How to Legally Change Your Maiden Name After Marriage
One of the questions my newly married friends continue to ask me is, "How do I change my name after marriage?".
Because I was the first of my girlfriends to get married, I had nobody to consult with regard to my own name change. As a result, I made some blunders and learned a few lessons which have been beneficial to everyone who married after me.
Many companies will try to convince you to pay a fee for them to track down and generate the forms you'll need for your name change. All of these forms are actually COMPLETELY FREE, so don't be fooled into thinking you must pay the money to get your name changed. Hopefully these tips will help those of you who are trying to figure out when and how to initiate the name change process.
1. Determine if you should legally change your name.
There may be instances where you wonder whether it would be better for you to leave your name the same rather than to change it. Some instances where you may want to maintain your maiden name include:
- If you have a well-established business brand or academic reputation built around your name, you may not want to lose your following or established presence in that setting.
- If your husband's last name is difficult to spell and pronounce, it may simply be easier to maintain your maiden name. I have heard of an instance where a woman changed her maiden name to her husband's complicated last name after marriage. She decided at a point later in life to run for political office. To make it easier on voters and for marketability, she actually went through the trouble of going back to court and having her name legally changed back to her maiden name.
- If you feel a strong family attachment and identity associated with your maiden name, it may be difficult for you to let go of it. In this case, another possibility is to hyphenate your last name with maiden name - husband's last name or move your maiden name to your middle name and take your husband's last name.
No matter what you decide, please talk it over with your spouse. As a couple, the two of you are a single entity now, and big decisions such as this one should be thoroughly discussed so that both parties are comfortable both now and in the future
NOTE: If you want to replace your middle name with your maiden name
There may be issues with moving your maiden name to your middle name in certain states. Although the United States government will allow you to change your middle name, certain state DMV offices will NOT allow you to legally change your middle name on your driver's license.
This may cause issues because some of your legal documentation will include your middle name whereas others will not. For instance, in booking international flights, you will include your middle name as it is included on your passport, but when booking domestic flights, you will omit middle name because your driver's license does not include your middle name.
In order to change your middle name to your maiden name on your driver's license, the state may require you to petition for a middle name change in court. Before deciding to make this change, be sure to check your local DMV office's policies on driver's license middle name changes.
2. Make sure to change your name only AFTER the honeymoon or any upcoming travel plans.
Because airports use your passport or driver's license to verify that you are the actual owner of the plane ticket, you may not be able to fly if you change your name after you've already purchased your plane tickets.
3. Acquire both certified and regular copies of your marriage license.
Certain institutions (i.e. Social Security office) will require you to show them the original or certified copy of your marriage license when changing your name after marriage. For many other institutions, a simple photocopy will suffice. You can order certified copies of your marriage license from the same county clerk's office where you ordered your original marriage license. You will probably need at most 3 certified copies. Personally, I ordered 3 and only ended up using 2, one of which was returned to me. I also made approximately 10 regular photocopies of my original marriage license just in case I needed proof for other name change requests.
4. Change the Name on your Social Security Card
Arguably the most important document on which you'll need your name changed is your social security card. This is tied to your taxes and the name the IRS expects when you file your tax return.If you have not changed your name on your social security card, you must use your maiden name on your tax return. Once it is officially changed, then you can go ahead and file taxes with your new name.
The official US government social security website gives detailed instructions on how to change the name on your social security card.The steps are as follows:
- Fill out on SS-5 form. Instructions are included with the form.
- Include either your original marriage license or a certified copy of your marriage license. This document will be returned to you with your receipt.
- Include official proof of your age, such as your original birth certificate or original passport. This will be returned to you with your receipt.
- Include official proof of your identity, such as your original passport or driver's license. This will be returned to you with your receipt.
- You can either bring the documents with you in person or mail them in to your local Social Security office or center. Personally, I felt better doing this in person (despite the painfully long lines) because I didn't feel comfortable parting with important personal documents for long periods of time.
- This entire process should not cost you anything.
4. Change the name on your passport
The next most important document on which you'll need your name changed is your passport. If you have a U.S. passport, the Bureau of Consular Affairs website includes clear and detailed steps on how to legally change the name on your passport under different circumstances.
You will need to mail in:
- Your current, valid U.S. passport (This will be returned to you).
- Completed Form DS-5504 (if your passport was issued < 1 year ago) OR Completed Form DS-82 (if your password was issued >1 year ago).
- An original or certified copy of your marriage license (This will be returned to you).
- 1-2 recent colored photographs according to the instructions on your DS form.
- The fee is $0 (if your passport was issued < 1 year ago) or $110 (if your passport was issued > 1 year ago) for the renewal. There is an additional $60 charge for expedited service (Source).
If you need to travel within a month of your name change, you will need to schedule an appointment at your regional passport agency to renew your passport in person.
NOTE: Remember that some states may not allow you to replace your middle name with your maiden name on your driver's license without further legal processing.Please check with your local driver's license office on your state's policies prior to changing your name.
5. Change the name on your state driver's license and vehicle title and registration
The third most important set of documents on which you'll need your name changed are those records related to your local DMV office (i.e. your driver's license and vehicle title/registration). This will vary from state to state, so please check your state DMV website for information specific to your state. Here in Texas, the process is as follows:
- To change the name on your driver's license, you will need to visit the your local driver license office with an original or certified copy of your marriage license and your social security card. There will also be a fee associated with this change.
- To change the name on your vehicle title and registration, you may need to bring a copy of your current vehicle title/registration and your original or certified marriage license to your local county tax office. In some cases, they also may accept these items in the mail. There will also be a fee associated with this change.
6. Change your name at other institutions.
Once you have changed your name on your social security card, passport, and driver's license, most of the difficult work is done. Almost all of the below institutions I have listed require only a written letter or e-mail stating that you have married and wish for your name to be changed. Perform a simple Google search for "sample letter name change" to find various free websites that provide easy letter samples you can copy to request a name change at various institutions. They may also require a copy of any identification that has your new legal name on it and a copy of your marriage license (not certified). In some cases, even a simple phone call will suffice.
- Banks and financial institutions
- Credit Cards
- Voter's Registration
- Post office
- Loans (School, Auto, Home)
- Mortgage, Property Deed
- Medical/Dental records
- State tax authority
- Work or School
- Magazine subscriptions
- Online accounts (e-mail, forums, societies)
Although involved, legally changing your name after marriage does not have to be a difficult process. I hope this article has saved you some money and time so that you can cheerfully get this task out of the way and move forward to the more important experience of enjoying many years of happy marriage with your spouse!