How much time do you have to change your name after getting married? And how might you avoid getting consumed by the effects of waiting too long to meet your deadlines?
Today you will learn to schedule and order your name change chronology, from your social security card and passport, to your driver's license or REAL ID.
What is the problem?
Suppose you have completed a name change event:
- Divorce or annulment
- Court-petitioned name change
And you have a name change document proving said event:
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce decree
- Court order
How much time do you have to change your name until you are:
- Unable to change your name, period.
- Forced into filing a new court-petitioned name change.
The good news is neither ugly outcome is on the table. But you still have to navigate other name change deadlines and consequences.
Once your schedule is in order, you can circle back and use our online name change kit to complete the name change process, as that is the ultimate time crunch end goal.
Deadlines, schedules, and running against the clock
There is no hard, destructive deadline to change your name after marriage, divorce, or court order. Meaning, you will never face an outright name change shut out.
Yet demarcations and time limits do exist that will affect the duration, expense, and effort involved in changing your name. You are running against the clock.
The longer you wait to change your name may cost you more in time, money, and energy spent because of shifting requirements. You are up against multiple timelines and deadlines.
When does your name change begin?
Do you know when the name change process starts?
- Upon marriage, divorce, or court petition.
- Updating your social security card.
- Updating your driver's license.
- None of the above.
The answer is split:
- None of the above for passports.
- Updating your social security card for everything else.
Social security ID deadline
Meaning, your name change document may serve as ID—in place of photo ID—if your name change event took place within two years. This simplifies name change by mail.
For instance, if you got married 23 months ago, you have one month left to change the name on your social security card by mail using just your marriage certificate; no need to include your driver's license, passport, or other photo ID.
There is no penalty beyond the added inconvenience of including ID in your mailed paperwork. (You could always change your name in person instead of mail to escape this burden.)
Driver's license notification deadline
Most U.S. states have laws that dictate when you must notify the driver's license authority—DMV, DOT, DPS, BMV, etc—that you have changed your name or address.
Note: We will use DMV as shorthand to reference your state's driver's license office.
What do your state's laws require?
The most common notification intervals are 10, 30, and 60 days, as shown in the following table. We will explain later why this may represent a Herculean or impossible task.
|District of Columbia||60 days|
|New Hampshire||30 days|
|New Jersey||One week|
|New Mexico||10 days|
|New York||10 days|
|North Carolina||60 days|
|North Dakota||10 days|
|Rhode Island||10 days|
|South Carolina||10 days|
|West Virginia||20 days|
These deadlines are trivial if you were only changing your address. Many DMVs offer change of address online or by mail. But name change requires two extra components:
- Changing your name in person.
- Updating your social security record first.
Explaining what it means to notify
So your state driver's license office says you must notify them of your address or name change within a precise number of days: 10, 30, 60, or whatnot.
For example, here is Texas' statute (the language is similar across states):
[You] shall notify the department of the change not later than the 30th day after the date on which the change takes effect and apply for a duplicate licenseExample name change statute.
But what does "notify" mean? An email, phone call, or form submission? And what does "of the change" and "change takes effect" represent? The day you marry or divorce?
Here is the real-world translation:
You must apply for a new driver's license, REAL ID, or state-issued ID card—in person—within 30 days of changing the name on your social security record.Clarified rewording of prior example name change statute.
Not 30 days from your marriage, divorce, or other name change event, but counting from when the Social Security Administration updates your record.
Driver's license and social security names must match
You may have noticed throughout this page references to your social security record, not your social security card. This is the metric used by your driver's license office.
They will use your marriage certificate, divorce decree, court order, or other name change document to confirm your name change event occurred. But that alone is not enough.
First, they will check that your name change took place on the federal level by performing an electronic query against the Social Security Administration database.
Your driver's license name change depends on your social security name change finishing first. Your name change will get rejected if they discover an identity mismatch.
Tip: Space out your social security and driver's license name change by 24 to 48 hours. This gives time for social security's database to refresh before getting queried.
Penalties for not reporting
You may incur a penalty for failure to report your address or name change to the DMV within the allotted time frame. For instance, Texas imposes a $20 fine, while New York is $75.
A failure to notify penalty is most often applied when a police officer pulls you over for an unrelated traffic violation, and not upon renewing your driver's license.
Complying with the law
Abiding by these narrow time constraints is tough, even if you were intent to follow the spirit and letter of the law by expediting your name change.
Your social security filing will not get a tracking number akin to a mail parcel. Beyond receiving your new card by mail, you will not know when your record has updated.
Your DMV's name change deadlines may be difficult or impossible to honor, given their expectation that your social security name change gets finished first.
But written law and real life often diverge. You may take solace knowing that while penalties and fines are real, their enforcements are rare. (Minus the unlucky.)
Passport notification deadline
The U.S. State Department does not exact penalties for failure to change the name or address associated with your passport. You could even renew in your old name.
Your passport age affects the renewal fees, forms, and steps. Waiting too long may increase the fees while ruling out the convenience of mailing your paperwork.
If your passport is less than one-year-old, you can renew it by mail for free via Form DS-5504. This is when good timing and expeditiousness can become a money saver.
Between one and 15 years, $100+ fees kick in via Form DS-82. But they still allow renewal by mail. Beyond 15 years, you have got bigger fees and in person filing via Form DS-11.
IRS notification deadline
When you change the name on your social security card, the SSA will automatically alert the IRS that your name has changed.
And the name on your tax returns, W-2s, 1099s, and employee records must match. This can push against federal tax filing deadlines, resulting in tax return and refund delays.
Review our IRS name change guide to for guidance on how and when to start your name change so that it does not disrupt your tax filings, now or in the future.
Deadline to final destination
There is no cut-off-point deadline for changing your name after marriage, divorce, or court order. But target dates in between may make your life harder when they are past due.
Two key takeaways:
- Do not procrastinate.
- Do not start what you cannot finish.
And an extra takeaway: get started. Our online name change kit can help guide you through your new name journey, specific to your timetable.