Changing Your Name

Maybe you want a name change because you are getting married or divorced. Or perhaps you just want a new legal name. Whatever your reason, there are a few things to consider during the name change process. Changing your name requires some paperwork and steps, but this guide can help you get started.


Changing Your Name After Marriage

Marriage and divorce are two of the most common times someone changes their name. A few common examples of a last name change for newlyweds:

  • Changing their "maiden name" and taking their spouse's last name as their new last name (First Name + Spouse's Last Name)
  • Adopting their maiden name as their new middle name and taking their spouse's last name (First Name + Maiden Name + Spouse's Last Name)
  • Combining their maiden name with their spouse's last name by hyphenating their maiden name with their spouse's last name (First Name + Maiden Name-Spouse's Last Name)
  • Both spouses change their last name to a new name they choose together (First Name + Chosen Last Name)

Changing Your Name After Divorce

You do not have to change your name after a divorce. But, some people choose to change their married name and use their maiden name following a divorce.

Here are a few common examples of a last name change after a divorce:

  • No change; keep your married name
  • Use your maiden name
  • Choose a new last name

Why Do People Keep Their Married Name After a Divorce?

Sometimes, married people with kids decide not to change their married name after a divorce. There are several reasons they might do this, or there might be many factors, such as:

  • Kids: A shared last name represents a family unit. Matching last names with your child can make certain situations less complicated — such as picking up a child from daycare or going to the hospital for a routine checkup. Generally, people do not question a parent when they have the same last name as their child. But, questions sometimes arise when a parent and child have different last names.
  • Career and social life: Some people keep their married last name because they have an established social life or a career associated with their married name. If your marriage was long, it may be difficult for people to recognize you with a new last name after so many years of using your married name. Also, if you have a career where business contacts, clients, and customers know you by your married name (or your name is part of the brand), a name change may not be your best option.

Can I Change My Name to Anything I Want?

You can legally change your name to whatever name you like (with a few exceptions).

A general exception is that you cannot change your name to an obscenity or a racial slur. Be sure to check your state's marriage laws for any exceptions.

You cannot get a name change to:

  • Escape debt
  • Escape civil or criminal liability
  • Commit crime or fraud
  • Mislead (using a celebrity's name, etc.)
  • Confuse by using a name with numerals or punctuation (although some courts have permitted people to spell out the numbers; for example, "Seven" instead of "7")
  • Intimidate or offend

The Basics of Changing Your Name

To begin the name change process, fill out a legal name change form with the clerk's office at the local courthouse (online or in person).

You will need to show the county clerk a few legal documents after you fill out the legal name change form:

  • Social Security number
  • Certified copy of your marriage certificate
  • Copy of your marriage license
  • Photo ID (Driver's license)

Click here for specific steps on how to change your name legally.

Courts usually accept all requests for a name change (with some exceptions). This process does not require a court order. But you can ask for a court order to change your name.

Changing Your Name on Legal Documents

What happens when your marriage license or certificate shows a different name than your U.S. passport or driver's license?

Do you have to change all your legal documents and government identification to your new name? Yes!

What about your credit cards or bank accounts? Do they all need to have the same name? Yes!

After getting your new name, you must also fill out legal name change documents to get a new Social Security card, birth certificate, U.S. passport, etc.

Generally, if you change your name after marriage, a copy of a marriage certificate is all you need as proof of your marriage. Also, in most states, a divorce decree is all you need to change your name back after divorce. Some states will note the name change in the divorce decree, and some will enter a separate name change order.

Who to Notify of Your Name Change

You can use your new name after you have a completed form and a judge grants your legal name change.

But you must still tell government agencies and other providers about your new last name. Some government and financial agencies will ask for proof of your new name. You can find more information about the specific documentation needed here.

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

You will need a new driver's license.

Contact your local DMV to get a new driver's license. Depending on your state's requirements, they will ask to see a certified copy of your marriage license and marriage certificate to change your last name.

Social Security Administration (SSA)

You will also need to notify the SSA.

Go to your local Social Security office to receive a new ID card.

Other Entities

If you have a U.S. passport, you must get a new passport and passport photo with your new last name.

A few more providers you should notify:

  • Employers
  • Schools
  • Financial institutions
  • Utility companies
  • Insurance companies
  • Investment accounts
  • Voter Registration
  • Global Entry
  • TSA
  • Subscriptions

Learn About Changing Your Name

  • Changing Your Name After Marriage — Congratulations! Are you ready to change your name? Changing your name after marriage is pretty simple. Just follow the steps outlined in this article.
  • Marriage FAQs — Marriage is more than just the promise of spending the rest of your life with someone you love. It is also a legal arrangement. Find out the answers to your questions about marriage law.
  • Who Owns What in Marital Property? — Once you get married, do you share everything with your spouse? What is legally yours? This article explains the different types of marital property arrangements.

Have Questions About Changing Your Name? Talk to an Attorney!

If you have questions about the legal name change process, you should seek legal advice from an experienced family law attorney.

A family law attorney can help fill out and file legal name change forms and simplify the name change process.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Many people can get married without hiring legal help
  • Marriages involving prenups, significant debt, child custody issues, and property questions may need an attorney

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Marriage is an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries (including your spouse!) to your will. Consider creating a power of attorney to ensure your spouse can access your financial accounts. Also, a health care directive lets your spouse make your medical decisions if you ever become incapacitated.

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