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New York offers a number of generous name change options. It's important to note that while you can unofficially adopt a new name in this state just by using it, in the vast majority of circumstances, a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order will be required to make it official, such as in governmental, academic or professional documents. Here are a number of facts you need to know before you decide to seek a change of name within the state of New York.

First Step… Getting Your Marriage License

If you are intending to get married in the State of New York you have to apply for a marriage license in person in any of the state's city or town clerks. Remember the license application has to be signed by the applicants before a city or town clerk. You cannot send a representative to apply for the license for you (acting as a proxy) whether he/she has the power of attorney or not. Even a marriage license affidavit that has been notarized cannot substitute personal appearance of the applicants.

The issuance of a marriage license is immediate in New York, but the marriage ceremony itself might not happen within a day/24 hours after the issuance. Applicants who are 16 years old and above can have the 24 hour marriage ceremony waiting period waived by a Supreme Court justice in the County Court where any of the applicants live. If any of the applicants is less than 16 years old the Family Court judge within the county where the individual resides has to give the order. The marriage license given is usually valid for two months starting from the day it was issued.

The cost of the marriage license varies depending on where you are applying for it. Those living within the State of New York but outside the City of New York will have to part with $40. A Certificate of Marriage Registration is included in the fees. The marriage certificate will be sent automatically to the applicants by the town or city's issuing clerk in 15 or less calendar days once the officiant has completed the license and returned it to the town clerk.

For those in the City of New York, the license is issued by the City Clerk and the fees to be paid vary from time to time. Contact the office of the New York City Clerk for the requirements and current fees.

Remember, proof of identity and age has to be provided, especially for teenagers/young adults who wish to get married. Such proof includes a Census record, naturalization record, record of baptism and birth certificate. Identity documents that must be produced also include an immigration record, picture ID of employment, passport, and driver's license.

A marriage license in the state of New York is only valid within the state. If you intend to get married outside the State of New York the marriage license offered in the state cannot be filed with any New York city or town clerk.

To get copies of a marriage license that has been issued within the State of New York, except within the five New York City boroughs, the marriage record's certified copy can be obtained in the city or town clerk's office who issued the marriage license or from the Department of Health of New York. The cost is $10 per certified copy, if you obtain it from the city or town clerk who issued it. Those applying from the Department of Health in New York have to part with $30 per certified copy.

Your marriage certificate will serve as the primary document used to facilitate your name change after marriage in New York.

Marriage Name Change

In New York, you are permitted to change the surname (last name) after marriage. However, the law does not allow you to change a first name through the union of marriage. You must remember that while the surname can be changed after marriage, if you want to, it doesn't happen automatically. The law doesn't force anyone to change their name after marriage, as it's a personal, non-binding choice, nor is it a legal requirement to have a similar surname with your spouse.

New York does allow changing your middle name to your maiden name. This has been a point of confusion for several years, with some successfully completing a maiden to middle swap, while others running into a brick wall of opposition. Specifically, difficulty with changing the middle name on your NY driver's license. However, since 2014, a procedural change pushed by NY Assemblyman David Buchwald clarified rules to make certain that applicants wanting to drop their middle name by replacing it with their maiden name is allowed as part of the regular married name change process.

If you decide to change the surname, know that the change is believed to take effect right away after you have completed the marriage ceremony. The spouse willing to change their surname will simply enter it in the application form. However, the new name will have to conform to four main options for the surname. The first option is taking the surname of either the wife or husband, any previous surname of the wife or the husband, a new name combination forming a single surname, and combining the surname with the last name but separating it using a hyphen as far as every part of the surname combination is a pre-marriage last name or a previous last name of any of the couple.

Essentially, this means you will end up with a clear legal record showing you decided to change a surname via the act of marriage. The marriage certificate is a proof that your new surname is lawful. Failure to change your name through marriage certificate or doing it does not mean you cannot adopt another surname in future through usage; the state of New York allows you to adopt a new name that you want just by using it as frequently as you can without any bad intention, such as defrauding the public.

As much as the marriage certificate allows you to legally change your name in New York, you must notify the right governmental and non-governmental agencies of the change, such as the Social Security Administration, Department of Motor Vehicles of the State, credit card companies and loyalty clubs, among others.

Divorce Name Change

After divorce, you can change your name legally if you have a certified copy of your New York divorce decree, identification such as passport or driver's license, and proof of your age such as a birth certificate. Look at the divorce decree to ascertain if there is a name change provision on it. In case there is, the document is the legal proof you need to change your surname.

Sometimes this is usually left out and you need to contact the New York court that handled the case and request an amendment be made on the final divorce document. Since not every court in the state allows amendments, the request could be denied, but you can always complete the process by filing an adult name change petition. In New York, you can ask the court to allow you to resume your previous name. In fact, the maiden name resumption request includes any kind of surname you might have been using in the past. This includes the use of a last name from a prior marriage, whether through divorce or from being widowed.

In case you have made the decision to revert to a birth name or previous name, you might want to request your attorney to ask the court to have the name change order as part of the divorce judgment. The certified copies you receive of the divorce order can then be used to change your name with the Social Security Administration, DMV, and other nongovernmental institutions. A name change order specified directly within your divorce decree prevents you from having to go through a court petitioned name change afterward.

General Adult Name Change

You can request a name change that's not related to a marriage name change or change of name through divorce. The adult name change is done by filling out a form to petition the New York State Supreme Court to effect the name change. In New York, you can only do this if you are at least 18 years of age, not incarcerated, on parole or probation and you don't need to have the change of name kept private for any reason, including safety. However, those applying for a name change due to their own safety should go through their lawyers or, in case of domestic problems, seek the help of a domestic violence counselor.

It's also important to note that only residents of New York City can request a name change in the Civil Court of New York City. Residents of the wider State of New York must use the Supreme Court within their respective counties.

Name change in New York is done through a birth certificate and a petition. Enter personal information and complete the name change petition accordingly. You need to also publish the name change in a newspaper unless the judge asks you not to due to safety reasons. After signing the petition using the legal name you're using currently, ensure it has been notarized. In case you do not have a birth certificate copy, request one if you were born within the state of New York.

Immigrants with status within the United States and living in New York can change their names in the state legally; immigrant documents can be used if the birth certificate is not available.

Take the papers to the court clerk and pay the $65 fee and receive a hearing date from the clerk. Depending on the judge hearing your case, the proceedings can be completed really fast. If you are asked to publish your name in a newspaper, the court clerk will provide a name change order copy a judge has already signed and you must publish the order within two months of the signing of the order. Provide proof of the publication within 90 days after the signing of the order.

Sometimes the name change order indicates the specific newspaper to publish the order, but in most cases you have the choice to choose the paper you want. Take the proof of publication to the court clerk, and if it's accepted, the name change process is done. Buy a number of certified copies for about $6 each, which you can always acquire additionals if you need more. The certified copy is what you use to request name change on diverse governmental bodies, such as the Social Security Administration and DMV.

Child Name Changes

In New York, a minor is a person who is 17 years of age and below. Child's name change can only be requested by an adoptive parent, biological parents, next friend or legal guardian but it's not an adoption. It's also worth noting that changing the name of a child to the domestic partner's or spouse's name can be done legally but won't make any of you the child's parents, legally. For instance, children from previous relationships whose names have been changed to the names in the current relationship doesn't make the new spouse the legal parent of the child, which is only completed through adoption.

The judge must be furnished with good reasons why the child's name needs to be changed and has to be in the minor's best interest. The facts the judge will consider include the parents motives or interests, what the minor wants, while considering the experience and age of the child, the effect of the change of name to the relationship of the child with that of either parent, the period the name has been used by the minor including any harassment, embarrassment or problems the child might have gone through from the use of the new or present name.

Note that if a biological parent is alive, including a legal guardian or adoptive parent, they must provide written permission allowing the court to continue with the process. A child who is about 14 years of age and below 18 can give name change permission to the court by signing the Minor Consent before a notary and handing the name change petition together with the Minor Consent form to the court clerk.

Essentially, you need a Name Change Petition and Judicial Intervention Request filed, including a signed Change of Name Order, publication notification on an agreed or any local New York newspaper, Publication Affidavit and changing the name of the minor with such agencies as the New York DMV and Social Security Administration.

Name Change on a Birth Certificate

If you were born in any county outside New York City you need a court order to effect a name change on a birth certificate. The order should have the seal of the court and court clerk certified; a publication proof is needed. Ensure the order also has the place of birth, date of birth, and name clearly indicated.

Submit to the Bureau of Vital Records within the New York State Department of Health a completed Correction of Certificate of Birth Application and a notarized affidavit or certified copy of your current birth certificate to confirm you are at least 18 years old. Nonetheless, a court order might not be required to correct a mistake on a birth certificate.

Changing a Passport

If you want to change your name on your passport after a successful name change process, the procedure is very clear. Remember, spelling or printing errors such as place of birth, gender or incorrect name is done free if the validity of the passport is not in question. However, if you have changed your name due to marriage, adult name change or divorce you must send an application for a fresh passport. Depending on the time your current passport was provided, the cost and the process vary. For instance, if one year after the issue of the current passport is not over, processing fees won't be required.

If you're in a time crunch and in need of getting your passport updated quickly, you can requested expedited processing for an additional fee. This fee would be applied to any passport application, regardless of the age of your passport. Be aware, that if you have immediate travel plans you may want to consider the continued use of your maiden name on your passport until after you have finished your travel plans.

Social Security, DMV, IRS Name Change

Before you can change your name with the Department of Motor Vehicles in New York, you need to report the legal change of name to the Social Security Administration, since the DMV needs to verify the Social Security Number and database record name change first.

Change of name with the social security office can be done via mail or in person. Make sure you have a Social Security Card application dully completed, document certifying the name change, such as a court order, divorce decree or marriage certificate, including proof of identity through documents such as ID cards issued by the state, a United States passport or a driver's license.

U.S. citizenship proof is also required, such as a birth certificate, naturalization or citizenship certificate. It's important for all documents to be either certified copies or originals. Once the Social Security Administration records are updated, approach the New York Department of Motor Vehicles in person to change your name on your vehicle registration, ID card or driver's license and the vehicle certificate of title. These changes cannot be done via email, by phone or mail.

Name Change on Non-governmental Institutions

Once you have clearly updated all your government issued documents from state IDs, SSA, Internal Revenue Service and your Driver's License, go ahead and update information on non-governmental institutions as well, such as medical documents, banks accounts, loyalty club memberships, credit card companies and insurance, among others.

If you have moved, you'll also want to notify the USPS (United States Postal Service) of your change of address and new name. This will allow the forwarding of mail addressed to your old name to be sent to your new address. When you get mail addressed to your old name, be certain to contact those organizations and have your name record updated.

If necessary, be sure to change the name on your professional documents and diplomas. Some professions require notifying your respective New York state licensing boards to determine if a change of name requires notification and reissuance of your business documents. While some may require your professional license be updated within state record, that doesn't necessarily mean you will be required to have your diploma, license, or certificate reprinted and reissued.

You may be able to continue using your prior or maiden name in your professional life while making certain your state licensing board is made well aware of your official name change.

Remember, apart from the divorce decree, marriage certificate, or a name change court order, you might be asked to provide extra documents of identification.

Name Change Recognized Documents

While seeking a name change in New York State, there are a number of documents you should have among others. These include:

  • 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.
  • Proof of identification, such as a driver's license, NY state ID or passport.
  • Proof of age such as an adoption decree, birth certificate or certified hospital record.

32 Comments

  1. Anna Ziskend Daniel

    I got married and now, because of checking the box on the marriage certificate, my legal last name is now my husband's last name However, I want to change my middle name to my maiden name – how do I go about doing so?

    Thanks,
    Anna

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Anna. If your NY marriage application had a spot for you to specify a new middle name, but you didn't specify it, you may be looking at having to petition the court.

      Reply
      1. HM

        Anna, Valera is mistaken because there is no place on a NY Marriage License application for a change of a middle name. Under the Domestic Relations Law of New York, the marriage license cannot change a first or middle name. Valera is also mistaken about the possible need for a court order. Anna, bring your New York marriage certificate to your local DMV office and they will give you the appropriate form to change your middle name to your maiden name. Although it may not be required, I recommend you bring additional documentation in case it is requested, to avoid having to return home for any necessary documents. Such documents I would bring include: W2 form issued by your employer, recent bank statement showing home address, your passport, and your birth certificate, if you have any/all of those.

        Reply
        1. Valera

          Anna, Valera is mistaken because there is no place on a NY Marriage License application for a change of a middle name.

          Thanks for chiming in HM. I did stipulate "if" her "marriage application had a spot for [her] to specify a new middle name" as some states do and some do not. For some it is binding, and others not. It also wasn't clear if her marriage license was issued in NYC or in another part of NY state, which does vary.

          Reply
  2. AKAnole

    I got married September 2016 on the license where it says new surname, I wrote my husband's last name. I haven't taken any action since then. I have now decided that I want to have two last names my maiden name plus his last name with no hyphen. Since we live in NYC I believe my only option is to have a hyphenated last name. Can I do an adult name change in NYC to get a double barrel last name with no hyphen.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can I do an adult name change in NYC to get a double barrel last name with no hyphen.

      Yes, you can, if you opt for a court petitioned name change.

      Reply
  3. Amy

    I am getting married in August and want to change my last name. However, we are going out of the country in November and it is required that my passport be at least 6 months old before traveling. Can I change my name on my marriage certificate but leave my passport until after we travel in November?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Can I change my name on my marriage certificate but leave my passport until after we travel in November?

      Yes, you can wait to change your name on your passport. You can read more about the rationale in the maiden name on passport article.

      Reply
  4. Lauren

    When my husband and I got married last year, I did not take his name. Now, I'd like to have my maiden name become my middle name and take his surname as mine. Is it easier to just get re-married in the state of NY to do this (I know that they do re-marriages at city hall here) or do I need to go through the formal non-marital name change process?

    Reply
      1. Brianne

        Hi Valera,

        I am in the exact same situation as Lauren (got married last year and didn't take my husband's name… now I want to make my maiden my middle name and take his last name). I was confused at the time and thought that I could easily change it later, but is this not the case? Will the SSA and the DMV not accept my marriage license as proof since I didn't take his name at the time?

        Reply
  5. Ivette

    HI Valera,

    I am getting married and want to drop my first name (i have a first name and a middle name). I have always gone by my middle name and just initialed my first. I'd like to make my second name my First name, move my maiden last name as my second name and take his last name. Can i do that?

    It would be First name=my second name, middle name = maiden last name and last name=his last name.

    Can i do this? I'm from NY.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I have always gone by my middle name and just initialed my first. I'd like to make my second name my First name, move my maiden last name as my second name and take his last name. Can i do that?

      No, you cannot do this through a marriage-based name change. You'll have to get a court order instead.

      Reply
  6. Pong

    I have been married for a couple years and while I changed my surname to hyphenate my husband's last name to my maiden name on my NYS marriage license, I did not proceed to change my name with the SSA and DMV. Is it considered that my name has been legally changed through marriage or does the marriage license just make it legitimate to file the name change without a court order or petition with the SSA and DMV? I'm confused as to whether changing my last name with the SSA and DMV are required after the change on the marriage license.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Is it considered that my name has been legally changed through marriage or does the marriage license just make it legitimate to file the name change without a court order or petition with the SSA and DMV?

      A certified copy of your marriage record is what authorizes the name change to take place. If you don't go forth and change your name with those institutions, then your name hasn't legally changed.

      Reply
  7. Anna

    Hello.
    My marriage certificate does not have my new surname. At the time, I didn't want to do it right then and there. I was a bit confused in the process as well Now I would like to. My marriage certificate just says my name married my husband (his name) on so and so etc… Would it be a problem if I go to th social security office with it.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Anna. Yes, it might be a problem as the original application provides a spot for a new surname. Even if the SSA were to accept it, you'd likely face greater friction with the DMV.

      Reply
  8. Jessica

    Hello. I live in NY and wanted to make my maiden name a second middle name and take my husbands last name. How could I do this?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jessica. I believe you'll have to petition the court to append another name to your existing name.

      Reply
  9. Indira

    How do I get a certified copy of my passport so I can change my name at SS departmetn?

    Reply
  10. Stephanie

    Hello,

    I am travelling to New York City from Canada to get married, I did the online application already and checked off that I want to change my name. I was doing some research and saw that when the marriage ceremony is done your name is legally changed…but would that still apply if I'm from Canada?/would I have to do anything in my country as well for a name change?

    Also if my name legally does change will I have any difficulty coming back to Canada with my maiden name on my passport?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Stephanie. It wouldn't automatically change. Your marriage certificate authorizes you to change your name, but you'd have to initiate the process yourself.

      Reply
  11. Mrs. Reyes

    Question I just got married and my certificate came in the mail but it does not have my new surname on it , what do I need to do ? I'm taking my husbands lsst name. Help !

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Mrs. Reyes. If there's a spot on the certificate where you new surname should have been, contact the office that issued it for an amendment/correction.

      Reply
  12. Alexis

    Thank you for helping so many people with our requests!
    I understand the marriage license allows you to initiate the name change process, but is there a limit as to how long this is possible?
    For example, if I were to elect my husbands surname on the license, but waited 5 years or so to begin legally filing, would this still be permissible? I currently live abroad and won't have enough time to make the legal change in the foreseeable future. That being said, the court-order process seems more difficult so I wonder if it makes sense to make the election now on the license so I can complete the process more easily later.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I understand the marriage license allows you to initiate the name change process, but is there a limit as to how long this is possible?

      No, there isn't a time limit to change your name.

      For example, if I were to elect my husbands surname on the license, but waited 5 years or so to begin legally filing, would this still be permissible?

      Yes.

      I wonder if it makes sense to make the election now on the license so I can complete the process more easily later.

      Yes, it keeps your options option.

      Reply
  13. Kari

    I was married 11 years ago to my husband and did not take his last name at the time,
    but I would like to change my last name to his now. What do I have to do to make this happen? We live in NY state and were married in NY state as well. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Kari. Order a certified copy of your marriage certificate and change it as your normally would with the various federal and state institutions.

      Reply

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