How to Change Your Name in New Jersey
Those seeking a name change in New Jersey because of marriage, divorce, or the courts should keep a number of things in mind. Essentially, each State of the United States has legal procedures in place when it comes to changing a name.
Whether you have just been married, newly divorced or intending to enter into a divorce complaint, changing the name of your child for various reasons, or simply changing your name for another reason beyond marriage or divorce, there are a number of conditions you need to be aware of.
Marriage name change
If you have been married recently, changing your name might seem to be the next most logical thing to do. The process is not as hard as it might appear; the only thing you need is a marriage certificate copy to start changing your name with the various government bodies that you want to request a change of name on their records.
Simply take the marriage certificate copy to the Social Security Administration to have the name changed on your social security card and have a new card mailed to you in less than 14 days.
You can also continue to change your name on New Jersey's Motor Vehicle Commission in person and a fee will be charged. Even before you change your name, make up your mind on exactly what kind of name you would be using. Your available name change options are as follows:
A married person in New Jersey can decide to use a hyphen to separate the names rather than drop a name—especially brides—through marriage.
Maiden to middle
In New Jersey, state agencies do not accept the maiden name becoming the middle name after marriage. This often catches applicants off guard considering most states do allow this.
So, switching your middle name with your maiden name isn't really a viable option. We list it for completion purposes since it's asked about often.
Traditional surname choice
You can decide to go with the traditional marriage name change option of taking the husband's last name in New Jersey. It's a change that governmental and nongovernmental organizations understand and the only thing required is a valid marriage certificate. Valid means an original or certified copy.
Remember, in New Jersey name changes after marriage are the easiest for women since they only need to consistently use their names; when a proof of name change is required, the marriage certificate will help to clear the air.
While men in New Jersey could change their name through marriage and use the certified marriage certificate as the required proof in government and non-governmental agencies and companies, federal agencies might not recognize changed names by men after marriage and the certified copy of the marriage certificate might also not be accepted as proof of name change.
Divorce name change
In case you took the surname of your husband after marriage, you might want to change this after divorce. Reverting to a prior name or maiden name is straightforward in New Jersey as far as it's done during the divorce process. If your divorce is finalized without a name restoration order, you can still change it. However you'll have to go through a separate and more drawn out legal proceeding via court petition.
The best and easiest way of changing your name after divorce is including the request for a change of name in the divorce complaint or petition. If you are using an attorney to deal with the divorce, request that the maiden name be included in the divorce petition. Those representing themselves will find petitions already pre-printed that can be filled and filed right away.
After filing the divorce petition, you should appear at the divorce hearing and indicate to the judge you want to revert to a prior name. Get the certified divorce decree from the Clerk's office, which you might have to pay a little fee for.
Be clear that the divorce decree allows you to go back to a maiden name or another previous name. You can then approach the Social Security Administration and Motor Vehicle Commission—among other agencies—you would like to change your current name with.
Court-petitioned name change
Lots of people adore the names they were given after birth, but if you are not one of them and you live in New Jersey, there's a way out. Name change in New Jersey that's not due to marriage or divorce is straightforward and can be completed without the need of a lawyer.
You can access the name change forms online from the state's judiciary portal with detailed instructions on how to complete them, including forms and all the needed filing fees to complete the process. Sometimes the process can be cumbersome and you might not have the time to do so. In such a case, an attorney might come in handy to do the heavy lifting.
To start the process, provide the legal name you're currently using and choose the new name you intend to use and indicate it on the Verified Complaint form. In case of a criminal history, you might want to disclose it fully considering the certification of the form will have to be signed to indicate to the judge the information provided is correct.
You can then complete the various areas on the forms indicating the case summary, judgment, and hearing date. For every form that you fill it's important to maintain a copy.
The original forms and a copy of every form can be taken in person or via mail to the right court in the state of New Jersey within the county of your residence. If you send via mail, don't forget to include a dully stamped and self-addressed envelope.
You will be informed about the hearing date as well as the name of the locally distributing newspaper that the public notice has to be published in to meet the guidelines of the name change hearing.
You must publish the change of name public notice in the local newspaper at least a fortnight prior to appearing before the court. Have the Affidavit of Publication filled out to hand to the court as a proof that the public notice order was published.
Appear before the court and the judge in the time and date indicated for the name change hearing. Remember to have the Final Judgment published in the right newspaper 20 days of receiving it and deliver to the court the Affidavit of Publication to show it was published.
With the approved name change order from the court you can approach the various bodies concerned to complete the process.
Child name changes
To change the name of a minor, first have the necessary forms dully completed. The forms you will use for this process to change the name of a minor are similar to those of legally changing the name of an adult in New Jersey. Those unrepresented will find prepared forms in the office of New Jersey Courts Administrative Office that can be filed to request the court to effect the name change of a child.
Remember that filing the forms needed for this process must be done with your respective county's Superior Court where you reside. All the adult change of name forms have to be filed in the process of changing the name of a minor since the process is practically the same. A fee of $250 has to be paid while filing the forms.
The notice of the proposed change of name also has to be published in a newspaper. The pending change of name complaint has to be published in a local newspaper about 20 days or so prior to attending the scheduled hearing. The newspaper you have published in will get you an Affidavit of Publication that has to be filed with the court.
Notify the other parent of the minor unless you are filing the petition jointly. If the parents do not live together, the law requires the other parent be notified of the petition to change the name.
A copy of the Order Fixing Hearing Date and Verified Complaint must be sent to the other legal parent of the minor after the court has returned them to you about 20 or so days prior to the hearing. You can send the documents to the other legal parent of the minor by certified or regular mail and request return receipt just in case the court requires a proof that the other parent was well furnished with the information.
In case it's necessary, law enforcement agencies need to be notified as well. This means that if the minor has previous criminal or pending charges or has been criminally convicted before, the change of name petition must be sent to the law enforcement bodies who handled the case or charges.
It's also important to remember that the other legal parent of the child can object to the requested change of name. In such a case, the court will give the objecting parent a chance to raise his or her concerns during the hearing day.
Never forget to attend the hearing in the right court and the judge will take into account your evidence in support of the minor name change, including the objecting evidence from the other legal parent. The decision made will be fair and to the best interest of the minor.
If the court has granted the change of name requested, the Final Judgment has to be published in an indicated newspaper or acceptable publication at least 20 days prior to the Day of Judgment by the court. It's a step that publicly notifies all interested parties the name of the minor has been permitted to legally change.
You can continue to change the name of the child with government bodies as required, such as changing his or her birth certificate.
Change of name on birth certificate
From the outset, it's important to remember you don't have to follow the minor or adult name change court process towards correcting a mistake on a marriage certificate or birth certificate, such as a misspelled or incorrectly written name. Rather, make sure you contact the Office of the Vital Statistics within the State Registrar, preferably in the Local Registrar to know how such mistakes can be corrected fast.
In the case of legal name change, changing the name on the birth certificate is clear; mail the documents to the New Jersey Office of Vital Statistics and Registration. The documents to send include a letter that identifies the vital record that needs some correction or name change.
You need to identify the current name with the vital record including the full name of the father and the full maiden name of the mother in case their details are with the vital record department.
A certified copy of the legal name change is also required, which is usually returned thereafter. As a result, photocopies will not be accepted. $2 is the fee to process the legal change of name while $25 is the fee for the certified copy of the birth certificate, at least for the first birth certificate copy with the name changed. For an extra copy you will have to part with $2 in the form of money order or check payable to the State of New Jersey's Treasurer.
Name change on Social Security, MVC, Passport, IRS
It's important to change your name with the Social Security Administration once you are through with legal name change process or once you have received your divorce or marriage decree. To have the name appearing on the card changed, the SS-5 Form has to be completed and submitted together with the proof of name change. The process is free and can be completed by mail or in person.
Remember, to effect name change with the Motor Vehicle Commission in New Jersey on your driver's license you must do it in person. The change also needs to be made 14 days after changing your name and you can do so at your Regional Service Center or Local Motor Vehicle Commission. There's a fee to be paid. Don't forget the legal name change order.
U.S. Department of State
To have name changed on your passport, the proper form (which varies by passport age) needs to be filled out and sent together with a certified copy of the legal name change order or marriage certificate, including the current valid passport. Notarized copies and photocopies won't be accepted when it comes to changing the name on your passport.
IRS and others
Remember to also update your name and address with other governmental institutions, such as the IRS and USPS, and nongovernmental institutions, such as insurance companies, financial institutions like banks, credit card companies, as well as with your employer and in all the various professional documents you own.
Needed name change documents
As a recap, you'll need to have the following documents to complete your name change:
- Certified copy of marriage certificate for marriage name change
- Certified copy of divorce decree for divorce name change
- Court order for general adult name change
I changed my name three years ago but now I regret it. Can I get my social security card and license put back in my maiden name?
I forgot to mention I was married in New York but live in New Jersey. Thanks.
There are no do-overs for a marriage-related name change. You've got one shot to get it done to your satisfaction.
Now that you've come to the conclusion that you made a mistake and want to return to your maiden name, your only option is the file a name change petition with the Superior Court.
I am a US citizen and got married in Jamaica to a Jamaican national in 2016. We plan to live in the US (NJ), i need to change my name on my SS card, is there a deadline for making the change?
No, there isn't a deadline.
What happens if you miss the 2 week deadline to change your name on your driver's license. Do you have to wait until you renew your license, are you fined?
If you go to the New Jersey Legislature and navigate to "statutes", you can see section "39:3-9a Legal name of licensee; endorsement" that states the following:
Section "39 :3-86 Penalty when no specific penalty provided." says the following:
This NJ fines and penalties PDF references a $25 to $500 fine for a "failure to notify change in name." This alternative motor vehicles violations PDF references $55.
For what it's worth, the NJ driver manual lists a multitude of fines for various infractions, but not for failing to change the name on your driver's license within a certain period of time.
When I get married in NJ, I plan to keep my last name and take my husband's last name as my middle name – I currently don't have a middle name.
How do I do that? And do I have to wait until after marriage to apply for that? Or can I make that change before marriage?
Hi Mariana. You'll have to go to court. You can't do this through marriage.
I’m located in NJ and am marrying someone of Russian descent. I wish to change my last name to his using his culture’s naming convention which, in this case, means I my last name would change to his with an added “a” at the end. Would I be able to do this with the marriage license or would I need to go to court?
You would have to go to court.
Hi, I got married in NY and now live in Nj. I adopted my husbands surname at marriage so my marriage certificate has my husbands name. however, I have been using my maiden name everywhere and I now want to add my maiden name as my middle name. How can I start this process?
You'd have to petition. And it's not because your marriage certificate doesn't have your maiden name as your middle. It's just that New Jersey doesn't support replacing your middle name unless it's by court order.
Hi, I’m married for 14 years and now want to change my last name. What would the process be? Live in NJ.
I apologized, I want to change to my husband’s last name.
Hi Andrea. The process is the same. Use a certified copy of your marriage certificate to change your name with various state, federal, and nongovernmental organizations.
I’m getting married in NJ but both my fiancé and I want to take his mother’s maiden name when married. Can we do that with the marriage certificate?
No, that is not possible using a marriage license.
Hello. I live In NJ and recently went to the DMV to add my new married name to my last name. I filled out the form without a hyphen, as that was my preference but they put one anyway. If I return, would they be able to change it or am I stuck with a hyphen now?
I’m afraid of any discrepancies as I already go by both my maiden and married name with no hyphen on some other documents. It’s very frustrating and upsetting that one symbol could cost me more time and money and has already caused me much stress. Any help is appreciated.
You're likely stuck with it, but you could try to get it modified by claiming it's a clerical error on the clerk's part. Keep in mind, this may just be a database, data entry, or printer limitation.
Hello, I will be getting married next month and I have decided to change my last name. However, my fiancé has two last names. He is Latino and most Latinos use both their father’s last name and mother’s last name. Can I choose which last name I want to change my name to. For example, if his name was Luis Rivera Garcia can i legally change my name to Jessica García.
We both live in New Jersey and plan to get married in New Jersey
The SSA (federal-level) would accept this, but it's unlikely the NJ MVC (state-level) would.
Hi. I live in New Jersey. I had a legal name change 2 years ago & My last name is La Rue . On the drivers license they made my last name LARUE schooshing my last name together as opposed to a separation, effectively creating a false identity. ( they claim this is for everyone & it’s their exclusive policy however outdated) They said this was the way they did it there but if I go to another state & apply for a license they could correct the mistake. Now in October 2019 I’m due to renew. Had the laws changed in New Jersey? Can I correct the mistake?
I’d like to know if DMV of New Jersey has fixed their policy mistakes so I don’t have to walk around with a false identity
Hi Bodhi. The NJ MVC hyphen, space, apostrophe problem was supposed to be resolved in 2016 with a new system. It was a limitation of their database system, not a problem with the law.
I was married 9 years ago and now that my son is in school I wish to go through with the name change. I want to add my husbands name to my name without dropping any of my names. Can I add his last name as a second last name without a hyphen?
For example I would like to go from Erin Kelly Conner to Erin Kelly Conner Smith.
You can with the SSA, but may face resistance from the MVC. Even if a space was allowed, it's not clear that MVC's longstanding computer problem of removing spaces from last names has been resolved.
Hi I live in New Jersey and today I filled out my marriage license with my fiancé. She wants to take my last name but during marriage license application process the clerk didn’t ask and we also forgot to ask her…will the marriage certificate show her current last name and if so will there be problem getting her new last name in Social security card? Also how can she get my last name on marriage certificate?
It's not asked in New Jersey. It's not asked in most states.
It will show her current name.
It won't be a problem.
She can't, and it's unnecessary.
I got married in NJ but I didn't change my last name at the marriage license/marriage certificate at that time. I wish to change it now. Do I have to go to the court now or is there a different process?
Thanks in advance for your help!
You can't choose a new name after marriage when applying for a marriage license in New Jersey. That's not part of the application or licensing process.
No, you don't have to go to court. Use your marriage certificate with your pre-marriage name to change to your married name.
I hate my middle name and want to drop it completely. When I sign my marriage certificate next year and just use my husband's name is that sufficient or do I need to go through the courts?
You can't dump your middle name like that. You'll have to go through the courts.
hello I will like to change my last name from married to obtaining my maiden name back without divorce , what steps do I need to take .
Hi Luni. Just to be clear, you want to go back to your maiden name within your existing marriage? If so, did you already update your social security card and driver's license to your married name?
I was recently married in Florida but live in NJ. The application asked for the "Name of Spouse" and there is a "Maiden Surname" box. I used my current last name and signature but want to use my husband's last name. Can I just show my marriage license to change my name with SS and DMV or do I have to petition the court for a name change?
Hi Yolanda. No need to petition. Just show your certificate.
Hi! Very informative article! I stumbled upon it after spending 5 hours at my local NJ motor vehicle commission trying to have a license issued in my married name. I recently moved back to NJ after living out of state for over 5 years, and recently had a civil/court marriage in that state where I took my husband's surname and changed my middle name to my maiden name.
My court-appointed marriage license and SS card both reflect this legal name change, and yet the MVC would honor only the surname change. Is my only option to file for a court-appointed name change in a NJ state court (literally a $250 fee to change a middle name that has already been legally changed both at the state and federal level outside of NJ)? Or can I request record modification through the NJ Office of Vital Statistics & Registration (about a tenth of that fee, more or less)?
Hi DD. Court is likely. NJ is one of the few states that make it difficult to do a middle name change via marriage at the state level. Specifically the MVC.
I want to drop my husbands last name all my documents say my name from before marriage I opened a business how do I go about no divorce just business
Hi Lania. If the only record you've changed your name with is social security, then you can execute a reversal with just your marriage certificate. If you've updated your name across a spectrum of documents, then the only practical route is to pursue a court-petitioned name change.
I’m going to be getting married this month and looking to change my middle name to my maiden name, and will be taking my husband’s last name. I understand I have to petition the courts for this type of name change.
Upon receiving the marriage certificate, do I initially file my name change with my existing middle name and husband’s last name, and then file with the court to get the middle name changed? Or would I just file with the court for the full name middle and last name change?
Hi Alice. You could do the full name change with the court to avoid two back-to-back name changes. So, you'd roll the married name change into the court petition.
How hard would it be for me to take my wife's last name?
Hi Jurgis. Not hard, but it would have to be done through Superior Court.
I am getting married abroad because my fiancé is a foreigner. I also currently live abroad. Can I do the name changes remotely for SSA and MVC? Passport is not a problem since I can go to the embassy. Also because our marriage certificate will be foreign will it be recognized in the first place?
Yes for SSA, but NJ MVC has to be done in person.
The SSA will translate the following languages in-house: French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish. The rest will be sent out for translation. If there's a problem with your certificate, they'll mail you with details of how to rectify.
Hi. My fiance' has her ex husband last name. She did not drop it after divorce. We want to change it to herlast-mylast name. Can we do it during marriage certificate. We live in nj. Is it easy process, do we need a lawyer. Thank you.
Hi Abdul. Her name would have to match her current ID. If she could revert to her maiden name using her divorce decree, that could work out. She'll have to update her ID before applying for the marriage license though.
I can’t find any legislation or state mandate about not being able to use your maiden name as your middle name after marriage. Where can this be verified?
Hi Nicole. Here's a reference of permitted names on the NJ MVC website.
Hello! My husband and I just got married and are trying to totally change our last names to his middle name. I know we have to go through the courts for this but do we fill out two separate adult name change forms or do we use the family form (even though there is no minor involved in our name change)?
Any help is greatly appreciated!
Hi Jenn. You'll have to fill out separate forms.
Hi there. This is all very informative, thank you. We are getting married in NJ but live in NY. Am I reading this correctly in that I can only drop my middle name and replace is with my maiden name through a court petition? Once I file for a name change with SSA, can I use both that and my NJ marriage license to change my NY driver's license?
In your experience, if your drivers license and SS card say one name and your passport says another, are there issues traveling? Thank you!
That's what's referenced on the Jersey MVC site.
Just bring a document linking the names. i.e., certified copy of your marriage certificate.
Hi, if I decide to keep my last name after I get married, will I still need to notify the social security office of my marital status?
I’m from Indiana. I got married, then moved to New Jersey. Not knowing of NJ’s strict rules, I changed my Social Security to First-Maiden-Married Surname. I went to DMV to transfer state license and change name, and had tremendous issues changing my middle to maiden name on the license without a court order.
They said they would not issue a Real ID without it. I then spoke with a representative from the US Passport Department, and they stated they could update to First-Maiden-Married Surname. If my middle name is updated to my Maiden on my passport, will the DMV allow me to get a Real ID without the court order?
Additionally, if I do have to go through the courts to change my middle name, would that require me to update my Indiana marriage license and birth certificate?
No. One's federal, the other's state. They operate on different rule sets.
No, you'd leave them unchanged.
Do you have to go to social security office within 14 days of marriage? Can you wait a week or so longer? My wife and I got married on 10/31 and were planning to go to social security office on the 18th
Hi Melanie. There's no time frame for name change. You don't have to do it within 14 days.
Hi! My fiancé and I are getting married in KY in January. We both live in NJ. I am just wondering, to change my name at the MVC, do I need to first change my name through social security and bring the ss card? Or will the marriage certificate be sufficient to obtain a new drivers license with the updated name? Any help is appreciated! Thanks!
Hi Ashely. You don't need to bring your social security to the NJ MVC to change your name. Your marriage certificate alone is good enough.
I recently got married and am looking to change my last name to my husband's. We got married and live in NJ. His last name is hyphenated (let's say Smith-Brown) but we both want to change our last names to be just one of the hyphenated names (Brown). Would we both have to go through the court to do this?
Hi Alie. You would have to go to court to drop one of the names.
My wife and I got married in NJ, so our marriage cert shows our maiden names. She is currently in the green card process, and we are awaiting the “work permit” documents so she can go to DMV and get a license.
However, we are currently moving to FL. In FL, could we change her name to our married name with the NJ marriage cert (showing the maiden names) and the immigration documents (which would show our married name)?
Any feedback is appreciated. Thanks.
That would work fine.
Hi. I was married 4 years ago and had my last name hyphenated, my last name/husbands last name. I’d like to drop my last name and keep my husbands. Do I have to go to court to drop one of the last names?
If you only changed your name on your social security card, you could redo your name change—which is considered a correction—using your marriage certificate. Since four years have passed, I assume you've updated your name across an array of documents. If this is the case, you'll have to petition the court.
Hi, I was born in New Jersey, but plan to move to another state. I'd like to remove my middle name, do I have to go back to New Jersey to remove it, or could I do it in the state I move to? Thanks!
Hi Lena. You'll do your name change in your state of residence, not your birth state.
I went to the DMV NJ today to changed my last name after marriage. I want my husband last name first then my maiden but the official told me that's not how is done in NJ. It was changed maiden name first then spouse last name. I couldn't find any law stating how the last names should be place. Advised
Ditto. The burden would be on the agent you dealt with to document this standard.
I was married 8 years (in NJ) ago and took my husbands last name. Is it possible to add my maiden name to my middle name? I still would want to keep my current middle name, just add the maiden too.
So now it is “Jane Marie Smith”, but I want to change to “Jane(first) Marie Jones (middle) Smith (last)”. Is that possible?
Hi Jane. You'd have to file a court petition to append something to your middle name.
Hello! So I understand I cannot drop my middle name and use my maiden name to replace when taking my husband’s name. We’re getting married in Jersey, but living in NYC for the time being and after we marry.
My name is quite long so I was hoping to drop my middle name and part of my last name to fit his. In this case, would I have to go to court in NYC or Jersey after we get married? And does it make more sense to keep my name as is in the marriage license and certificate and then do a full name change in court?
Example with fictional name: My current name is something like Clara Silva Fernandez de Manoel. My goal is to change it to something like Clara Silva Manoel Smith (Smith being husband’s last name).
Your state of residence, which would be New York.
It's a non-issue, as you'll have to keep your name as-is on the marriage license and certificate anyway. NJ doesn't have a new name field.
You may want to consider getting married in New York, as your name preference is possible through marriage. Afterward, you could renew your marriage in NJ by applying for a marriage license and choose "remarriage" on the license application. Then hold another ceremony there.
I live in New Jersey.
I recently took my marriage license to the SSA office and they are processing my new card to be my first name and my married last name only. I did not have them include my middle name because I do not want to use it anymore.
Currently only my middle initial in on my NJ driver's license. When I go to the DMV with my new social security card, will they allow me to not include my middle initial on my new license?
If they make me include my middle initial do I have to use this on everything else?
For example, when I update my passport can I only include my first name and my new last name since that's what it will say on my social security card?
Yes, you can drop your middle name.
Hello. I recently was married in HI and marriage certificate states my married name is my husband’s last name. I would like to hyphenate my name to be maiden-husband’s. Since my marriage certificate does not have a hyphen, will I be able to change it at the SSA and MVA? Or will I need to do a court order?
Hi Brittany. You'll need a court order. The SSA will only change to the new name shown on your marriage certificate.
If my full name is Mary Leya Skye, but I go by Leya (only using Mary for government documents where first name is required). So when I got married to James Walker, instead of becoming Mary Leya Walker, I wanted to drop "Mary" but keep my maiden name, becoming Leya Sky Walker.
Because I live in NJ, I understand that I will have to go to court to officially have Leya become my first name; but can I also at the same time just have them change my middle and last name as well? Or do I have to do BOTH a legal name change AND a married name change separately?
Yes, you can do all your name changes together through court.
Hello, I am getting married in NJ and would like to take my husband’s last name, and use my maiden name as my middle name (removing my current middle name).
First Name, Maiden Name, Partner’s Last Name.
Am I able to do this at the social security office?
Hi Catherine. You can take your spouse's last name through marriage, but not swap our your middle name with your maiden name. The latter requires a court order.
I got married years ago and updated all of my identification (SS, passport, etc) to the below when living in NY:
First name – maiden – partners last name.
I now live in NJ and want my NJ license to match this. Where does one go to start the process of legally changing your name? Is there a website to make a court appointment so I can have my maiden name as my middle name?
Hi Charlotte. Your name change was done in NY so you don't need to do anything else in NJ.
I'm getting married next year (in NJ) – is it possible to just add my fiance's last name as a second last name or would I have to make my maiden name part of my middle name and petition the court? (I want to keep my maiden name somewhere and our last names are too long to hyphenate.)
Yes, with the SSA, but the MVC will probably give you trouble.
Modifying your middle name would entail petitioning the court.