Change Back to My Maiden Name While Still Married. Without a Divorce!

Young woman doubting her name change, thinking of changing back to her maiden name

Reversing your name change within your existing marriage is tricky. If you're grappling with this dilemma, know that you're not alone. Does a quick fix exist? Let's find out.

Right question, wrong answer

We've gotten thousands of name change questions throughout the years. Sprinkled amongst them are interesting edge cases. At first glance, they're not what they appear.

Here's a curious example:

  1. I want my maiden name back!
  2. Can I change back to my maiden name without a divorce?
  3. How do I change back to my maiden name while still married?

The first appears to be folks pursuing divorce and wanting their maiden name restored. Simple enough. Just ask the judge to restore it within your divorce decree. Done!

The last two questions are ambiguous. Are they separated or getting divorced, yet haven't finalized it? Are they getting antsy, wanting to get their old name back early?

But what about someone who:

  1. Is happily (or unhappily) married.
  2. Regrets their name change.
  3. Wants to get back their maiden name.
  4. Isn't interested in divorce, remarriage, or court orders.

Online queries (ignoring the nuances) will often yield two common solutions:

  1. Get divorced. (Sigh!)
  2. Petition the court for a name change. (Ugh!)

These suggestions aren't wrong per se. But they might be overkill.

You just want a reset!

Does it come down to regret? You feel sorry you changed your name. You want your maiden name and identity back. Your reasons could be personal, professional, or a mix.

It doesn't matter. You're tired of litigating your decision. You just want things undone. Maybe you'll change it again later. Maybe not. But, let's just start over.

Just petition the court. Right?

Bernard Baruch: "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

Conventional wisdom suggests you've got one shot at name change through marriage. Undoing it means petitioning the court for a second name change:

  1. Court forms
  2. Hefty filing fees
  3. Courthouse hearings
  4. Local newspaper publication
  5. Soul-crushing headache and time wasted
Play on words of Nathan Hale's famous quote: "I only regret that I have but one name change to offer for my marriage."

No wonder people bury their name change sorrows as lessons learned. It's too late. Take your medicine. Wallow in self-loathing. Because the fix is too much trouble!

But is there an easier way? A secret corridor? Yes!…

Name correction to the rescue

It's always great to share a bonafide name change trick. Not a loophole. But a real, sanctioned, unambiguous solution. Its existence is remarkable, dating back to 2011.

And now, without further ado…

The SSA offers a lifetime return policy on name changes. You can return your married name for your maiden name (or any prior name held). Or exchange it for another new name.

And here's the kicker…

You can use your marriage certificate to get back your maiden name on your social security card. You don't need to get divorced or petition the court.

Yes, you can reuse the same marriage certificate used to change your name after marriage to undo that regretted name change. The cert giveth and taketh away.

This remedy works well for those who use our online name change kit to complete the name change process. Same as an initial marital name change.

Correction, reversal, undo, revert, flip-flop, u-turn

The SSA calls this a name correction; it's more of a name reversal or reset. Name reversions for marriage resemble regular name changes and follow the same procedures.

Social Security Program Operations Manual System name corrections protocol, established April 11, 2011

You can return to your maiden name for marriages, civil unions, and domestic partnerships using your marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership certificate.

Starting the name reversal process

The process for getting your maiden name back is the same for initial marriage name changes. See our social security card name change guide for what to do. The basic steps are:

  1. Mail the SSA form.
  2. Include your identification.
  3. Include your marriage certificate.

Deadlines and time limits

There's no deadline or timeline to undo or redo your married name change. You can pursue it right after you've changed your name or years later. The procedure remains the same.

Paraphrasing SSA POMS: "There's no deadline to reverse or redo your marriage name change."

Start over or forge a new path

The allure of a name reversal is the flexibility and breathing room it offers. You're not limited to a single name change retraction. You can seek consecutive revisions.

For instance, if you're struggling with uncertainty, you can revert, get your new SSN card, then either stop or plow ahead with yet another fresh name change.

Maximum do-overs

The SSA allows unlimited social security card name reversals and revisions. But over three changes within the same marriage will raise red flags.

If the field office thinks something fishy is going on, they'll consult the regional office. Impetuousness isn't a crime; you're okay as long as your pursuit is legit.

Vast name change reversal options

You're not relegated to just returning to your maiden name. You can change to any of the following names, whatever your current name is:

  1. Birth or maiden name
  2. Any prior name
  3. Spouse's last name
  4. Hyphenated last names
  5. Space-separated last names
  6. Part of spouse's compound surname

We'll elaborate on each of the above with the following examples.

1. Birth or maiden name change example

Let's say your maiden name is Rose Garcia, married Jordan Moore, changed your name to Rose Moore, then back to Rose Garcia. This rollback sequence works.

2. Any prior name example

Imagine you're on your second marriage; both times, taking your spouse's surname. Name reversal lets you return to any prior last name: maiden or ex-spouse's.

3. Spouse's last name example

Suppose your name was Ryan Lee, married Josh Clark, then hyphenated to Ryan Lee-Clark. Now you wish to just take your spouse's surname as Ryan Clark. You can do this.

4. Hyphenated last names example

Let's say your name was Ann Hall, married Ari Smith, then hyphenated to Ann Hall-Smith. You can reorder surnames, drop the hyphen for a space, or restore your birth name.

See our extended article covering the pros and cons of hyphenating your last name after marriage. (Whether you may come to or from this direction).

5. Space-separated last names example

See the prior hyphenated example, then swap out hyphen with space. Same result.

6. Part of spouse's compound surname example

If you were Jane King, married Mark Allen-Hill, then changed your name to Jane Allen-Hill, you can later shift to Jane Allen or Jane Hill. The dropped part must be a whole word.

Will this truly work? Reassure me!

The strategy of reversing your name change is well-documented and approved in POMS RM 10212.150: the SSA's operations manual.

Old Russian proverb: "Trust but verify."

There's even a documented example of this "I want my maiden name back" scenario in POMS RM 10212.160H:

Ruth Gonzalez changed her last name on her SSN card to her husband’s surname, Scott, when they married years ago but has never used that name. She is requesting a change in SSA records back to her maiden name, Gonzalez.

Her marriage document shows Ruth Gonzalez married Lou Scott. The new name requested (in this case the maiden name, Ruth Gonzalez), can be derived from the marriage document.

In addition, Ruth submits her driver’s license in the new name (Ruth Gonzalez). Ruth's legal name and identity have been established following RM 10212.150C, and the name correction can be processed.

Name correction example quoted from POMS RM 10212.160H.

But we were still skeptical. Maybe these sources were outdated or deprecated. So we contacted several SSA field offices at random, posing this hypothetical:

If someone changed their last name through marriage, will the SSA let them return to their maiden name using the same marriage certificate?

Name change undo query posed to SSA agents.

Responses from SSA agents fell into two buckets:

  1. No, you need a court order to change your name again.
  2. Yes, it's doable using your marriage certificate.

When we brought up the relevant POMS article, nos shifted to either:

  1. Hold on, let me look that up.
  2. Hold on, let me speak with my supervisor.

Soon after, every no concluded with either:

  1. Yes, it's possible after all.
  2. Yes, this works. I hadn't heard of this before.

Don't take a chance; plan for success

Considering that several SSA agents weren't aware of name reversal protocols, do yourself a favor and include a note referencing the pertinent POMS articles when filing:

I'm submitting a name correction for my current marriage per POMS RM 10212.150 and RM 10212.160H.

Example notice to SSA field office agent.

You can go further by printing each POMS article and attaching it to your paperwork.

Caveats, fine print, and gotchas

Reversing your marriage name change with the SSA is easy. But this technique is only guaranteed to work with them. For instance, your state DMV might not agree.

When should I use this?

Name change undo, redo, reversal, or switcheroos work best when the only agency you've updated is the SSA. This allows you to start with a clean slate.

When should I rethink my name do-over?

You may have gone too far down the rabbit hole to turn back once you've updated many IDs, such as your driver's license and passport.

This is the downside and danger. Changing your name with one government entity only to have another scoff. They may even want you to reverse your reversal.

Name change reversal concluding thoughts

Undoing the name change on your social security card for your current marriage is doable. The SSA paperwork is the same. If you're yearning for a reset, here's your chance.

If you're looking for an efficient way to complete your name change undo, redo, or reversal, our online name change kit can help guide you along the way.

Do you plan to change your name?

Our online name change kit makes it easy.

Get Started

32 Comments

  1. Vanessa L.

    What if I'm getting divorced? Can I use my marriage certificate to do my name change or do I wait until the divorce is finished?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Vanessa. When do you anticipate your divorce will be finalized? And how many forms of ID do you need to update?

      Reply
  2. Marge S

    Hi. I changed my last name into a hyphenated name (my maiden and my spouse’s name). I do now regret the decision and would like to change to just my spouse’s name since we have a child and it seems like everything would just be easier if we all had the same last name. However, I did change my NJ Driver’s Lic. But I did not change my US passport, which doesn't expire until Aug 2022.

    If I mail in all the required documents to the SSA and am granted a name do-over, do you think I will have trouble with my passport and/or my NJ Lic? Should I do my passport second and then my license, so that I have 2 documents with my new name?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Marge. Your passport will be fine. You could face trouble with your driver's license, because you're lacking a subsequent name change event. You may want to email the NJ MVC and ask them if they'll allow a subsequent name change if your social security record will reflect the change.

      Or if they'll accept it if your SSA record shows your new name and you can present a passport with the proper name. So two points of supporting documentation. The latter would require you to wait for the return of your updated passport.

      Getting a response by email would provide you a hard copy response instead of a phone reply.

      Reply
    2. Dani

      Hi Marge,

      I basically did the same thing in NJ. I have my license with the new hyphenated last name, but I would like to just have one last name. I was wondering what was the outcome for you at the DMV?

      Reply
  3. Marijo

    What if you were married twice? I like to still go back to my maiden name

    Reply
    1. Marijo

      I should been clearer I live in Michigan I got married 28 years ago in Fl to my second husband I always wanted my maiden name but was to told had to use my husband’s. Even when divorced my first husband wanted my maiden name but since I had two boys the judge didn’t grant it. So would this process work after all these years and does Michigan allow it?

      Reply
      1. Valera

        Hi Marijo. You should be fine as long as your marriage document shows your maiden name.

        Reply
        1. Marijo

          I was told cannot in State of Michigan only if I were to get a divorce. Thank you anyway.

          Reply
          1. Valera

            Hi Marijo. When you say Michigan are you referring to a local SSA office or the DMV?

          2. Marijo

            I was told cannot change in Michigan without court order and then there’s fees for fingerprinting and to be printed In paper and not court fee. I get a divorce if he give it to me but I can’t afford this either 😞

          3. Valera

            Hi Marijo. It's not clear which entity you're referring to. The SSA, DMV, or another office?

          4. Marijo

            For the Pom Rm # you said to use States Foreign marriage or foreign recognized same-sex marriage.

            But SSA said I have to have a court order to change back to my maiden name said that was standard for any state. This what you’re stating would only be good for newlyweds or who probably never accepted their spouse name but to claim they let you take our maiden name back is false.

          5. Valera

            States Foreign marriage or foreign recognized same-sex marriage

            There isn't a reference to foreign marriage in the POM ID or the article. Are you sure you're referencing the same ID?

            what you’re stating would only be good for newlyweds or who probably never accepted their spouse name

            There is an example referencing a name correction where the marriage (and accompanying name change) took place several years prior.

            This isn't an often used procedure. Name reversals are uncommon in practice, even though they're their use cases are documented.

            It may not be sufficient to reference the POMS ID alone or assume it's common knowledge. The full operations reference and supporting example page may be worth printing and including as attachments.

  4. Julie

    What if I never changed my Driver's License or Social Security card to my un-hyphenated, only spaced after, married name?

    Ex: "Jane FaTeeRay Doe". Maiden name FaTeeRay. I also got my passport and work license under my maiden name. The only place that still has my unhyphenated only spaced married name is the marriage certificate and my insurance companies, who will not change it, for what reason I'm not sure.

    In order to change insurance, titles, etc to my maiden name, (which I have been going by in employment, credit, everything else for over 15 years now), do I still use this "trick"? (Confusing bc my SS Card was never changed.) Please let me know.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Julie. Your insurance companies go by their own internal rules. You'll have to resolve this with them directly.

      You can appeal to them citing your predicament as a name correction instead of a change. Explain how your name hasn't changed on your social security card, driver's license, credit bureaus, etc.

      If they deny your request, you can ask for their rationale and name change requirements in writing. You may want to dispatch your follow-up correspondence in writing as well.

      You could also contact your state insurance commissioner for advice, assistance, or to file a complaint.

      Reply
  5. Sam

    When you change your name with SSA again, does that become your official legal name? Some DMVs state that you must get a court order to change your name again if it has been changed due to marriage the first time.

    For example: If Sara Smith married John Doe and initially changed it to Sarah Smith Doe (first, middle, last) and then realizes she wants to be Sarah Smith-Doe, she can use the bylaws with SSA using the same marriage license to become Sarah Smith-Doe. Then the SSA gives you a new identification card.

    To me, that seems like even if your name is now Sarah Smith-Doe with SSA, the DMV won't accept the new social and the same marriage license for a new drivers license? Also will the passport office give the same push back?

    Is it possible to be hyphenated with SSA, but not on the passport and driver's license? I imagine professional degrees will have issues because of the inconsistency.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      When you change your name with SSA again, does that become your official legal name?

      Yes.

      Some DMVs state that you must get a court order to change your name again if it has been changed due to marriage the first time.

      Correct, assuming a name change took place with both the SSA and DMV.

      To me, that seems like even if your name is now Sarah Smith-Doe with SSA, the DMV won't accept the new social and the same marriage license for a new drivers license?

      If the only entity changed was the SSA, that makes things easier. If the driver's license was also changed, undoing the name change will likely require a court order.

      Also will the passport office give the same push back?

      Same situation. The end of the article mentioned how this approach becomes more difficult once you've begun to update an array of ID beyond social security.

      Is it possible to be hyphenated with SSA, but not on the passport and driver's license?

      Social security card and driver's license must match. The passport can be renewed under a current name, even if it deviates from the new married name.

      Reply
  6. Danielle

    When I got married, I changed my name to my husbands last name. Now, I'd like to hyphenate it to include my maiden name. Can I use the reversal process to switch back to my maiden name and then go to the social security office to hyphenate it with my marriage certificate?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Danielle. You can return to your maiden name. Whether you can hyphenate depends on if there's an explicit new name after marriage block on your marriage certificate. If yes, that's the only name change they'll accept. If no new name section exists, you can hyphenate.

      If your marriage certificate supports this, you don't have to perform two subsequent name changes. You can go straight to hyphenate.

      Reply
  7. Melissa

    Hi we got our marriage license and I hyphenated my name. It’s the same day and I don’t want to hyphenate my name anymore I just want to keep my maiden name. How do I do this? We didn’t even have the wedding ceremony yet I just don’t want to change my name and I want to keep my maiden name. What do I do?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Melissa. You don't have to change your name, even though your marriage license and certificate says you'll hyphenate.

      If you still don't want your license and certificate to show the hyphenated name, you may contact the office that issued it to modify and reissue it. They may be willing to do this without additional fees. Otherwise, they'll require you to submit a new application, fees and all.

      Reply
  8. Izzy

    I called my local social security office (NC) and I asked if they could do this and they laughed at me. I was told that I have to go to court, file a petition, get finger printed, etc. this is ridiculous. I just wanna feel like my own person.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Izzy. As mentioned in the article, this isn't a well known provision. You may be better positioned citing the pertinent POMS ID and marriage example so that they're aware of this stipulation.

      Reply
  9. Kathleen

    Hi. My husband and I are separated but staying married. I knew as soon as I agreed to take his name it would be a regret of mine but I didn’t think that it would be that big of a deal to change it back even if we did stay happily married. Apparently I was wrong. I live in New York. Any advice on what to do? Thank you.

    Reply
  10. Alice Cook

    I'd like to change back to my maiden name (staying married). In addition to SSA, DMV and passport, will I also need to notify bank, retirement accts., insurance, employer etc.?How do I ensure that my bank and retirement accounts will have my name. Additionally, will my husband need to change my name as beneficiary on his insurance and retirement accounts?
    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Alice. You should update all mentioned documents, including bank, insurance, and retirement accounts. But keep in mind the caveat mentioned in the article that if you've changed your name beyond social security the reversal process using your marriage certificate may be out of reach. Your situation will likely require a court order.

      Reply
  11. Kelly

    I’d like to legally change my name back to my maiden name, not divorcing. I never changed it on my driver’s license, only with SSA. Can I use this kit and do this in person at a SSA office? I’m assuming they need the actual marriage certificate, and I don’t feel comfortable mailing that.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      Hi Kelly. Yes, you can do it in person with a certified copy of your marriage certificate.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.