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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.

Pros

  • Free
  • Simple

Cons

  • Can't change first name
  • Can't change middle name
  • Limited to spouse's surname or hyphenation

Marriage certificate

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.

Time limit

There's no time limit or deadline to change your name. You can start pronto or postpone it for several years.

Wife's name

Husbands must petition their district court to take their wife's last name.

Same-sex couples

Same-sex couples can change their last names through marriage.

No change

You're not required to change your name after marriage in Washington State. You won't get in trouble for refusing.

Traditional

Keep it simple ladies: adopt your husband's full last name as-is. This is the most common name change pick.

Hyphenating

You can hyphenate last names in either order. A good compromise, keeping your current name in the mix.

Space-separated

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.

Bad decision

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.

Pros

  • Free
  • Simple
  • Gender neutral

Cons

  • Can't change first name
  • Must wait until divorce is final
  • Limited to birth name or any prior name

Divorce decree

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.

Old name

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.

Restoration missing

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.

Pros

  • Can change full name

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Time-consuming
  • Possibility of rejection
  • Unlimiited name possibilities

Filing fee

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.

Filing procedure

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.

Judge's verdict

A judge or court commissioner will rule on your petition, which will become a public record. They grant most requests.

Signed order

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.

Filing procedure

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.

Give notice

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.

Parents disagree

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.

Updating documents

Birth certificate

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.

6 Comments

  1. Jeremy

    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.

    Reply
    1. Valera

      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.

      Reply
      1. Jeremy

        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.

        Reply
        1. Valera

          I thought your article didn't need to needle folks in my situation.

          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.

          Reply
  2. Regina

    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?

    Reply
    1. Valera

      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.

      Reply

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