26 Comments

In 2014, women were strongly rewarded with a decision by the Department of Motor Vehicles of New York State giving them one of the simplest processes of changing their middle names into their maiden names on their own drivers' licenses after getting married.

What the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) now requires is just a marriage certificate to help with the change. Before the change, the process was very time consuming and expensive. The decision is seen as one that's of huge benefit to married couples and women all over New York.

The pressure and motivation to have the new change effected in New York came from the new wave of women in the state and country at large within the changing contemporary society, wishing to hold on to the identities of their families at home, workplace and even as students. NY Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester) also put forth a concerted effort to push for this procedural change.

What the DMV did was modernize a procedure that was anti-women mostly and would now be of benefit to those getting married, particularly the increasing number of New York women who would like to maintain maiden names and middle names as the same. The idea of getting down to courts to make applications for name change was very discouraging. The new clarification would ease the process making it hugely affordable for married people all over the state. The change was also expected to reinforce the idea that both partners are equal in marriage while professional women's lives would be simplified henceforth.

In years past, the practice had been growing and culminated into the new change. Coretta Scott King, a civil rights leader and Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Secretary of State and a Democratic Presidential candidate, were some of the pioneers of the need for women to maintain their maiden names as middle names without any negative affect on their marriage, personal and professional lives. This change makes them maintain a very important part of themselves without really changing the sanctity of their marriage or disorganizing their professional careers and lives.

With the new policy, there is the realization middle names do change after marriage and the changes need to make it easy to alter names just like it is easy for newlyweds to do the same. In the past, before the inquiry was pursued, DMV accepted middle name changes only when the interested individuals followed any of two almost unattainable processes. In one pathway, the interested individual needed lots of documents that were virtually hard to get. It was also possible for people to change their names through the court system's legal process, which was very burdensome, so much that it took a number of months to effect the change and expensive since it attracted a minimum of $100 in fees. Through the inquiry, the system was updated allowing middle name changes to be done into maiden names just by providing a genuine marriage certificate.

Lots of women have waited for the change for decades. After marriage, they were only able to make their middle names into maiden names in virtually all areas of life from credit cards, travel documents, businesses to academics among others, except on their driver license in the State of New York.

Newlyweds had also been affected before the change and after effecting change on all other areas. The only problem was the driver's license. Apart from being burdensome, the process was also very confusing and too much for working parents who needed to be working and not following the matter in the corridors of justice. The new change would now bring honor to most families' legacies while simplifying their professional lives.

Procedure of changing names with the New York DMV

To change your name, including changing your maiden name into your middle name, you must avail yourself in person. In turn, you will be able to update your vehicle's certificate of title, vehicle's registration, and your ID card or driver's license.

Remember, you cannot effect or complete name change by email, phone, mail or online. You only need to visit the local office of the NY DMV closest to you.

As you visit the DMV office, do not forget to carry with you the current documents from NY DMV that will need to have the name changed and bring proof of identity, which can be a United States passport or passport card, New York photo driver license, ID or permit or a photo ID card of the United States military which can be from a retired, reserved or active personnel only.

You should also bring a certified document for name change such as a court order issued within the United States only, a decree of divorce carrying an official signature from the United States or simply a certified copy of your marriage certificate issued by a county, city or state within the country.

You need to bring an application for Non Driver ID Card or Driver License duly completed, which is form MV-44 or a Title Application/Vehicle Registration of application-form MV-82. Check the fees required to change your name within New York for guidance on whether there are replacement fee payments to be made.

Once you have provided all the required details, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles will then mail you the new driver's ID or license, title or vehicle registration in less than 10 days. It is important that before you start the name change process you check all the documents accepted for proof of identity.

Current name change fees on NY DMV documents

Changing name on the certificate of title and vehicle registration is absolutely free, while a non-driver ID card name change is only $5. Changing your name on the driver's license or the permit for learners is only $12.50.

Perhaps the important thing to remember for those newlyweds or married in New York is that the long, almost impossible, procedure that took time and money simply to have someone maintain their maiden name as their middle name on their driver's license is now the easiest it has ever been for decades.

It doesn't make sense to have every document you own changed except your driver's license and the new NY DMV name change clarification puts men and women on an equal footing.

26 Comments

  1. Jaine

    Hi,

    How would you fill out your marriage license to reflect your maiden name as your middle name?
    Would it be First middle husband last name or first maiden name husband last name?

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jaine. Put first, maiden, husband last on the part of the application where it asks you to choose your new name.

      Reply
  2. Esty

    Hi, will I be able to change my middle name if I hyphenated my name on the marriage certificate? Or will I have to go through the channels of a legal name change?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Esty. You can do both, but specify your name change intent on the marriage license application.

      Reply
  3. Lisa

    Hi! Great article.

    What happens with your existing middle name? Do you have to have two middle names- being original middle + maiden, or can you completely replace your old middle name with just your maiden name?

    For example does Jane Jessica Doe marrying John Smith have to be Jane Jessica Doe Smith, or can she get rid of/replace her old middle name completely to become Jane Doe Smith?

    Any help would be appreciated.Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Lisa. You'd just replace your middle with your maiden name.

      Reply
  4. Jenna Murray

    Hello,

    Where does this leave you with Social Security? I was married last October in CT but I am an NYS born resident. I would like to DROP my current middle name and replace it with my maiden name. My marriage liscence/certificate did NOT have a space for a "new name" choice, just your current legal name.

    Should I change my name with the DMV and then take it to SS for a new SS card?

    Any help would be GREATLY appreciated! Thank you!

    Reply
  5. Rosemarie Marronaro

    Hi,
    I am living and marrying in NY.
    I have not yet received my marriage license. When I apply for it will there be space to write my maiden in as a middle name? (I do not have a middle name so I would just be adding it).

    I suppose I would go to the DMV after the wedding to change it. Right?

    Thanks!!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Rosemarie. It may or may not have a space where you can specify a name. When you're ready to change your name you'd typically go to the SSA before the DMV.

      Reply
  6. Karen

    Hi,

    I updated my SS with my maiden as my middle name (I previously did not have one) and they accepted it. Then I went to the DMV and they did not allow me to do so, so my ID only has first and new last name. To avoid going back to the DMV and getting rejected again, do I have to go back to SSA to drop my middle (maiden) name? if not, what should I do to the rest of my name change application, match SS or match driver's license? (with or without middle name)

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Karen. Can you get clarification if they denied your request because you had no preexisting middle name? Can they document this rule? The SSA wouldn't change your name back without another name change event justifying it, such as a court order or divorce decree.

      When it comes to SSA vs driver's license, the SSA takes precedence.

      Reply
  7. Sara Dean

    I did not know to indicate the change to my middle name on the marriage license but had no issue with changing my maiden name to my middle with social security. I took my new card to the DMV and was told that they could not change my middle name because it was not listed on the marriage license. Additionally, because I had used my middle initial previously in DMV records, they could not remove it and issue my driver's license as first and last name, only. The only option offered was to leave my birth middle initial and change to my married surname. I left without doing anything since it's already been changed with social security, but unsure of how to move forward.

    Reply
  8. Christine Daly Van Nostrand

    Can I change my maiden name to my middle name even if I have been married for 30 years? I have no middle name and have been using my maiden name informally for years, however it does not appear on any legal documents and I would love to change that. Would I have to go to court first? And what about my passport?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Christine. You should be able to make the change if it's a marriage-based name change.

      Reply
  9. Meena

    Hi – My late father and I had different last names, I want to add his last name as my middle name and take on my husband's last name. Would that be complicated?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Meena. For such a name change, you're looking at having to file a court petition. So, yes, it's more involved than a typical marriage name change using just a marriage certificate.

      Reply
  10. Elizabeth Petrossian

    Hi, I’m recently divorced but as a result of a 35 year marriage it made sense to keep my married name, though all of my legal documents contain my maiden and married name, my ny drivers license does not. Is it possible under these circumstances to make the change which will include me maiden name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Elizabeth. Are you saying you want to including both your maiden and married name on your driver's license or just your maiden name?

      Reply
  11. Mia

    Hi,

    Thanks so much for your articles and responses – they have been really helpful to read. This is such a frustrating and seemingly unnecessary process that I'm sure wouldn't be an issue if it was mainly married men going through it (sigh).

    I am about to file for my marriage license in New York (can be either city or state at this stage). I want to both embrace my new family identity without losing my professional associations and reputation with my maiden name. (It seems ridiculous that in 2018 I should have to fight for this?! sigh, again.)

    I am aiming to have my name as [First Name] [Middle Name] [Maiden Name] [Married Name].

    Ideally, I'd like to have [maiden name] [Married Name] as my new last name separated by a space, but it appears in New York I can only have it hyphenated (which would be super long and complicated with my names).

    My second preference is to add my maiden name to my existing middle name, without dropping my original middle name.

    The NY marriage license application has an (optional) middle name box in the current name section, but only a "new surname" option (ie. no "new" middle name option).

    I have read that people wanting a similar outcome have had success with putting on the marriage licence [first name] [middle name] [married name], then adding the maiden name to the existing middle name on the SSC update form. Is this correct? Or are you suggesting that the maiden name should be put as the current middle name on the marriage license application in place of the existing middle name?

    Are my only options in New York to replace my middle name with my maiden name or hyphenate?

    Thanks so much for any further advice you might have.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      I want to both embrace my new family identity without losing my professional associations and reputation with my maiden name.

      Perhaps a DBA in your maiden name would work for you.

      Ideally, I'd like to have [maiden name] [Married Name] as my new last name separated by a space, but it appears in New York I can only have it hyphenated (which would be super long and complicated with my names).

      Hyphen or combined surnames without a space.

      I have read that people wanting a similar outcome have had success with putting on the marriage licence [first name] [middle name] [married name], then adding the maiden name to the existing middle name on the SSC update form. Is this correct?

      I've not heard of appending another name to the middle.

      Or are you suggesting that the maiden name should be put as the current middle name on the marriage license application in place of the existing middle name?

      If it doesn't specify new middle name, you'd default to the current middle name.

      Are my only options in New York to replace my middle name with my maiden name or hyphenate?

      For your middle name, you can:

      1. keep it untouched
      2. replace it with your maiden name

      For your last name, you can:

      1. change nothing
      2. change to a former last name
      3. take your spouse's current or former last name
      4. hyphenate
      5. combine both full surnames (current or former)
      6. combine a portion of both surnames (current or former)

      Reply
  12. Jen

    I married two years ago and on my marriage license I have both my maiden name and husbands last name as my new last name. I have yet to change any legal documents but will be doing so shortly. I realized that I want to just use my husbands name as my last name. Will I have to go through a whole name change process or just ask SS to use only my husbands surname as my new last name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Jen. This could very well depend on how malleable a clerk you deal with at the SS office and DMV. Also, getting through one doesn't necessarily guarantee you'll be able to get through the other, as one's federal and the other's state.

      You can look into the availability of a remarriage license. If that's not an option, you'll have to contact the SS office and DMV to determine if they'll allow a name change that slices off a portion of the surname.

      There's a high likelihood you'll have to go to court, but you can make these inquiries before going that route.

      Reply
  13. Sharon B. Wist

    I married in 1970. My birth certificate and marriage license show my first, middle and maiden name. I took my husband's last name. I started using the first initial of my maiden name as my middle initial on all documents – drivers license, bank accounts, pension and social security accounts, etc. Recently I attempted to get an enhanced driver's license in New York State and was told I need to show that my middle name was legally changed to my maiden, which it was not. Where do I get the necessary forms to make this change legally? Do I need an attorney to do this?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Where do I get the necessary forms to make this change legally?

      You need to get a court-ordered name change. The eventual court order will serve as the required document. You can review the dedicated NY name change article for what to expect when you file your court petition.

      Reply

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