA.

  21. I got married in 2010 in Minnesota and at that time on the marriage certificate I changed my name to have my new middle name be both my original middle and last names (so I have 2 middle names) and my new last name is just my husband's last name.

    I changed my name everywhere this way at that time and that's how my name has appeared on every document, social security, drivers license, taxes, W2s, mortgage, credit reports, car titles, voter registration, etc. for the last 13 years.

    I applied for the real ID a few weeks ago and just found out it was denied because my names don't match. Apparently for my name after marriage, the marriage certificate has my middle name as my original middle name and my last name as 2 names – both my original and my husband's last name.

    The county office said it's been too long since the marriage to make an amendment to the marriage certificate, so I have to do a legal name change through the court. Is this correct?

    How is the marriage certificate incorrect when everything else is correct? I'm so confused how I've never seen/received what they're saying is my "legal name" on any documents or run into any issues with this in the past 13 years.

  22. I am an officiant, a wedding that I recently officiated went very well but then when we went to sign the marriage certificate, I had told the bride to sign her maiden name because it is her legal name. The groom agreed with me on this and said that since that is her legal name she needed to sign it that way.

    Well the photographer kind of butted in and said no. She needed to sign her new last name. There was a bit of a back and forth. Not much but to save argument as I know the bride was already stressed and I did not want to ruin this occasion I just kept my mouth shut.

    The bride then signed her married name and not her maiden name. I am a bit worried as I don't want this to have to come back that their marriage document is not legal due to her signing the wrong name.

    I'm not sure what I should do if I should just let it go or ask the bride to put her maiden name in parentheses maybe just so her maiden name is on there?? Or will it be fine that she signed it with her new married name and just let it go?

    • Oh I should also add we are in Indiana. I have officiated many weddings and have always had the bride sign with their maiden name as that is their legal name. This is the first time I've had someone argue with me about what the bride should sign. Everything I have ever researched and been told has always been the maiden name which is why I'm concerned.

      • Oh I should also add we are in Indiana. I have officiated many weddings and have always had the bride sign with their maiden name as that is their legal name. This is the first time I've had someone argue with me about what the bride should sign.

        You were right and the photographer was wrong. In Indiana, the married couple should sign their current legal names, and not their intended married names.

    • Hi Sandra. The bride signing her maiden or married name wouldn't invalidate the marriage, nor would it hinder any subsequent name change she might pursue.

      The SSA even allows certain signature discrepancies on their own SS-5 application, which is used for name change purposes.

      It would be a minor, understandable signature disparity anyway, as the signed married name could be derived from her printed maiden name and spouse's name.

  23. Hello! my fiance and I are getting married in South Carolina (we live in NY), the online marriage application doesn't have a spot for new last name, but I intend to take my current last name as my middle name and his last name as my last. Do I fill out the application with the new names and sign it with my original name?

    Thank you so much for this awesome resource, I had no idea where to even look for help with this!

    • Do I fill out the application with the new names and sign it with my original name?

      Fill out the application with your current name.

  24. I’m trying to apply for a Chinese tourist visa and since I got married recently, I need to show proof of name change.

    I was told that my marriage license/certificate was insufficient because it only shows my maiden name (I got married in Utah where there is no place for married name).

    All of my identity documents have my married name already. Do I have to petition in court to get a name change document with my married name?

    • Hi Annah. Whoever denied your request has a fundamental misunderstanding of how Utah marriage certificates are formatted.

      Perhaps you can contact the Utah county clerk's office that issued you your marriage license and certificate for a note on their official letterhead that details how Utah statutes only allow for the current name to be listed on the marriage certificate.

  25. Ok, so originally married in New York, marriage license changed name from birth name to married name. Only changed driver's license, all else (passport, SSN) remained maiden name.

    Divorced in New Jersey, documents say I kept married name, which is still only on driver's license.

    Married in Hawaii under maiden name. Can I use this document to change driver's license to maiden name, since passport and SSN back it up?

    • Married in Hawaii under maiden name. Can I use this document to change driver's license to maiden name

      Yes, you can use your Hawaii marriage license to complete your name change, while ignore every other event and document that occurred before your current marriage.

  26. Hi! My husband and I live in Michigan, but we got married in Massachusetts in March 2022 and have a Massachusetts marriage license. I left my name as my maiden name on the license because at the time, I was graduating college and didn't want anything to slow down my professional licensing applications.

    Now, I want to include my husband's last name (changing mine to two last names vs hyphenating) in Michigan. Can we just apply for a new marriage license in Michigan? Or can we amend the Massachusetts license? I have a feeling we will have to go through the court process in Michigan to change my name at this point. Thanks :)

    • Now, I want to include my husband's last name (changing mine to two last names vs hyphenating) in Michigan.

      I don't believe Michigan allows a space-separated last name, so you're looking at going to court.

      Can we just apply for a new marriage license in Michigan?

      Not in Michigan. New York may be the closest state that allows this.

      Or can we amend the Massachusetts license?

      You could try and amend your Massachusetts marriage record, but it likely does not meet the necessary requirements, such as a typographical error.

  27. Hello,

    My fiancé and I live in MO but will be getting married in AR next month. We both do not want to keep our current last names. We would like to make my middle name our new last name (so I wouldn't have a middle name anymore). What would be the easiest way to do this?

    • Hi Andy. Making your middle name your new last name through marriage will not work in Arkansas. The easiest approach is to pursue a court-petitioned name change in Missouri, change your social security card and driver's license to match, then apply for your Arkansas marriage license under your new name.

      This sequence allows your fiance to change her name to your new middle name using the marriage certificate instead of having to pursue her own name change through the court system.

  28. When we got married in Texas in 2017 my wife still carried the name of her ex husband and that’s what she put down on the marriage license. She did not want to change it at the time out of respect for her son with the same last name. But I did not wish to adopt her ex’s name so kept my maiden name.

    Now, the kid is an adult and my wife changed her name to her maiden name. I would love to change my name now to her maiden name as well. How do we go about that?

    • Hi Tina. In Texas, you would have to petition your county courthouse for a change of name.

  29. Hi, I got married in Vegas in Feb and live in NY. On the marriage license I left the new last name blank. I knew I would be changing my last name but I didn’t think leaving it blank would be a problem because I didn’t plan to do SSA until the fall. Will I have an issue bringing it to NY SSA to change my last name to my husband's? Do I have to amend it? Thank you :-)

    • Hi Mack. You should be able to change your name fine, as you're opting for a standard taking of your spouse's surname.

  30. Hello, I just recently got married in court this week. Got married in Chicago, Illinois. They never asked me about changing my last name to my husband’s last name. I haven’t pick up our marriage certificate. I fear that it will show my maiden name instead of my husband’s last name.

    I am planning to change my name on my drivers license, social security etc. Can I use my marriage certificate as proof for the name change even if it’s showing my maiden name as my last name?

    I also need the name change for immigration (adjustment of status). Do I need to change my name on my working permit now? Or wait when I file for adjustment of status? Thank you. Your help is much appreciated.

    • I fear that it will show my maiden name instead of my husband’s last name.

      It will. You're fine.

      Can I use my marriage certificate as proof for the name change even if it’s showing my maiden name as my last name?

      Yes, that will work.

      Do I need to change my name on my working permit now? Or wait when I file for adjustment of status?

      You can wait until you file for AOS.

  31. Hello, I think you’ve answered this question but I’m still confused for my situation. My husband and I got married in 2020 in CA and I opted keep my maiden name/make no changes to my name on the marriage certificate, however, now I would like to adopt my husband’s last name. Would I go to the county’s office and ask for an amendment to the marriage certificate or would I have to go to court?

    • Would I go to the county’s office and ask for an amendment to the marriage certificate or would I have to go to court?

      They would not make such an amendment. You would have to go to court.

  32. Hi,
    My wife and I got married in Maryland. There is no space in the license for name change. So, the certificate is showing as our normal names. My wife wants it changed and we’re not sure how to go about it. Can we apply for new social security requesting the name change despite no name change in the certificate?

    • Can we apply for new social security requesting the name change despite no name change in the certificate?

      Yes, just use the Maryland marriage certificate as-is.

  33. Literally just got married like a month ago. I feel like this is redundant but SSA states all over their site that your marriage license "must have your name" and it's giving me massive anxiety and second guessing so if you don't mind easing and reassuring me.

    My WI application and license asked for the "current name" and birth name of each spouse. I listed my birth name for each because technically the were the same and I signed as such. It didn't say birth name and married name. I'm just adding my husband's name to mine. Did I mess up? My license lists both my names as the same.

    • Hi Julia. Wisconsin marriage certificates will show your current name for you and your spouse. Not an explicit new name. That's fine for the SSA, as they can derive your new name from you and your spouse's current last names. They'll piece it together.

  34. Hi, I'm in CA and recently got married in Feb 2023. At the time, I didn't include my husband's last name on my marriage certificate but now I want to add it. Is there a way to add it after the certificate has been issued?

    • I didn't include my husband's last name on my marriage certificate but now I want to add it. Is there a way to add it after the certificate has been issued?

      No, California law will not allow you to add a name to your marriage certificate after its been recorded. Exceptions are made for typos and clerical errors, but this does not apply to your situation.

  35. Recently married in South Carolina. Marriage certificate only shows maiden name (I'm US citizen). Don't remember been given option to have husband's name on certificate.

    I do want to have husband's name but not sure what to do with AOS forms RE putting maiden or married name down as not changed any identification documents.

    • Hi Caroline. You can use your SC marriage certificate as-is and specify the married name on the AOS forms.

  36. Hi, was married in Massachusetts in 2020. At the time I was told I didn’t have to decide my last name and could change it after with Social security. The marriage certificate shows my husbands last name as surname after marriage. I have not changed any of my documents (social security) and would like to now. However I want to hyphenate my last name with his. Is this still possible to do?

  37. Hello,

    I am a Indian citizen and my husband is a US citizen. We got married in Texas in April 2023. The marriage license/certificate bears my maiden name.

    I am applying for a new DL in Austin. Can I use my marriage certificate, which contains my maiden name which is also on my Indian passport, to make a change to my husband's last name on my driver's license?

    This question will perhaps be better directed to an immigration lawyer, but what name should I use on my USCIS forms to file for an I-130? Can I use my new name once I get my new DL?

    • Can I use my marriage certificate, which contains my maiden name which is also on my Indian passport, to make a change to my husband's last name on my driver's license?

      Yes, you can use your marriage certificate.

      but what name should I use on my USCIS forms to file for an I-130?

      Use your married name.

  38. My husband and I got married in 2020 in California. I left the "new name" section blank on our certificate at the time, but about 2 months later, changed my last name to his through the Social Security office. I also changed my last name on my drivers license to shows my last name as his.

    My question is in regards to getting a new passport under my married name so it matches my other forms of IDs. Because my old passport has my maiden name and my marriage certificate does not reflect my new name, I'm not sure what the best course of action would be to rectify this.

  39. Hello!
    My husband and I got married in Nevada in 2021. Originally I wanted both his last name and my maiden name to appear on the marriage certificate. After the wedding is when I realized they gave me both his last name and his mothers maiden name on the certificate (on his license both names appear) would that be considered a clerical error or do I have to change it with the court?

    • would that be considered a clerical error or do I have to change it with the court?

      It's a clerical error if the county clerk made the mistake. They can confirm this by pulling the original marriage application and comparing it against the marriage license and certificate.

      If it's found the oversight was yours, then they are under no obligation to amend your marriage record. Then you'd have to petition the court.

  40. When I married my husband in NC in 1979, I used a copy of our marriage certificate to change my SS card and other documents. Our marriage certificate has my birth certificate First, Middle and Maiden Name on it only but my SS card has my birth certificate Middle Name, my birth certificate Maiden Name and my husbands Last Name.

    Our DMV office said that my marriage certificate was not proof of my name change because my birth certificate First Name was not on my SS card.

    Isn’t it logical that a marriage certificate saying, for example, Mary Jane Doe is married to John K Smith, that Jane Doe Smith is the same person?

    • Our DMV office said that my marriage certificate was not proof of my name change because my birth certificate First Name was not on my SS card.

      Are you saying your marriage certificate did not specify your first name? Or did it specify a first name that did not match your birth certificate first name?

      Isn’t it logical that a marriage certificate saying, for example, Mary Jane Doe is married to John K Smith, that Jane Doe Smith is the same person?

      Having a first name mismatch would be as problematic as a last name mismatch.

  41. Hi. Thank you so much for your very useful advice! I got married in Hong Kong back in 2010, and have a marriage certificate issued by the Hong Kong government. I later moved to CA and obtained a court-ordered delayed CA marriage certificate in 2020 based on my Hong Kong marriage. I didn't know at the time that I had to add a new married name onto the marriage certificate, so my CA marriage certificate's "new name" section is blank.

    I recently decided to finally take my husband's name as my last name, and use my maiden name as my middle name. Although SSA said I couldn't change my name based on my CA marriage certificate because my new name section is blank, they were able to process my name change based on my Hong Kong marriage certificate.

    My question is for DMV and passport name change, what marriage certificate do I need to show/send in? Would the CA certificate alone suffice, given that my name has already been changed on the SSA database, or would I need to attach the Hong Kong certificate as well?
    (I only have one copy of my Hong Kong certificate and I am concerned about losing it as the process to reapply for it is very cumbersome.)

    Thank you so much!

    • My question is for DMV and passport name change, what marriage certificate do I need to show/send in?

      Your Hong Kong marriage certificate should be sufficient for all federal and state entities.

      Would the CA certificate alone suffice, given that my name has already been changed on the SSA database, or would I need to attach the Hong Kong certificate as well?

      Your Hong Kong certificate alone should work fine for your driver's license and passport.

      (I only have one copy of my Hong Kong certificate and I am concerned about losing it as the process to reapply for it is very cumbersome.)

      Consider future-proofing your situation by obtaining one or more official copies of your marriage certificate. (Just in case.)

  42. Hi – I am trying to update my name on my passport (leaving in a month for Mexico and my passport has been hung up since January). I submitted all the information (at least I thought so) to change my name on passport (marriage certificate with maiden name, SSN documentation of new name) but still not processed.

    The US Dept of State is asking for a marriage certificate with my new name but I only have that with my maiden name. We were married in Texas and I am so lost at what to do. Please help!

    • Hi Megan. Texas marriage certificates do not show new names. It would only show your current name and birth name. Your "new name" could be extrapolated from your marriage certificate by piecing together your last name and your spouse's last name.

      There must be a misunderstanding somewhere, as your certificate should have worked fine as-is to change the name on your passport.

  43. My husband and I eloped in Hawaii and live in California. We got married last month, but I want to wait to change my name till we have our ceremony in July. The Hawaii marriage certificate has my maiden name listed as my declared name. When July comes how will I change it?

    • Hi Haley. When you applied to get married, did your Hawaiian marriage license application provide an option to specify a new name after marriage? I do believe their agents make that an option.

  44. Hello,

    I got married in California in 2012. When we filled out the application for our marriage license, the clerk kept pressuring me to change my last name. She kept saying it was easiest and free to do it now in case I changed my mind later. I very explicitly told her that I would never change my last name.

    Fast forward to 2023, and we have moved to Germany temporarily, and we got our marriage certificate translated to German for documentation here. When registering in our new city, the person found at the bottom of the translated certificate that my new name had been listed with my husband's last name. We then saw that it actually says that on our original marriage certificate.

    Germany will now not recognize that we are married because if they do, my name doesn't match my passport. It is messing up our taxes, and I'm worried it will affect our visa extension that we are working on now.

    We contacted the county clerk's office where we applied, and they sent us a scan of our application and said we signed the document with the name change request on the bottom. But in the scan, our answers are typed. Then there were two handwritten corrections that we made for parents because we accidentally hadn't put their maiden names. Then, hand written in neither of our handwriting, is the name change, when we had typed — in that field.

    I know I did not sign the application with that on there. The clerk's office is saying that even if it was written on after we signed, the fact that we did not catch it before the ceremony and get it corrected (it is typed in tiny font at the very bottom of the marriage certificate) makes it valid.

    Do we have any recourse? At this point, I have to pay to legally change my name back to my maiden name and go through all the paperwork and hassle, all because Germany won't recognize our marriage certificate as it is. Everything else – my passport, my real ID – have come through with my correct, original name without a problem.

    Thank you for your help!

    • Hi Elicia. Could you obtain a new certified translation with an affidavit claiming that there's a clerk-issued error citing your new name? Or have the translation omit mention of it?

      The alternative is to contact an attorney in California to work the county clerk's office on your behalf as a proxy. You wouldn't have to return to the state for this.

  45. My name is Ashley Rhoads. I got married to my husband John Marra in October 2021 in FL, and we currently live there. We are both attorneys, and as such we take things very literally.

    When filling out our marriage license, it asked for our full names, and then it asked for my maiden surname. As such, I wrote my full name Ashley Marie Rhoads, and then my maiden surname as Rhoads (I assumed that was what I needed to put because it asked for my name, and that is my name).

    And there was no space to write in what I wanted to change my name to. Now, I want to change my name to Ashley Rhoads Marra. However, my marriage license and marriage certificate only has Ashley Marie Rhoads on it.

    Do I have to petition the Court for a name change? Or can I change my name through the SSA with my marriage certificate as-is?

    • Hi Ashley. You can change your name through marriage using your Florida marriage certificate as-is. Their application, license, and certificate will only list your current name at the time of application, and your maiden name.

      When it comes time to notify the SSA, they'll use your and your husband's names as shown on your certificate to "derive" your married name from a set of allowed configurations.

  46. Hi, I got married in CA in 2017. When filling out our marriage license I asked the clerk in which order I should have my last name since I have two, name A- name b. She said she couldn't help me so I ended up putting name A-then my husband's last name.

    I hate it though because now I have things addressed to me with either two last names or just my maiden name. At this point I'm considering a whole name change, but I would like to know the cons of doing that. Thank you!

    • At this point I'm considering a whole name change, but I would like to know the cons of doing that.

      You'll want to review the California court petition section about what a full name change would entail. The pros are you'll get the name you want. The cons are the time, effort, and expense ($435 filing fee) required.

  47. In Texas here. Married in 2017 and kept my maiden name. Now I am wanting to change my last name to my husband's last name.

    Do I need to petition the court for a name change since my marriage cert has my birth name only?

    TIA,

    Aimie

    • Hi Aimie. You do not need to petition the court for a name change. Your marriage certificate alone will suffice.

  48. Hi. I was married in 2018 in Illinois. If I remember correctly, there was no option to on the marriage license to use a new married name hence I did not fill it out with my preferred name which was to hyphenate my last name with my husband's.

    Our marriage certificate has my maiden name on it. I want to know if it's possible for me to change my name (hyphenate last name) with Social Security using this marriage certificate. And if successful, use the new social security card with updated name to update other legal documents/ID (driver's license, passport, etc.) Thank you for your help

    • I want to know if it's possible for me to change my name (hyphenate last name) with Social Security using this marriage certificate.

      Yes, your marriage certificate will work fine.

      And if successful, use the new social security card with updated name to update other legal documents

      Your social security card isn't a true identity document, so you wouldn't use it to update other documents. Your marriage certificate will serve that purpose.

  49. Hi,

    I'm so lost and upset and would truly appreciate some guidance. My husband and I got married last August in GA. During the process of filing there was a slot for "Designated Last Name" meaning last name after marriage.

    I filled out my husband's current last name as the plan was to take his last name. However, when we received the marriage certificate months later, it has my maiden name on it.

    Since I'm a total perfectionist when it comes to paperwork with authorities, I kept and still have copies of the paperwork filled out for our marriage license which clearly states that the marriage certificate would have had my husband's last name for the both of us.

    What are my options to move forward and change my name? We currently live in NJ as my husband is military and have been unable to get ahold of the county clerk office that provided our marriage license.

    Is it even a possibility that they would go back in the records and admit they made a mistake? Would I be able/have to get a new certificate to proceed getting my named changed? Or is my only option at this point to file a legal name change with the court in NJ?

    I am not a citizen in the U.S. and I didn't grow up here so I don't fully understand the process. Filing for my green card I also have to provide proof of name change as I want the correct name on the card.

    Truly appreciate any guidance. Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Evelina. You should be fine to use your Georgia marriage certificate as-is. Georgia is odd with their marriage license to certificate inconsistencies. Their forms are designed by each county probate court. Some will include the new name on the certificate, others won't. This results in the confusion you've experienced, but shouldn't be a hindrance.

  50. Help pls! I got married in 2007 and didn't take my husband's last name right away. One year later I decided to take his last name. I started by changing it on my SS card first. They didn't ask for legal paperwork just my marriage certificate. Since then all my paperwork and IDs have been under my new name.

    Recently I have run into situations where I am required to show how I changed my last name legally. Either on my marriage certificate or court papers.

    Do I need to change my name legally now or is there another option I can provide to satisfy the requirements. I'm sure many other people have done the same before the laws changed and social security started requiring more. Thank you for your help.

    • Do I need to change my name legally now or is there another option I can provide to satisfy the requirements.

      Your marriage certificate should satisfy the requirement.

  51. Hi there. I got married in TN in Nov 2022 and reside in CA. The TN marriage license did not have a spot to fill in desired new name, so my marriage certificate shows my maiden name.

    I want to take my husband's name, and everywhere I am reading says I have to have my new desired name on the certificate to do this. Is my situation an exception since I was not married in CA and instead married in a state that doesn't operate this way?

    Will it just be a coin flip of whether I get lucky that they will allow it? Thanks for your help!

    • everywhere I am reading says I have to have my new desired name on the certificate to do this.

      That's only for certain states, Tennessee not included.

      Is my situation an exception since I was not married in CA and instead married in a state that doesn't operate this way?

      Yes.

      Will it just be a coin flip of whether I get lucky that they will allow it?

      It won't be a coin flip. It will work for sure.

  52. Hi, looking for help. I got married June 2021 in California. At the time I put both my maiden and husband's last name under new last name. It’s been over a year, could I still request an amendment?

    I want to drop my maiden name all together and only have my spouses last name. I live in another state now, if I have to petition would I have to go back to CA to do so?

    • It’s been over a year, could I still request an amendment?

      Such an amendment wouldn't get accepted no matter how much or little time has passed.

      I want to drop my maiden name all together and only have my spouses last name.

      You can't change the name on your marriage certificate after the fact, unless there's an error.

      if I have to petition would I have to go back to CA to do so?

      You don't need to go down this path, as you're not required to change your name to match what appears on your certificate.

  53. Hello!
    So I just decided this year I do want to change my last name to my husbands, problem is we got married 5 years ago in Las Vegas and we live in California. At the time I didn't know if there was an option to change my last name or just missed it.

    How would I even start that process if it's already been many years. I've read online that it could cost 500$ and need a court hearing. Please help. Thank you in advance!!

    • At the time I didn't know if there was an option to change my last name or just missed it.

      I don't believe the Nevada marriage license applications had the new name after marriage section five years ago. You should be fine to use your marriage certificate as-is.

  54. Mr. Jones – this post and the comments section are pure gold – thank you very much for your work here.

    I would very much value your counsel on my situation:
    – I got married in New York in 2010. At that time, I elected to retain my birth name on my marriage license and certificate
    – I now would like to take my husband's last name, while adding my birth last name as a second middle name – i.e. going from First Middle BirthLastName to First Middle BirthLastName Husband'sLastName

    My Questions:

    1) Even though I elected not to change my name at the time of my marriage, and so my marriage certificate only has my birth name, can I still proceed to legally change my name with the SSA, DMV, USCIS and all other entities?

    In other words, is it okay to "skip" the step of changing one's name on the marriage certificate in New York (as I understand NY is one of the states that offers the option of stating one's new married name on the marriage cert) – and still proceed to have their name legally changed everywhere else?

    2) The NYC marriage bureau has something on their website about needing to "remarry" in order to get a new marriage certificate with one's desired married name. If it is not necessary to have one's new married name reflected on the marriage cert in order to legally change one's name with the SSA, DMV and USCIS – then what's the point of this "remarry" option? Who typically uses it and why?

    3) I am now a resident of PA and so would be working with the PA DMV on my driver's license change – are there any peculiarities I should know about with dealing with the PA DMV on the basis of my NY marriage cert, that does NOT reflect a name change on it?

    4) I currently live overseas in Australia and so need to be able to accomplish all name change steps remotely (online or via mail). From my research, it sounds like the SSA processes these name changes via mail. USCIS I presume I can work through the Australian consulate as US citizens residing overseas routinely do with normal passport renewals? PennDOT sounds like will be an issue as they only seem to offer an in-person approach. Would you please confirm all of the above from your knowledge?

    5) Assuming the above is correct, does that mean I cannot complete the full legal name change process if I get stuck at the DMV step – and so would need to wait until I'm next visiting home to accomplish my name change?

    6) With all of the above agencies, is there any issue with the new name format I want to take (First Middle BirthLastName Husband'sLastName)? Will they all derive it correctly or will any of the agencies force a different default format (e.g. only one middle name)?

    Thank you so much!

    -KG

    • can I still proceed to legally change my name with the SSA, DMV, USCIS and all other entities?

      You can use your marriage certificate as-is to take your husband's last name. But you must obtain a court order to add a second middle name. Were you only opting to replace your middle name with your maiden name, your marriage certificate would be usable.

      is it okay to "skip" the step of changing one's name on the marriage certificate in New York …snip… and still proceed to have their name legally changed everywhere else?

      Yes, but with the limits previously stated.

      The NYC marriage bureau has something on their website about needing to "remarry" in order to get a new marriage certificate with one's desired married name.

      Correct, they'll issue a new marriage certificate for remarriages.

      what's the point of this "remarry" option? Who typically uses it and why?

      If a new name is shown on a marriage certificate, the SSA will only honor that name. If it's empty, they'll allow limited defaults.

      Someone may choose to remarry to get themselves unbound from the new name they chose. Otherwise, it's either change their non-preferred choice, don't change their name, or go to court.

      Remarriage also makes sense when they want to choose a new, alternative, complex name that NY law allows, such as taking a portion of each's current or prior surname. This kind of splicing isn't allowed in most states without petitioning a court. Yet New York allows it through marriage when designated on the marriage certificate.

      are there any peculiarities I should know about with dealing with the PA DMV on the basis of my NY marriage cert, that does NOT reflect a name change on it?

      Pennsylvania will accept your New York marriage certificate fine.

      PennDOT sounds like will be an issue as they only seem to offer an in-person approach. Would you please confirm all of the above from your knowledge?

      You're correct. SSA foreign offices accept mail, Australia has consulates, but PennDOT requires in person name changes.

      does that mean I cannot complete the full legal name change process if I get stuck at the DMV step – and so would need to wait until I'm next visiting home to accomplish my name change?

      You can complete the rest and deal with the DMV later.

      Will they all derive it correctly or will any of the agencies force a different default format (e.g. only one middle name)?

      As stated previously, two middle names requires a court order.

      • Thank you very much for your prompt reply. Of the two options – court order vs. "remarry" as NY state allows, which would you recommend for changing my name as I want to (i.e. to First BirthMiddleName BirthLastName Husband'sLastName) and why?

        In which state should I apply for the Court Order – NY, where I was married or PA, where I hold residency (own a house, am registered to vote, where my current driver's license is, etc.). Noting that I currently live overseas in Australia?

        Are Court Orders achievable remotely / all my mail or online?

        Thank you so much.

        • Hi KG. Court order would make sense due to your desire for a second middle name. You should file in your state of residency, which is Pennsylvania.

          Court orders must often be done in person, but you can contact the court clerk to determine if they accommodate proxies, such as an attorney to represent your petition or videoconferencing.

  55. Me and my husband recently got married in NC, I used my maiden name when applying for our marriage license and we just got our official license back and it has my maiden name. Will I still be able to change my last name to my husbands last name by going to the SSA office?

    • got married in NC, I used my maiden name when applying for our marriage license and we just got our official license back and it has my maiden name

      That's standard in NC.

      Will I still be able to change my last name to my husbands last name

      Yes, your marriage certificate will work fine to change your name.

  56. Hi there!

    Thank you for such an informative article! I'm hoping you can help me on a question I have regarding my name after marriage.

    I am a resident of California, my marriage license was obtained in California, and was married in California. I intended to make my maiden last name my middle name after marriage, but this was left out of my marriage certificate. I already went through a court order to add my maiden last name as my middle name. Do I have to submit an affidavit to amend my marriage record to add my maiden last name as my new middle name?

    I was told by my clerk recorder office that it would not be necessary to amend the marriage certificate if I have a court order name change, but they would not be able to change that section of the marriage certificate anyways since missing my middle name is not considered a typo or clerical error. They didn't seem very sure of their answer, so I was wondering if you know the answer?

    Thank you so much!

    • Do I have to submit an affidavit to amend my marriage record to add my maiden last name as my new middle name?

      No, you don't need to modify your marriage certificate. Just use your court order by itself. You no longer need your marriage certificate for name change purposes.

      I was told by my clerk recorder office that it would not be necessary to amend the marriage certificate if I have a court order name change

      Correct.

      they would not be able to change that section of the marriage certificate anyways since missing my middle name is not considered a typo or clerical error.

      Correct. Amendments are reserved for errors.

  57. Hi,

    I am Brazilian and a permanent resident, I got my green card in 2019. I got married this July in Illinois and I plan to change my name. As a Brazilian, I have no middle name and multiple last names.

    Being married in Illinois, I didn't have an option to pick my new name with the marriage license or certificate. My plan was to keep only part of my maiden name as my middle name, and then take my husband's last name.

    Is making only part of my maiden name as a middle name going to be an issue? Do I go to USCIS first to change the green card? How do I prove to them that I have a new name if the marriage certificate had only my maiden name?

    Very helpful forum, thanks a bunch!

    • Is making only part of my maiden name as a middle name going to be an issue?

      Yes, that would be a problem. You can't carve off a portion of your maiden name.

      Do I go to USCIS first to change the green card?

      Yes, use Form I-90.

      How do I prove to them that I have a new name if the marriage certificate had only my maiden name?

      They'll derive your new name from your spouse's name on the certificate.

  58. Hello,

    In our Nevada marriage certificate, we have my birth name listed only, we opted out of the name change when we applied. After we got married, I eventually changed my mind and changed my name with Social Security, and I now have my maiden name as my middle name and I took his surname.

    When I went to a NV DMV to change my name on my real ID, with my documents (current real id, new SSN, marriage certificate, proof of residency) they rejected my application because my marriage certificate did not reflect my new name (they said it's not a proof for a name change and I'd have to go to court).

    The only change they offered to do was to hyphenate our last names or to keep my old middle name and replace my last name to my husband's. This would make my new SS card and new real ID different from each other which is not what I want.

    Is that really the rules for a DMV real ID? Why offer those options but not put the same name as my social security on my ID?

    • Is that really the rules for a DMV real ID? Why offer those options but not put the same name as my social security on my ID?

      They offered you the default choices. This is the unfortunate downside of not choosing a married name on your marriage license and certificate—one agency might accept it, while another disagrees.

      You can try to get your marriage certificate amended, but that's tough to achieve without an error cited. You could claim that you left the new name portion of the application empty by mistake.

      You could try a different DMV with your new social security card in hand, but that might yield little, as they're not obligated to agree with the SSA.

      If all else fails, you can file a court petition for name change in Nevada with your county clerk of court. Expect to pay $200+ for the filing.

  59. Thank you so much for this article! I think I know the answer to my question but would love an opinion.

    My husband and I intended to get married May 2022 in CA. We got our marriage certificate in March 2022 and I put on the marriage certificate that I was only going to change my last name to my husband's name. My Dad very suddenly passed away Mid-April but we were able to get married in front of him a few days before his death. One of the last things he did was sign our certificate.

    I live in Massachusetts so I just recently went to the SS office, showed my marriage certificate (which showed my birth middle name and husband's last name) and asked the clerk if it was possible to change my middle name to my maiden name and last name to my husband's name. She said no problem which I was grateful for.

    Is this going to be a problem in the future that my SS name is different than my marriage certificate? I really don't want a new marriage certificate because of my Dad's signature but wondering if I need another document about new name? Do I need to do this in CA where the marriage certificate was issued or can I do this in MA where I live?

    • Is this going to be a problem in the future that my SS name is different than my marriage certificate?

      No, this won't be a problem. Once the SSA has approved your name change, there is no risk of them taking it back. Or are you concerned about blowback from another government agency?

      I really don't want a new marriage certificate because of my Dad's signature but wondering if I need another document about new name?

      No, you don't need another document.

      Do I need to do this in CA where the marriage certificate was issued or can I do this in MA where I live?

      There's nothing you need to do. If you were to amend it, it would take place in California, not Massachusetts. But such an amendment wouldn't get accepted in CA, as it wouldn't be considered an error.

  60. So I got married in Georgia in 2014. I'm pretty sure I missed the line about the new name or either it wasn't there. But I do want to change my last name to my husband's last name now. Do I have to go through the courts? My certificate and license is printed with my maiden name on it.

    • Hi Brandee. You're probably okay. Marriage certificate formatting isn't universal or standardized in Georgia. The state has 159 counties and each county's probate court is responsible for its own certificate design.

      Even today, some counties don't apply the married name to the certified marriage certificate, even when it's asked on their marriage license application.

  61. Hi, I just got married in TN 2 days ago but I live in Missouri and the people at the clerks office filled out our paperwork while asking questions but never asked if I wanted to take my husbands last name.

    So now the marriage certificate has my maiden name on it and not the married last name and I have no idea on what I need to do to get it changed over to his last name.

    • Hi Tiffany. There is nothing that needs changing. Just use your certificate as it stands to change your name.

  62. Hi, I had a name change to my husband's last name on the marriage certificate but since the pandemic, I never went to Social Security to change other documents.

    Now a year after we got married, I realize what a hassle it would be to change my name on everything, especially now that I have renewed my passport with my maiden name.

    Can I keep using my maiden name even though there is a name change on my marriage certificate? Will my husband need the certificate as proof that we are married after I die?

    • Can I keep using my maiden name even though there is a name change on my marriage certificate?

      Yes, name change isn't mandatory regardless of what new name appears on your marriage certificate.

      Will my husband need the certificate as proof that we are married after I die?

      Yes, the marriage certificate could serve as proof. The new name appearing on it won't cause a problem in the future.

  63. Hi I got married 10 years ago in Delaware. However, I live in NY. I now want to change my name so I can have the same name as my husband and my child for the birth certificate. I give birth in 2 months by the way. I guess I’m on a time crunch.

    I want to still use my maiden name professionally and on all business documents. What’s the best way to go about this I would like my name changed but not for business purposes.

    Since we were married in Delaware can I use the license to change it in NY or do I need to get a new license?

    Do I need to change my name on everything. Including corporations and banking documents..etc?

    Also if this process takes longer than expected can I still just write my married name on the birth certificate even though it’s not changed legally yet?

    • I want to still use my maiden name professionally and on all business documents. What's the best way to go about this I would like my name changed but not for business purposes.

      If you have professional licenses registered with the state, you should notify them of your name change, but inquire in the use of an alias. So, have your legal name on file, but continue the use of your maiden name in business contexts.

      Since we were married in Delaware can I use the license to change it in NY or do I need to get a new license?

      Your Delaware marriage certificate will work fine to change your name in New York.

      Do I need to change my name on everything. Including corporations and banking documents..etc?

      You don't have to, but it would make sense. Upon request, you bank should be able to accommodate the continued use of your maiden name on your checks and debit cards. They would still need to have your legal name on file. They may also require a new signature card in your new name.

      Also if this process takes longer than expected can I still just write my married name on the birth certificate even though it's not changed legally yet?

      No, as that wouldn't be your legal name at the time. However, who's to stop you?

  64. Hello. I got married in Miami, FL this past week. I really want to have my husbands last name but just realized that the clerk never asked me if I wanted to change my last name and I didn’t ask I guess of how excited I was with the ceremony that it didn’t cross my mind.

    So I am looking at my marriage certificate and it only has my maiden last name. What steps should I take go make the name change happen?

    • So I am looking at my marriage certificate and it only has my maiden last name. What steps should I take go make the name change happen?

      Just use your marriage certificate as-is to complete your name change. Florida marriage certificates will only show your current name at the time of application, not a new name post-marriage.

  65. My husband and I got married in 2013 in Kansas. I left the "new name" section blank on our certificate at the time, but about six months later, changed my last name to his through the Social Security office. I also changed my last name on my drivers license, and my military ID also shows my last name as his.

    My question is in regards to getting a new passport under my married name so it matches my other forms of IDs. Because my old passport (which is expired) has my maiden name and my marriage certificate does not reflect my new name, I'm not sure what the best course of action would be to rectify this.

  66. We just got our marriage license a few days ago but it has an error (Idaho) she put our last names given at birth where it asks for "maiden names if previously married" and neither of us have been married before.

    Our ceremony still hasn't been performed. What should we do? Can we just apply for a new license since no ceremony has been given yet?

    • Hi Monica. It's possible the recorder made that notation intentionally for record-keeping and genealogical purposes. You can contact them to inquire if it was a mistake or intentional. If it was a mistake on their end, they should issue you a replacement without charge. They may even be willing to reissue you a certificate if you're adamant about having a "clean" license.

  67. I read all the comments, I couldn't find the answers to my query. I hope if you could reply and help. I got married recently (non-citizen) to my husband (US citizen) in Illinois. They didn't offer to name change and asked to go through SSN etc.

    I'm not the citizen and therefore don't have SSN. We are going to file petition through USCIS. Can I use my new surname (his surname)? Can marriage certificate be used to use my new name like that? I hope you understood my question. Thank you!

    • Can I use my new surname (his surname)? Can marriage certificate be used to use my new name like that?

      Yes, you would still use your marriage certificate as proof of name change with the USCIS.

      • Thank you!
        I do not have marriage certificate with a name change. It has my maiden name. So, I hope it would work?

  68. When seeking an Enhanced ID from our state's Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) department, my application was rejected because my birth certificate had apparently omitted listing my middle name — which has been on all my legal documents since I was an infant.

    My full name is also on my Marriage Certificate, which, because I didn't take my husband's surname, includes my first, middle, and maiden name like all my other legal documents do.

    My question is, would my Marriage Certificate be acceptable to the DVS as adequate proof of my "name change" (actually name correction) from my provided Birth Certificate name (e.g., XZ) to my full name (e.g., XYZ)?

    Or must I instead (or additionally?) have to amend my Birth Certificate's name — either by using my Marriage Certificate's listing of my full name and those of my parents to show linkage between the name changes; or even by having to get a court-ordered legal "name change" (again only a name correction) to add my middle name to my birth certificate?

    • would my Marriage Certificate be acceptable to the DVS as adequate proof of my "name change" (actually name correction)

      Yes, for name change. No, for proof of identity.

      Or must I instead (or additionally?) have to amend my Birth Certificate's name

      Which state is this taking place in? You would have to show sufficient evidence of your middle name.

      either by using my Marriage Certificate's listing of my full name and those of my parents to show linkage between the name changes

      Your marriage license wouldn't be sufficient.

      or even by having to get a court-ordered legal "name change" (again only a name correction) to add my middle name to my birth certificate?

      That would work, but you could just substitute your birth certificate with an unexpired passport. Assuming your password shows your middle name.

  69. Hi, so, I'm kind of lost on what to do or if there's any options: my wife and I got married back in June, in Arizona. There was no line to put for name change on the marriage license. So the certificate came back to us and reflects both of us with still our birth names and doesn't show a new name field.

    Is it possible and if so, how would I go about taking my wife's last name? Where/who do I go to get that name change done? Or any helpful links? And would my wife need to go with me?

    Also, I saw the most recent comment from a couple days ago and the end of it, I have questions regarding my situation. Would I be able to go to Social Security office/dmv/passport and apply with my wife's last name even though our marriage certificate doesn't show a name change for me?

    I appreciate any sort of advice to point me in the right direction.
    Thanks for your help!

    • Is it possible and if so, how would I go about taking my wife's last name?

      You would have to petition the court for a name change. Not because of something you missed with your marriage license, but because a man must petition in Arizona to take his wife's name.

      Where/who do I go to get that name change done?

      Arizona Superior Court.

      Or any helpful links?

      See the AZ courts name change page.

      And would my wife need to go with me?

      Your wife needn't accompany you. You can complete the process yourself.

      Would I be able to go to Social Security office/dmv/passport and apply with my wife's last name even though our marriage certificate doesn't show a name change for me?

      At this point, you can ignore your marriage certificate. Your eventual court order will supersede it.

  70. I tried reading through all the previous comments but didn't find anything similar. Here it goes…my husband and I got married in Hawaii in 2017. On the marriage certificate, I declared his last name as my own. We live in TX.

    When we got back home, he decided to take my last name instead. Social Security office and Drivers License all accepted our certificate and his decision. Now we need to apply for his passport…will it be an issue if the marriage certificate doesn't state that he took my name? We were told the passport would have his birth name on it, but then it would not match his Social Security, License, and all other documents.

    Thanks in advance!

  71. Me and my fiancé got married last Saturday Sep 17, 2022 when we went to get marriage license, there was nowhere to put my new last name on? I would like to take my husband last name? Because on our marriage license just says my maiden name? What should I do? They didn't ask us if I was changing my name?

  72. Hello, I got married 202 and the person that filed our information for the marriage license didn't ask any questions about if I wanted to take my husband's last name, which I wanted and still want.

    I'm a foreigner so I was doing all the process for my adjustment of status and I got my employment authorization card and it has my maiden name on it, we were told that someone (not sure who, nobody told us) was going to ask me if I was taking his last name. But no one asked and since we filed ourselves, we didn't know what to do about my last name.

    Is there a way to change my last name to my husband's? I only have the employment authorization card valid for 2 years now, so I'm still in process for the green card. Is there any options to change my last name still?

    We are in Florida,

    Thanks in advance

  73. Hello! This page is so helpful. I have a random specific question (just like everyone else on here!)- my husband and I got married about a year ago in Massachusetts. At the time I put down his name on the marriage certificate but wasn't planning to go through the change process until this summer. I also wasn't 100% sure if I was going to change it or not.

    I decided I want to keep my last name as a second middle name and have been researching the process to do so through a MA court order. However, I didn't realize that the marriage certificate automatically legally changed my name – someone from the probate court said that the name on the marriage certificate is my legal name even though it does not match my SSN (as I never changed it).

    Does this mean that to go through the court process I would have to first change everything (SSN, license, etc.) to what's on my marriage certificate and THEN start the court process? Or am I just allowed to basically ignore what I put on my marriage certificate? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

    • I didn't realize that the marriage certificate automatically legally changed my name

      It's nonbinding. The only entity that could report your name change is you. If you ignore your marriage certificate, so does everyone else. That's the real world impact.

      am I just allowed to basically ignore what I put on my marriage certificate?

      Yes, you can disregard your marriage certificate.

  74. Hi, i got married about four years ago in Georgia. I did not change my last name at the time. I kept my maiden name on the marriage certificate as my married name.

    Do I have to go through the petition process to change it now that I would like to have his last name? If not, what would be the next step? I know you have probably answered this 100 times, but I am just lost. There seems to be a lot of nuances with this topic.

    • Hi Stephanie. You can use your Georgia marriage certificate as-is. Georgia's marriage license and certificate configuration varies per county and probate court. The inconsistency has been the source of great confusion, but hasn't shown to inhibit the most generic of name changes: taking your spouse's name or hyphenating.

  75. Married in CA –

    There is a new name entered in the NEW Name section but it should be empty.

    How can I have the certificate amended to show just dashes (NO entry at all)

    The new name section should be empty we never entered a new name in the application section.

      • Thank you for replying – it is much appreciated:

        I looked over the link you attached.

        Would I need a court order since this is not a name change but rather a correction where dashes should have been entered in the New Name section:

        I contacted the county clerk and they stated to initiate a name change but no name change ever took place:

        The courthouse can't perform a name change since current name will be the same as future name.

        I am a little lost – would you be able to shed some light for me to understand.

        Do I fill out VS 24C and put current info in and then as a correction dashes?

        Thank you for all you do on this page it is such a blessing.

        • Hi Asana. You don't need a court order to remove a field that you didn't specify. But there's the rub. Are you certain the error by addition was on the part of the county recorder (or county clerk for confidential marriage licenses)?

          When you filled out the marriage license application you had an opportunity to specify a new name after marriage. If you left it empty, a new name shouldn't appear on the marriage certificate. If you left it blank and a new name shows, then someone on the county government side made a mistake. They can confirm this by cross-referencing your marriage application, license, and certificate.

          But if you were the one who entered something that was later reflected on your certificate, they won't allow the amendment.

          If you're certain the mistake was on their part, you can submit the amendment paperwork.

          And you shouldn't have to enter dashes to signify a non-name, as the form provides a "reason for correction" field to explain what you're doing.

          You can also contact CDPH Vital Records by phone or email.

  76. Hello! I am a Michigan resident and just had my ceremony this past weekend. At the ceremony, I was told to sign the document with my married name, so I did. I sent it in to the county and am now freaking out because everything I am seeing says that I should have signed with my maiden (current name). I do in fact plan to change my last name to my husbands.

    Will this be okay and should I still expect to get our certified marriage license back from the county without any issues or is it possible that we will have apply for a new marriage license and re-perform our ceremony?

    Thank you

    • everything I am seeing says that I should have signed with my maiden (current name).

      That's not true for Michigan. You're fine.

      Will this be okay and should I still expect to get our certified marriage license back from the county without any issues

      You'll get your certified certificate if you prepaid for it. Otherwise, you'll have to purchase it separately.

      is it possible that we will have apply for a new marriage license

      When you get your certificate, you're fine to change your name using that document. No need for another marriage license or ceremony.

  77. Hi! I got married in 2021 in Georgia and intended to keep my last name and add on my husband’s last name, but not hyphenate them. When I filled out the marriage license application, I was told to put just my husband’s last name as my designated surname if I wasn’t hyphenating our last names and that my maiden last name could only become my middle name.

    My marriage certificate only shows my maiden last name. When I apply to change my name with SSA and DMV, can I put both last names (not hyphenated) as my legal surname so that my maiden last name is still part of my legal name, or am I stuck with my maiden name being my middle name?

    Also, do I just show the SSA my marriage certificate since it only shows my maiden name, or do they need both the marriage certificate and the marriage license application?

    • When I apply to change my name with SSA and DMV, can I put both last names (not hyphenated) as my legal surname so that my maiden last name is still part of my legal name

      Yes, with SSA, but I don't believe GA DMV will allow a space-separated surname without a court order.

      Also, do I just show the SSA my marriage certificate since it only shows my maiden name

      Georgia marriage certificates aren't standardized across counties (actually probate courts). If the certificate makes no mention of a new name post marriage, then you're fine to use it as-is with the SSA. But if it shows both your maiden name and a blank or incorrect new name section, the SSA will only accept the name designated as the new name.

      do they need both the marriage certificate and the marriage license application?

      Certificate only.

  78. My wife and I were married in Nevada but we live in California. She kept her last name as her maiden name on the marriage certificate but wants to change her last name to my last name.

    She already got a new Social Security card that reflects her middle name as her maiden last name and her last name as my last name.

    She is now trying to go get a driver's license to reflect her new name.

    Will the California DMV accept the marriage certificate even though it has her maiden name as her last name?

    She also has to submit proof of residency documents. Can these be documents that show her maiden name as her last name? She doesn't have any proof of residency documents that reflect my last name as her last name.

    Will the California DMV allow her to change her middle name to her maiden name? I read that California is one of the few states that doesn't allow that, but her Social Security card now reflects her middle name as being her maiden name. I read that the DMV will verify her information electronically with the Social Security Administration.

    • Will the California DMV accept the marriage certificate even though it has her maiden name as her last name?

      Yes, it's fine.

      She also has to submit proof of residency documents. Can these be documents that show her maiden name as her last name?

      Yes, as the marriage certificate will link her old name and her new name as derived from your name.

      Will the California DMV allow her to change her middle name to her maiden name?

      Yes, maiden to middle is fine in California.

      I read that California is one of the few states that doesn't allow that

      California does allow maiden to middle name changes.

      the DMV will verify her information electronically with the Social Security Administration

      Yes, they will.

  79. I'm getting married in NY soon.

    I don't want to change my name legally right now but want the option to in the future.

    I was thinking I could put a new surname on the marriage certificate and change my documents if I want to in the future. My question is, if a new surname is on the marriage certificate, am I legally required to change everything else (SS card, license, etc)? Is it obligatory? Could I just have it on the marriage license and not change anything else ever? Are there issues/consequences down the road?

    The other thing I thought was keeping my current name on the certificate and remarrying if I want to change my name in the future. I believe NY allows this. Is this right?

    • My question is, if a new surname is on the marriage certificate, am I legally required to change everything else (SS card, license, etc)? Is it obligatory?

      No, changing is optional. It does preserve the option to change though.

      The other thing I thought was keeping my current name on the certificate and remarrying if I want to change my name in the future. I believe NY allows this. Is this right?

      Yes, that option does exist.

  80. Hi, I have a weird situation that I hope I can get some help with. I'm thinking either my husband or myself will have to go to court (or both of us).

    My husband has a hyphenated last name "Name1-Name2" he hates the hyphen and never uses it for anything unless he has to for legal reasons.

    We got married in Arkansas and Arkansas didn't care that I only took the Name1 part of his name (there wasn't even anywhere to put if anyone's last name was changing on the certificate).

    We lived in Missouri and they didn't care either when I went to legally change my name to "Tam Name1." However, I recently moved to Kansas and in Kansas, the DMV forced me to put my name on my driver's license as "Tam Name1-Name2" although that is NOT MY LEGAL NAME.

    I argued with them for quite a while about it but they insisted that since my husband's name on the marriage certificate says "Husband Name1-Name2" that's what my last name has to be.

    What can I do to remedy this? It has been a nightmare since moving to Kansas and it causes issues when I try to open bank accounts, etc. Would he have to get his last name legally changed and then we get a new marriage certificate? Hopefully we could just go to court and get both fixed?

    • Would he have to get his last name legally changed and then we get a new marriage certificate?

      No, you (not your husband) would have to legally change your name by petitioning your district court in Kansas. Then use the court order to make the change with the DMV. Your marriage certificate would not play any part. You would not need to amend your certificate.

      Your husband could change his name in court too, but it would require a separate petition and filing fees.

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