Changing Your Name After Marriage FAQ

Learn more about how to change your surname name after you get married.

By , Attorney · Cooley Law School

How do I change my name after the wedding?

Once you're married, you must sign your marriage certificate with your new name. As long as you're taking your new spouse's name, your marriage certificate serves as proof of your new name, which you'll use to change your name with creditors, businesses, and other entities.

Whether you've changed your name through marriage or the court process, a critical part of accomplishing your final name change is to let others know. Once you've changed your name, start using it. If you apply for a home loan, credit card, student loan, begin school, or start working at a new job, use your new name. You should also start using your new name with your family, friends, and acquaintances.

To change your name with any government agency, you'll probably need a certified copy of the marriage certificate, which you should receive within a few weeks after the ceremony. If you changed your name through a court process, the court should provide you with a certified copy of the new order after your hearing. If you're unsure of what documents you need to provide, call the agency and speak with a representative. Bring the required documents to the local office and present them to the proper officials.

Most companies require a copy of your new identification if you have existing loans or credit cards before the changes take effect. Although the identification requirements vary by lender, you'll likely need to send the company a copy of your driver's license, social security card, passport, or marriage certificate.

Can my husband and I both change our names to a hyphenated version of our two names or a brand-new name?

Yes, but in most places, you'll have to get a court order to do it. Some couples want to be known by a hyphenated combination of their last names, and a few even make up new names that combine elements of each. For example, Ellen Berman and Jack Gendler might become Ellen and Jack Berman-Gendler or, perhaps, Ellen and Jack Bergen.

You can also pick a name that's entirely different from the names you have now, simply because you like it better. It was relatively easy to make all these changes by consistently using your new name in the past.

Today, you will need to go to court to get an official order changing your name to anything other than your new spouse's last name. The court process varies by state and may include the following requirements:

  • filing a formal request (petition) with the court
  • submitting to a background check
  • paying for your fingerprints
  • publishing the new name for creditors, and
  • attending a hearing.

Your department of motor vehicles will likely make post-marriage name changes to only one of the names on the marriage certificate or, in some cases, to a hyphenated name that uses both.

I just married my same-sex partner. Can I change my last name to be the same as hers?

Yes. In a historic ruling in 2015, the United States Supreme Court (USSC) legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country. (Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644.) As a part of the ruling, same-sex partners now share the same right to a name change as opposite-sex married couples.

Before the Court's decision, a few states allowed same-sex couples to marry and change their last names. However, if you lived in a state with a same-sex marriage ban but wanted to share your partner's last name, many states required couples to follow the expensive and lengthy court process for an adult name change. The name change legal process is still available for same-sex (and opposite-sex) couples who wish to change their names without getting married (or if you'd like to change your name to something new after your wedding.)

Whether through marriage or a court process, the state department of motor vehicles, the federal government (for purposes of your Social Security card and passport), your creditors, and your employer must recognize your new name if you've followed the required steps.

Bring a certified copy of your marriage certificate or court order with you when you request the name change, and keep an additional copy in a safe place in your home for future use.

I'm a woman who is planning to be married soon. Do I have to take my husband's name?

No. When you marry, you are free to keep your own name or take your husband's name without a court-ordered name change. The same is true whether you're in a same-sex or opposite-sex marriage. In most states, your spouse can adopt your name, instead, if that's what you both prefer. However, in general, you'll need a court order if you and your spouse both want to change to a different name that you share.

Give some careful thought to what name feels best for you. You can save yourself considerable time and trouble by making sure you are happy with your choice of a name before you change any records.

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