Is There a Deadline for Name Change After Marriage?

Shocked young woman holding clock

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's the problem?

Suppose you have completed a name change event:

  1. Marriage
  2. Divorce or annulment
  3. Court-petitioned name change

And you have a name change document proving said event:

  1. Marriage certificate
  2. Divorce decree
  3. Court order

How much time do you have to change your name until you are:

  1. Unable to change your name, period.
  2. 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.

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.

Tiny woman running with 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?

  1. Upon marriage, divorce, or court petition.
  2. Updating your social security card.
  3. Updating your driver's license.
  4. None of the above.

The answer is split:

  1. None of the above for passports.
  2. Updating your social security card for everything else.

Social security ID deadline

The Social Security Administration has a two-year rule for social security card name changes. Their identity verification standards are stricter after two years.

Hand with pencil marking calendar

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.

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.

Smiling woman driving car

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.

StateDeadline
Alabama30 days
Alaska30 days
Arizona10 days
Arkansas30 days
California10 days
Colorado30 days
Connecticut48 hours
Delaware30 days
District of Columbia60 days
Florida30 days
Georgia60 days
Hawaii30 days
Idaho90 days
Illinois10 days
Indiana30 days
Iowa30 days
Kansas10 days
Kentucky10 days
Louisiana10 days
Maine30 days
Maryland30 days
Massachusetts30 days
Michigan10 days
Minnesota30 days
Mississippi30 days
MissouriUnspecified
Montana10 days
Nebraska60 days
Nevada30 days
New Hampshire30 days
New JerseyOne week
New Mexico10 days
New York10 days
North Carolina60 days
North Dakota10 days
Ohio10 days
Oklahoma10 days
Oregon30 days
Pennsylvania15 days
Rhode Island10 days
South Carolina10 days
South DakotaUnspecified
Tennessee10 days
Texas30 days
Utah10 days
Vermont30 days
Virginia30 days
Washington10 days
West Virginia20 days
Wisconsin10 days
Wyoming10 days

Such 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:

  1. Changing your name in person.
  2. 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.

Woman shouting through megaphone

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 license

Example 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.

Detective holding giant magnifying glass

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.

Hands holding puzzle pieces solving jigsaw

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.

Woman running up stack of coins

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.

Young police officer chasing thieves escaping with stolen bag

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.

Pandemic-related social security office closures have forced applications to mail and extended processing times. Mapping out your name change calendar may involve guesswork.

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 deliveries 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 up the fees while ruling out the convenience of mailing your paperwork.

Man at airport traveling with suitcase

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.

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:

  1. Do not procrastinate.
  2. Do not start what you cannot finish.

Do you plan to change your name?

Our online name change kit makes it easy.

Get Started

2 Comments

  1. Helena

    If I make an appointment to change my driver's license name and it's not matched with social security will I have to keep coming back?

    I sent in my SS name change paperwork two weeks ago and it hasn't come yet. Can the DMV just hold my info and retry without my being there and just send my license once they're done?

    Reply

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