How to Change Your Name in Washington State After Marriage
There are many ways to undergo a legal name change in Washington State, such as through marriage, divorce, or court petition.
This guide explains your name change options and requirements to update your social security card, driver's license, etc.
Marriage Name Change
This section only covers name change after marriage. Divorce, court, and child name change comes later in this article.
- Can't change first name
- Can't change middle name
- Limited to spouse's surname or hyphenation
Use an original or certified copy of your marriage certificate to change your name. It may come from Washington State or anywhere in the world.
You can order a certified copy of your Washington State marriage certificate from the Department of Health.
Choose your name
The Washington State marriage license application doesn't have a spot to choose a new name after marriage. That's fine. You can still change your name.
There's no time limit or deadline to change your name. You can start pronto or postpone it for several years.
Washington State statutes neither acknowledge nor disallow a husband to take his wife's last name through marriage. The Social Security Administration operations manual and communications with Washington State Licensing (DOL) suggest a man taking his wife's name through marriage is allowed without having to petition the court.
Same-sex couples can change their last names through marriage.
You're not required to change your name after marriage in Washington State. You won't get in trouble for refusing.
Keep it simple ladies: adopt your husband's full last name as-is. This is the most common name change pick.
You can hyphenate last names in either order. A good compromise, keeping your current name in the mix.
A space-separated (a.k.a. double-barreled) name change works with the SSA, but not WA State Licensing (DOL).
Slicing and dicing
You can't piece together surname segments to build a new last name. You can't take one part of your husband's hyphenated or compound surname. It's all or nothing.
Brand new last name
You can't invent a brand new last name out of whole cloth. If that's your goal, petition your district court instead.
Maiden and married name
Want to keep using your maiden name for professional reasons? Register it as a trade name or DBA.
Maiden to middle name swap
Washington State still doesn't allow brides to replace their middle name with their maiden name through marriage.
Middle name demolition
You can't drop your middle name when changing your last name through marriage.
Prior or maiden name
You can't go back to your maiden name or a prior name through a basic marriage name change.
First name change
You can't change your first name through marriage. Petition your district court instead.
Toe in the water
Keeping your name unchanged while using your married name in social settings is a nice test drive approach. Commit to changing your name when you're ready.
If you regret your name change, use your marriage certificate to reverse it with the SSA, but not the DOL.
This is helpful if you've only updated your social security card, as reversing other credentials could be painful.
Divorce name change
Rules for changing your name through divorce are gender neutral and apply to annulments too.
- Gender neutral
- Can't change first name
- Must wait until divorce is final
- Limited to birth name or any prior name
Use an original or certified copy of your divorce decree to change your name. It can hail from any state or country.
You can order a certified copy of your Washington State divorce certificate from the Department of Health.
You can return to your maiden name or any prior surname. Middle name change is a gray area left up to the judge. First name changes are a nonstarter.
Tell the judge
During divorce proceedings, tell the divorce judge which old name you want restored in your final decree of divorce.
Even if you intend to keep your married name after divorce, asking for a nonbinding restoration order keeps your options open.
If your divorce decree is missing an order restoring your preferred name, ask the judge to amend it.
If the judge denies your request, your only remaining remedy is to seek a court-petitioned name change.
SSA flexible, others not
Although the SSA will allow you to revert to any prior name on file, even if your divorce decree omits a restoration order, most other institutions won't (e.g., DOL).
Unless you want to embark on a patchwork name change journey, get the name you want inscribed in your decree.
Name change before divorce
If you're unwilling to wait to change your name until after the judge finalizes your divorce, you can opt for a court-petitioned name change.
You must decide whether it's worth the extra time and expense of changing your name through court instead of waiting to do it for free after divorce.
Forced name change
Your ex-spouse (or soon-to-be ex) can't force you to change your name, nor would a judge honor such an absurd demand.
Court name change
You can undergo a legal adult name change in Washington State by filing a petition in a district court within your county of residence.
- Can change full name
- Possibility of rejection
- Unlimiited name possibilities
It costs between $100 and $400 for a court-petitioned name change. Fees vary by court. Pay up front and in full.
Accepted forms of payment vary by court, but most will accept cash, a money order, or a certified check.
If you can't afford the filing fee, the court may grant a hardship waiver. Show proof of your inability to pay, such as bank statements, public benefit proofs, or pay stubs.
File an Order for Name Change. Detail your current name, new name, reason for changing, and that you're not trying to commit fraud or harm others.
You needn't elaborate on "why" you're changing. No need for a speech. Judges approve most petitions without a fuss.
You must be at least 18 years old to petition the court without parental consent and participation.
If both you and a spouse or partner are petitioning the court, file separate petitions. This entails separate fees and hearings.
Schedule your hearing
The court clerk will assign a case number and schedule your hearing for the same day or soon thereafter. Most hearings last mere minutes.
A judge or court commissioner will rule on your petition, which will become a public record. They grant most requests.
Once the judge approves your name change, take your signed court order and begin changing your name.
You may have to pay a filing fee to record your Order with the court clerk or county auditor. Certified copies cost extra.
Child name change
Child and adult name change (see prior section) is not much different. This section explains the added requirements.
To change a child's name in Washington State, one parent or legal guardian must file a Minor Name Change petition in the district court of the child's residence.
You must give the other parent notice of the petition so they may appear in court to voice any objection.
A parent has the right, before Washington State law, to object to a petition seeking to change the name of his/her child.
If one parent doesn't want their child's name changed, they must object in court. The judge will break the stalemate.
The child's consent
Children at or above the age of 14 must consent to changing their name. The judge will still take into account the wishes of younger kids.
Adoption name change
Name change is part of the regular adoption proceedings, not requiring a separate court petition.
You may change the name on your Washington State birth certificate with a court order, but not a marriage certificate or divorce decree.
Send a certified copy of the court order and any other documentation required to the Department of Health in the Center for Health Statistics in Washington.
Social security card and driver's license
When you complete a name change, always update your social security card first so that the Social Security Administration correctly records your earned benefits.
If you don't report on time, the IRS may delay your income tax refund.
Approach the Washington State's DOL for a new driver's license or ID card. Show a certified copy of your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order.
Don't forget to update your name with non-governmental institutions, such as insurance companies, banks, creditors, employers, schools, military, and voter registration, among others.
If you have questions about changing your name in Washington State, leave them in the comments section below.
Due respect, I don't see what's "absurd" about asking my ex wife to stop using my name. Maybe I don't have the power to force her but why would she want my name if she no longer wanted the marriage. My 2 cents.
Hi Jeremy. We were simply making the point that although your wife took your last name, it's as much hers now as it is yours.
Fair enough. I'm getting married again looking for info on my wife changing her name. I thought your article didn't need to needle folks in my situation. Seems out of place and unnecessary. Maybe I'm overreacting.
There was no offense intended. There could be many rationales for your ex-wife keeping her married name. If you sift through the comments section of the article I linked you'll find a variety of arguments for and against. A common one has to do with younger children and wanting to maintain that surname linkage. At least until they're older.
Well Jeremy, the part that was referred to as absurd was a forced name change. It is absurd to think that you could force your ex to change their name upon divorce. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that your reading comprehension skills are lacking.
I live in Washington but want to combine a part of my name and my fiance's. Since I can't do that here can I get married in Oregon where they allow that, then change my name back home with my Oregon marriage license?
Hi Regina. While that might work with the SSA, it won't with WA DOL. Then you'll be dealing with a name mismatch. The first is federal, the latter is state. They go by different rule sets.
I was married in Washington State in 1994, have lived here all these years, and I was able to drop my birth middle name and make my maiden name my new middle name along with taking my husband's surname.
I recently applied for an enhanced license with this name and had no problem. The DOL website doesn't mention anything about not being able to make your maiden your middle, it just says you need a document (I used my marriage certificate, which doesn't have a spot to list my new name).
Where is the actual rule? I am afraid the state.will refuse to renew my license in the future.
Hi Jenny. You should be fine as your name was officially changed with DOL way back when. Here's a reference that cites needing to go to court to change a middle name.
I live and was just remarried in Washington state. All I have to do is take my marriage license (which has my former name on it) in to SSA, DOL etc, and tell them I want to change my name to… and that’s sufficient?
Hi Julie. You're correct. Make sure it's a certified copy of your marriage certificate, not your marriage license.
My (male) fiancé wants to take my last name (female). We have been together for 10 years, and he has very logical and genuine reasons for wanting to do so. We haven’t filled out a marriage license yet, but my question is: How do we go about petitioning the court?
Hi Liz. He may have to petition the district court if state officials balk. It can be done before or after marriage. State law is vague on this point.
I live in Washington State but was married in Idaho June of 2020. I'm planning on hyphenating my last name, the marriage license only shows my current name and then my husband's name, it does not show the name that I will be changing it to. Will this still work to change my name on my state ID to the hyphenated last name?
Yes, it'll still work fine.
I want to add a middle name to my name (because I didn't have it) while also changing my last name because of marriage. Would that work in Washington state? Can you add a middle name while changing your last name because of marriage?
Hi Elena. The only change you can make to your middle name through marriage is to insert your birth name.
I got married in January 2020, how do I go about changing my last name? my marriage certificate has my last name on it will that still work to change my last name to my husbands last name? or does the marriage certificate have to have my husbands last name to begin with?
Your new name can be extracted from the spot where you husband's name is shown on the certificate.
Is there a time limit between a change of name by court order and notifying the SSA? For example, does it have to done within 10 days, as in other states?
No, there's no time limit for a court-ordered name change.
Was Married in Utah (12 years ago) just moved to Washington. My ID from Utah just has first and last name listed as well as my professional license that is being switched over to Washington license. The only place my middle (maiden) name is listed is with SSA office. How do I legally remove/change my middle name now that I live in Washington?
Hi Nicole. The Social Security Administration only considers your first and last name as your legal name. Not your middle name. They'll still print it on your card and notate it within their records, but it's given second class status.
As far as I know, there's no documented protocol to remove your middle name, outside of petitioning the court. You could attempt a name reset by removing the middle name on your application when submitting a subsequent name change using your marriage certificate. If they accept it, mission accomplished. If not, you're back to where you started.
What is the source for "Husbands must petition their district court to take their wife's last name."? On the Washington State govt. websites I'm seeing references to "spouse" and "partner" but not gender-specific language. I'm aware it's different in some other states but looking for WA in particular.
See "3. After the wedding" tab.
Hi Tor. The article has been updated to reflect this. Thanks.
If my wife changed her legal first and middle names and we have not reapplied for a new certificate, is our marriage still valid.
Hi Jack. Your wife changing her name wouldn't invalidate your marriage, or any document that comes before or after. If you were to acquire a certified copy of the certificate, it would reflect her old name. Which is fine. Certificates are historical snapshots in time.
I live in Washington State and have been married for 30 years. My wife and I both kept our last names when we got married, since we were both licensed professionals. Now I have retired and no longer need to retain my last name for career purposes.
Can I change my last name to that of my wife's by simply showing our marriage certificate. I am wondering if 30 years is too long a wait, and won't be acceptable to the department of licensing.
Hi Colin. You can take your wife's last name. There no cutoff point.
When signing the marriage license after the ceremony, do you sign with your maiden name or your married name?
Hi Eva. Sign your maiden name (assuming that's your current legal name at the time).