Is There a Deadline for Name Change After Marriage?
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
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a two-year rule for social security card name changes. Their identity verification standards are stricter after two years.
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.
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.
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?
Hi Helena. Yes, you'll have to return. It won't get placed in a queue.
So I changed my name on my social security card a few months ago but nothing else. Will the DMV find out if I don't tell them?
Hi Lina. The SSA will not notify the DMV about your name change. It's not their their responsibility.
Thanks but what about the county clerk? My marriage certificate says I changed my name and I'm wondering if they share it with the DMV. Can they somehow get this info about me?
Hi Lina. The county clerk isn't going to notify anyone about the contents of your marriage certificate other than the state vital records office when they report your marriage.
The DMV and other federal or state agencies aren't notified about the new name shown on your marriage certificate. They aren't notified about your marriage at all.
So I got married in July and I filed for A disability claim in June. I haven’t changed my name yet because I am at the end of my third trimester and about to pop. Will getting married have postponed my disability claim because my last name is changed on my marriage certificate?
Changing your name through marriage or showing a changed name on your marriage certificate doesn't affect disability benefits. SSDI benefits aren't affected because of marriage, no matter what your spouse makes. But SSI benefits are affected by marriage because the SSA will consider part of your spouse's income in their calculations.
I hyphenated and added my husbands my last to name when I got married but have kept using the same name (my first name, last name) without the hyphenation, I never contacted SSA. Can I just keep using my name or do I have to notify SSA or DMV of my new hyphenated name.
No, you do not have to take further action. You only have to notify once you begin the legal name change process by updating your social security record.
I have an odd situation. Back when I got married I decided to leave my last name as it was. My husband purchased a new car and had the title paperwork done up with my name included, and the dealership clerk assumed that my last name was the same as my husbands.
Long story short – they insisted I run to the local N.Y. DMV to have my license changed so they could complete the sales transaction. It is the ONLY doc I have with that last name! So, Soc. Sec., IRS, banks, etc. all have my other name.
I've been able to make it work, except that we just moved to PA – and when I went to change from a NY lic to PA … they aren't wanting to let me use my old name, and that is what all of my other ID is in. And I do mean ALL.
I had at one point (still in NY) thought about changing everything to my husbands last name, but we had been married longer than 2 years by then and the Soc Sec rep informed me that I would have to apply for a formal name change through our county Supreme Court! At this point I don't even know what to do. The PA DMV clerks weren't too sure either.
Hi Gigi. Without getting into the accuracy or merits of PA DMV/PennDOT's assertions, you can try to correct your NY title or registration, and then get it reissued with the proper name. You may even need to get the dealership to help, as they initiated the mistake.
I am getting married in IL today, but retiring in March 2023 and moving to MI where my hubby was transferred. I am planning on changing my name when I move. Will it be all right to wait? Of course I will change ssi first, but not until the move.
Yes, you can wait to change your name until your ready. The various countdowns begin once you change the name on your social security card, not when your marriage takes place.
I changed my name at the SSA two days ago but the soonest I could get an appointment with the DMV is a month and a half from now. My state has a 30 day time limit for updating at the DMV. Will I be penalized?
Hi Kristi. You've scheduled an appointment, so you should be fine.
Help! I got married 4 years ago. I never changed my name with SSA because..well… Covid. (Offices near me were closed and I would have had to go to Orlando.) But I would really love to do it now and have it be a surprise for my husband for his birthday. I live in Florida… is this going to be impossible and what should I do?
Hi Jennifer. The procedure for a delayed name change is very similar to one that takes place soon after marriage.
Since your marriage took place over two years ago, you're no longer in the SSA two-year name change window, which means you'll have to provide identification along with your social security application.
Had you changed your name within two years of marriage, your marriage certificate could have been used for ID (under common criteria).
I got married last year and just haven't updated my married last name through the SSA yet (I am currently in the process now). I did however update it at my bank because I knew I was going to change it eventually and was on the phone with them about something else and they asked me if I wanted them to change it for me.
It has taken me over a year now to officially start the process. I sent my marriage certificate into my bank last year and they changed it in their system and on my debit card.
I just got a letter in the mail saying I need to fill out this form because my taxes got filed under my maiden name for 2021 (because again my name hasn't been updated through SSA) so basically my last name at the bank and my last name on my SS card and through IRS do not match anymore.
My bank has not really been helpful in helping me with what they need from me to fix this issue. Is this a big problem now?
Hi Marie. The path of least resistance may be to revert your name change on your bank account, while asking them to continue honoring your maiden or married name on checks, deposits, and debit cards. They may require two signature cards stored on file.
My wife changed her name to a hyphen version because our kids were young. They have all grown and we want to get the name changed to my married name without the hyphen. Will the marriage certificate and driver's license work to complete this with SSA.
Hi Cynthia. That should work with the SSA, it might not work for your driver's license.
I am getting married in February but have a trip to Iceland in September (7 months apart). Everything from my passport, plane ticket, and reservations are all in my maiden name. Will I be ok going to a different country if I wait until October to begin changing my name or will I have problems leaving the country.
Hi Justine. Yes, you'll be fine waiting until later next year to change your name. It's important that the name on your passport and plane tickets match.
If you were to change the name on your passport before departing, you would need to get your airline tickets reissued under your new name.
You can avoid the hassles of a name mismatch by deferring your name change until your after your travels have concluded.
So just to clarify because I worry… Let's say I hyphenate on the marriage certificate and NEVER change it anywhere else (not SSN, ID, etc) nothing happens, right? Is there a scenario where showing a marriage certificate with the semi-different name will be an issue (for example changing health insurance due to qualifying life event)?
Right, the status quo remains.
No, because your marriage certificate will still show your current, legal name, alongside your proposed new married name—which doesn't exist outside of the certificate. In most real-world cases, your marriage certificate isn't even considered an identity document.
We will be eloping in September and I do plan on changing my name; however, our family will not know about our elopement. We plan on getting “married” with family/friends a full year after. I should write the name I’m taking on my marriage license, then report the change to DMV & Social Security etc. correct?
Correct. And this reportage may take place before or after your informal marriage ceremony amongst family and friends.
Does the 30 days start when I change my name with SSA or when I sign my marriage liscence? I'm traveling soon and don't think everything would be processed in time for my trip so I'd like to wait until after I return if I can.
Hi Michelle. The 30 day countdown starts when you change your name with the Social Security Administration.
I was married in Ohio in October 2022 but live in Indiana. I changed my name in November through the SS office, have requested an updated passport, but have not done my driver's license.
I was holding off until February of this year, since we were moving and I want to change my last name and my address at the same time. I was unaware of the 30 day policy in Indiana.
Will it be okay if I go now/in the future to change my name? Will I be penalized?
Since you're moving, your Indiana driver's license will be replaced with an Ohio driver's license. You won't face a penalty because your next driver's license application will occur in Ohio, not Indiana.
By the way, since you're moving and changing your name, you may want to review the USPS name change and mail forwarding article.
I was married in July, and due to some hold ups, I have just recently received our Marriage Certificate with my new, hyphenated name on it. I have NOT changed my SSN or updated official documents in any other way.
My concern is that my husband and I are about to buy our first home, and I am wondering if I am making a mistake buy purchasing this home in my maiden name, knowing later down the line I will be changing everything to my new last name.
Could my maiden name on the deed lead to issues later down the line (like selling the house in 10 years)?
A name mismatch on your deed shouldn't affect future sales since you can reconcile your name and identity using your marriage certificate and government-issued ID.