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:
- I want my maiden name back!
- Can I change back to my maiden name without a divorce?
- 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:
- Is happily (or unhappily) married.
- Regrets their name change.
- Wants to get back their maiden name.
- Isn't interested in divorce, remarriage, or court orders.
Online queries (ignoring the nuances) will often yield two common solutions:
- Get divorced. (Sigh!)
- 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?
Conventional wisdom suggests you've got one shot at name change through marriage. Undoing it means petitioning the court for a second name change:
- Court forms
- Hefty filing fees
- Courthouse hearings
- Local newspaper publication
- Soul-crushing headache and time wasted
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.
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.
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:
- Mail the SSA form.
- Include your identification.
- 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.
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.
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:
- Birth or maiden name
- Any prior name
- Spouse's last name
- Hyphenated last names
- Space-separated last names
- 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.
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.
But we were skeptical. Maybe this source was 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:
- No, you need a court order to change your name again.
- Yes, it's doable using your marriage certificate.
When we brought up the pertinent POMS article, nos shifted to either:
- Hold on, let me look that up.
- Hold on, let me speak with my supervisor.
Soon after, every no concluded with either:
- Yes, it's possible after all.
- 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 article when filing:
I'm submitting a name correction for my current marriage per POMS RM 10212.150.Example notice to SSA field office agent.
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.