How to Change Your Name After Marriage

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Photograph of a social security card with one dollar bill, selective focus.
Discussion about how to change your name after marriage usually follows discussions about what last name you and your partner decided to take. You can take your partner’s last name in full or take his or her name in part by hyphenating your surnames. Either way, the emotional decision to change your last name is usually the most difficult part.

Here are some of the ways to change your name after marriage:

Change Your Name in Most States

If you want to take your spouse’s surname in full, here are the steps to accomplish a name change after marriage in most of the United States:

    1. Contact your state Department of Health to request a certified marriage certificate in triplicate if you haven’t done so already.
    2. Most charge a per copy fee. If you’re military members, mention it. Most states won’t charge a fee for this service to members of the armed forces.
    3. Visit Social Security to apply for a new card. To save time, print a copy of Form SS-5 at www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/ and fill it out beforehand. Bring it to a local SSA field office along with certified ID and marriage certificate copies (not photocopies).
    4. In most circumstances, you may also mail the information to Social Security. It’s best to request a new Social Security card in the first two years of marriage. You may be required to submit other documents if you’ve been married longer than two years. SSA will return the certified copies of your ID and marriage certificate if you request a new card by mail. Your new Social Security card should arrive in two weeks or less. Call Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 with questions.
    5. If you’re employed, notify your employer of the name change as soon as possible to prevent any income reporting or tax refund issues.
    6. Let clients and other professional contacts know about your name change. Update online profiles on LinkedIn but note your former last name to help friends, acquaintances, and recruiters stay in touch.
    7. Notify the post office, banks/lenders, insurers, utility companies, licensure boards (if you’re professionally licensed), and financial advisers of your name change.

Use a Professional Work Name

It’s also possible to take your spouse’s last name and not change your professional given name in the workplace. You won’t need to change the name on your business card at all.

However, you’ll still need to notify your employer’s Human Resources team about the legal name change for income and tax reporting purposes.

      • You’ll also need to request a new Social Security card to reflect your name change after marriage.
      • As above, you’ll need to advise banks, lenders, utilities, financial companies and others of your new legal name.

A second way to avoid a completely new surname is to use your given name as a middle name but research this path before you decide. Some states may require a legal name change instead of the usual name change after marriage process.

Create a New Surname

If you’d like to combine your last names after marriage, you’re actually creating a brand new last name for legal purposes. Hyphenating your last names is a bit like meeting in the middle when one spouse can’t yield to assuming a new surname identity.

You’ll need to petition the local court to make it legal. A legal name change is a relatively easy process unless you’re trying to hide from creditors or an onerous past.

Make sure to notify employers and others above of your new name.

Same-Sex Unions and Civil Marriage Name Change

Today, either partner can opt to take his or her partner’s last name. Follow the steps below or request a name change through the local court. You’ll need to petition the court and run notices in local newspapers to ensure you’re requesting the name change for love alone.

If you live in a state that doesn’t recognize same sex unions or civil marriage, legal name change may be the easiest path to changing your name after marriage.

After you’ve completed the task of changing your name after marriage, get a new Social Security card, notify your employer, clients, financial relationships, post office, etc.