Undergoing a legal name change in Maryland is easy if you know the proper steps. Today you'll learn the many ways to legally change your name without an attorney. Whether changing through marriage, divorce, or court petition.
Marriage name change
In Maryland, you may change your name after marriage using your marriage certificate. This works whether you're the husband, wife, or half of a same-sex couple.
Use a certified copy of your certificate to change your name on your social security card, driver's license, and passport; and with banks, creditors, places of work, etc.
There's no special Maryland rule for name change. Your options are straightforward and suits most use-cases. Sought-after name changes include:
- Hyphenate both last names
- Take your spouse's entire last name
- Take a portion of your spouse's last name
- Create a brand new last name
- Replace your middle name
- Alter your first name
1. Hyphenate both last names
You may join last names with a hyphen. This is a welcome technique for keeping both identities intact. Especially since either surname may come first or last.
2. Take your spouse's entire last name
You may take your spouse's current last name as-is. This is the common, default, traditional approach. You're even allowed to swap surnames.
3. Take a portion of your spouse's last name
Extracting part of your spouse's last name won't work. For instance, if they're Mr. John Murry-McMichael, you can't become Mrs. Murry, Mrs. McMichael, or Mrs. Hael.
4. Create a brand new last name
You may not make up a brand new last name. For instance, if you're Johnson and she's Miller, neither may become Millerson (segmented) nor Smith (fabricated).
5. Replace your middle name
You may replace your middle name with your maiden name or last name at birth. Replacement only: no hyphenating, appending, or dropping.
6. Alter your first name
You may only change your first name by filing a court petition in your local jurisdiction.
Marriage license requirements
You must get a marriage license and certificate to complete a name change after wedlock in Maryland. Let's walk through the process…
You may apply for a Maryland marriage license at a clerk of the circuit court office. It must exist in the same county where your nuptials will occur. You needn't be a resident.
Either apply together or have your partner apply on your behalf. You may download and mail your application if neither lives in the county where applying, then either:
- Pick up your license in person.
- Receive your license by postal mail.
The application will ask you to share your:
- Current name
- Place of birth
- Prior marital history
- Social security number (if you have one)
There are three marriage-related fees (it varies by county):
- Marriage license: $25 to $85
- Courthouse civil ceremony: $25 to $35
- Certified copy of marriage certificate: $5.50 each
Maryland circuit courts are open Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM (some until 4:30 PM). (Excluding federal holidays.)
Proof of identity
Submit the following identification and evidence (originals or certified copies only):
- Photo ID, e.g.,
- Green card
- Military ID card
- State-issued ID card
- Current driver's license, or
- Other government-issued photo ID
- Proof of prior marital status
- Divorce decree (if divorced)
- Spouse's death certificate (if widowed)
- Minor's birth certificate (if younger than 18 years old)
You needn't show your social security card or proof of citizenship.
A minor child (aged 15 to 17) may get married under two conditions:
- They're pregnant or have given birth.
- Their parent or legal guardian grants consent.
There are caveats:
- 15-year-olds must meet both conditions.
- 16- and 17-year-olds must meet either condition.
Fourteen-year-olds and younger may not marry, even with parental consent.
Waiting period and expiration
You must endure a tricky two-day waiting period. Your marriage license effective date comes after two days at 6 AM. For instance, apply on Friday to marry by 6 AM Sunday.
Your license will expire after six months following the two-day waiting period. For example, if you apply on January 1, it'll become invalid July 3 at midnight.
Maryland residents and U.S. Armed Forces members may request a circuit court judge waive the two-day wait time on reasonable grounds.
Receiving your license
There are two scenarios where you won't get your marriage license the day you apply:
- You applied by mail.
- Your court doesn't do same-day issuance.
You've three ways to get your physical license in hand:
- Get it by mail.
- Return for pick up.
- Authorize a third-party pick up.
When applying by mail, you may assign a mailing address to receive your marriage license. Of course, either you or your partner may pick up your license in person. Or give signed authorization for someone else to get it, like so:
I (Jane Doe) authorize my friend (David Garcia) to pick up my marriage license. Signed Jane Doe.Example statement allowing third-party retrieval.
Your marriage ceremony
Whoever solemnizes your wedding—judge, clerk of court, or religious official—must return your marriage license to the circuit court within five days after the ceremony.
Your officiant should hand you a copy of the attached marital certificate for your records. This document isn't useful for name change, as it's not a certified copy.
You may get real certified copies of your certificate from the circuit court clerk after it's returned and recorded. Use that document for name change.
Divorce name change
You may change your name after divorce using a certified copy of your finalized divorce decree (or Maryland Judgment of Absolute Divorce).
You may return to any former name:
- Birth name
- Maiden name
- Adoption name, or
- Previous married name
Name change is your choice alone. Your ex can't force you to switch. You're under no legal obligation to revert, no matter what your divorce decree says.
Timing your name change request
If you've filed for divorce, you have up to 30 days before your hearing to request a change in name. The court should approve, provided it's not for fraudulent reasons.
You may still request a name change up to 18 months after the initial Judgment of Absolute Divorce. The court will issue an amended record of dissolution.
Obtaining proof of divorce
You may order a certified copy of your Maryland divorce decree by mail or online through Maryland's Division of Vital Records. (Walk-ins are closed because of COVID-19.)
Current fees are:
- $12.00 for mail orders
- $23.75 for online orders (regular shipping)
- $42.25 for online orders (expedited shipping)
- 4 weeks for mail orders
- 3 weeks for online orders (regular shipping)
- 2 weeks for online orders (expedited shipping)
Court name change
You may file a Petition for Change of Name (under oath) within the circuit court in the county where you live. It can't be for an illegal or fraudulent purpose.
Court-petitioned name changes aren't just for last names; you may formally change your first or middle name too. The possibilities are endless.
Court clerk and staff are loath to answer legal questions. Find an attorney to provide legal advice if your name change veers into complex terrain.
Child name changes
If your child is younger than one year, the Department of Health can process their name change once, for free, without a court petition. Both parents must consent.
Otherwise, children younger than 18 years must have a parent or guardian file a petition. Solo petitioners are responsible for attempting (in good faith) to alert the other parent, guardian, or custodian. If not, the court will try.
Filing fee and waivers
It costs $165 to file your petition (paid in advance). If you can't afford the filing fee, ask for a prepayment waiver. This defers court fees until your case concludes.
You may ask the judge for a final waiver to dismiss the deferred filing fee when your case ends. Your income level determines eligibility.
Legal name change forms
There are separate petition forms for:
- Adults (Form CC-DR-60)
- Minors below age 18 (Form CC-DR-062)
- Consent form for other parent (Form CC-DR-063)
You must file your change of name petition in person at the courthouse, not online.
Local newspaper publication
Your change of name notice must be published in a newspaper:
- Of general circulation (list of Maryland newspapers)
- Within your county of residence
- Once for 15 days.
Publication arrangements vary by county. Various circuit courts may publish it for you. Often, the responsibility to get published falls on you.
You may ask if a courthouse bulletin board publication is available if you don't want your name published in a newspaper.
After you get your notice published, the newspaper will either file a Certificate of Publication (Form CC-DR-075) with the court or mail it to you to get filed yourself.
Cost of publication ($10 to $30) is separate from the petition for change of name fee.
You may ask the court to waive this publication step for good cause, e.g., Maryland's Safe at Home Address Confidentiality Program (ACP).
The objection period
The publication notice makes the public aware of your name change intentions. Anyone may object to your filing and file a petition against your case. Their reason must be valid.
Objectors must file their complaint with the court in writing. You'll get notified and given 15 days to respond. Either reply in writing or plead your case in person through a Request for Hearing or Proceeding (Form CC-DR-509).
If no one objects to your name change during publication, the judge will sign your Decree for Change of Name. The judge might grant your petition without a hearing.
Request your circuit court order
Ask for a certified copy of your approved court order from the clerk of court. It costs $5 and should have the custodian's signature and raised seal.
Updating your identification
Now that you've got proof of name change, it's time to update your federal, state, and nongovernmental ID.
Social security card
You should correct your social security card before other documents. Your local Social Security Administration field office handles this.
You may change the name on your passport at the beginning or end of your new name voyage. It doesn't depend on another document going first.
Vital Records will amend your birth certificate by affidavit. The cost is $10. Get it notarized. Use this process to:
- Change your name.
- Change your gender marker.
- Change or add paternity information.
- Correct missing or erroneous information.
Send in your old birth certificate to get a free certified copy replacement. Otherwise, fresh copies are $10 each.
There's no cost for changes of minors beneath 12 months old.
Vital Statistics will publish birth certificate data changes to the public record.
You needn't switch to a different name if your current name suits you. There's no name change deadline in Maryland. Pursue your new name when you're ready.
If you've gotten this far, you may indeed be prepared to take that leap. Good luck on your new name change journey. Your questions are welcome in the comments section.