How do you change your last name upon marriage?

2 questions:

  1. Many women adopt their husband’s last name upon marriage. What is the procedure for doing this?

  2. Would the procedure be the same for a man who adopts his wife’s name?

Thanks in advance.

AFAIK, there’s no procedure to change to your husband’s last name other than to begin to use it. You also need to go to the Social Security Administration to have a new card issued.

For a husband to change his name you might have to ask a court to make the change officially, but simply using the new name is usually enough (though it would be more difficult to change your SSN). You can use any name you want as long as you’re not using it fraudulently; if you want to call yourself Raymond Luxury-Yacht, just start using that (but remember – it’s pronounced “Throatwobbler Mangrove”).

On turning into a Mrs.–

You also change it officially (eventually) on your driver’s license, voter’s registration, credit cards, bank accounts, library card, etc., although AFAIK there’s no law that says you have to.

And on your income taxes. That’s the other thing.

So yeah, generally, you just start using it, and it trickles down. Your marriage certificate makes it count as a legal name change without having to fill out any other paperwork.

The answers to your questions will likely depend on the particular jurisdiction you’re in.

For example, in my jurisdiction, upon marriage either spouse can take the other’s name, or both can adopt a double-barrelled name. Unlike other name changes, no formal registration is required - the fact of marriage is enough. The marriage certificate would be sufficient proof, I expect, for getting the names changed on bank accounts, social insurance numbers, and so on.


A man does the same procedure as a woman, going to the social security office and to the DMV or equivalent and notifying them of the change and getting a new social security card and ID or driver’s license. All you need is your marriage license or cerified copy and the usual ID. If they give you the runaround nad tell you otherwise call the ACLU. They told us that they would gladly set the record straight. This is a battle that has been fought and won in every state in the union.

Changing your name through the courts is a time consuming and for those on a tight budget, expensive. A man need not use it any more than a woman when getting married.

My husband took my last name when we got married. The county clerk gave a brief protest, but quickly decided that she did not want to risk a fight with the ACLU over it.

Well, I had a friend who decided with his fiancee that when they got married they would both change their last names to a new mutually agreed-upon surname (they chose “Roark”). My friend had to post his intention to change his name in a local paper with a certain minimum circulation, so that anybody (family members, etc.) who might oppose the name change could theoretically be notified and have an opportunity to present their objections in court. Then he went in on his court date, changed his last name, and his wife automatically took it when they were married. Not sure if that answers your question, but it does prove I’ve got some goofball friends (I actually have another friend who did the same thing when he got married - changed his last name to “R”, so he and his wife wouldn’t have to change the monograms on their luggage [formerly Romo and Russell, respectively]).

Thanks for the answers. I think we’ll take your advice, lee.

Why I ask:

We got married over 3 years ago. We decided before we were married that any future children would have my last name. I would keep my last name. He would hyphenate his last name and mine, so as to have a “name in common” with the little Beansters.

He generally uses just his “maiden name,” but often uses the full hyphenated name, or just my last name. We never got around to changing his name formally in any way, but we would like to get around to it sometime soon.

We have made a few inquiries, but the answers have always been “I don’t know…I think he has to go to court.” but that didn’t sound right to me. I didn’t know how women did it, but I knew that they didn’t have to go to court.

Anyway, we ultimately decided to put the question to the teeming millions, who would surely have the answer and maybe some good advice to boot.

And we were not disappointed. Thanks!

You start using it. In every state, you get a “free name change” as part of marriage.

Constitutionally, a state may not prohibit a man from doing anything it allows a woman to do, so a man who wishes to change his name as part of marriage does so the same way a woman would.

I suspect that changing your name to anything other than either your spouse’s or the hyphenated compound of both your prenuptial names would be outside the scope of the marital name change.

Changes other than by marriage must follow the appropriate state law. In states with common-law name change, you can change your name by declaring it changed and using the new one exclusively of the old for a specified period of time.

Some, but not all states, have abrogated common-law name changes, and in those states you must petition the court in accordance with the statutory law of that state. Check with a lawyer.

Some states also allow a divorcing spouse to reclaim his or her premarital name without additional paperwork.

When I got married, my husband and I both took his last name as a second middle name, and we both used my last name as our new last name. (We used to joke either that we were too poor to hyphenate, or that we registered for a hyphen and no one got it for us. We chose not to, though, because nobody can ever find your records again if you hyphenate.)

We both went down together, got new drivers’ licenses (cost: $5, replacement license cost), took those to the university we were attending, and got official transcripts showing both the old and new names, then used those whenever we needed an official state document showing both the old and new names. (Our university had just instituted a new fee, which paid for an unlimited number of official transcripts anytime you wanted them.) In Oklahoma, the marriage license is signed with your former names, and you don’t put in your new names at any point (since you don’t sign it after you’re married).

My husband changed his name back to his birth name very soon after our divorce; I used my birth name, but didn’t actually get a new driver’s license until a couple of years later-- and they STILL didn’t make a fuss about changing from one name to another, based on a two-year-old divorce decree.


Anniz and I are going through the same process now, to change her name on her passport, after we got married last weekend. The process for her is a lot more complicated, as she’s a Swedish citizen, but what she needs to do is this:
[ul][li]Get married - done![/li][li]Send a certified copy of the marriage certificate to the government to legally change her name in Sweden.[/li]Then, she sends in a form to the embassy or consulate for a new passport.[/ul]

In Minnesota, you are required to put the name that you want to use after you are married when you apply for the marriage license. If this name is different from the name you used before, than this is a legal name change. Both the man and the woman get a chance to change or keep their names. You could change to a completely different last name, or change your first or middle names at the same time if you really wanted to, and once you were married, this would be your legal name. You can then use your marriage certificate to change your name on your driver’s license, Social Security card, etc.

Some people believe that this is unfair to the unmarried, since a marriage license is much cheaper than a regular legal name change.

One word of advice any name change do it ASAP.

My mother was legally named Anne. She came from overseas. When she came over in the 40s they asked her what was her name. She told them Little Anne (she was 5’11" so it was a nickname.) They wrote Lillian on the manifest and she bacame Lil over here. No probs except her SS# etc was under Anne. After my father died (in 76) my mother had to deal with 6 months of red tape to get benefits as she had the wrong name. (we eventually got it straightened out.)

A friend of my mothers had a son Benny. The parents divorced shortly after the kid was born and she used the name Jim. She liked it. She registered him for school etc with Jim. When his father died it was such a hassle to get the benefits as they had him as Benny.

So it pays to be proactive.

It is such a hassle to change your name w/o a court order but it can be done. I have had no trouble spelling my name Mark or Marc on my driver’s licence. I have changed it three times. I know it ain’t much of a change but…

But you’re talking about first names. I don’t think that changing a last name, in the event of marriage, is such a problem. Even if you wait.

I did not take my husband’s name when we got married, although I use it for some things. I might change it, legally, when my son starts school. I dunno. I don’t see why it should be that much harder (legally or procedurally) for the waiting.

Incidentally, I had a few problems when my parents or his parents wrote me checks made out to my non-legal married name, but I took a copy of the marriage certificate to the bank and got in on file. Now I can deposit checks under either my real name or my not-yet-legal married name.

Word of caution: When my supervisor got married, she started using her birth name and husband’s last name in business, but didn’t change it on her real estate license. Three years later, she got cited for something else (very minor), and when it was found she was doing business in a name other than on her license, she was fined $500! All for the want of a $5 name change.

If you have any professional licenses, check with the commission to see their policy on it.

In California you use whatever name you want as long as you are not defrauding anyone. There is a procedure to have a judge change your name officially, which is used if people want some ceremony. Every once in a while I get a call about making an official name change, but I’ve never taken the file. These are usually situations where a child has been adopted and they want and “official” name change.