Tips for Changing Your Last Name

Divorce, Family/Kids, Relationships

changing your last nameIf you’ve recently become married or divorced, you’re likely wondering how to go about changing your name. Name changes don’t happen automatically, but they can be made more easily than you think.

You can change your legal name whether your marital status has changed or because you simply don’t like the name your parents gave you. As long as you are not trying to commit fraud, evade debt, or get away with anything else illegal, changing your name should be a cinch with the right paperwork.

Changing Your Name After Marriage

Taking your spouse’s last name after marriage doesn’t happen automatically (since not all women take their husband’s surnames).  Many choose to keep their last name after marriage — or hyphenate their maiden name with their spouse’s last name. Whatever you decide, you will need you take your marriage certificate to your local Social Security Administration and DMV to make it official.

Changing Your Name After Divorce

When you get divorced, you may want to make a clean break from that part of your life and change your name back to your maiden name. To make the process simple, ask the judge to include a formal name-change order in your divorce decree. Get certified copies to use as proof of your new name. Even if you don’t get a name change documented in your divorce papers, you may still be able to go back to using your maiden name quite easily — especially since that name is likely the one on your birth certificate.  Be prepared to provide your divorce case number and dissolution date to the DMV and Social Security Administration.

A growing number of divorced mothers attempt to change their children’s last names to match their own maiden name. Whether this can happen is decided on a case-by-case basis; obviously you will need a court order before changing your kids’ names. Another interesting situation is when mothers with children born out of wedlock desire to have their children adopt their now-husband’s name. Again, this is something that must be settled in court.

Getting a Court-Ordered Name Change

If you do need a court-ordered name change, you can hire a lawyer to help — or you can do it yourself. Get the appropriate form from your county clerk’s office and be prepared to disclose your reasons for changing your name.

After Changing Your Last Name

Once you’ve submitted your name-change forms, be sure to alert the DMV, Social Security Administration, U.S. Passport Office, and your banks, insurance agencies, and employer -– as well as anyone else with whom you do business. Having the right paperwork (marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order) will make things go smoothly at the Social Security office (make sure you have originals or certified copies). You may also want to revise any legal documents like wills and powers of attorney. In order to fly, the name on your ticket must match your ID, so keep that in mind if your name change is happening somewhere between booking and boarding a flight.

Possible Name-Change Roadblocks

Some states may require you to have lived in the county you file for a name change in for at least one year. Any kind of legal trouble –- lawsuits, probation or parole, for instance -– will also stand in your way. Most states will require you to obtain certification that you are not a registered sex offender before changing your name.

Changing your name after a gay marriage will usually be simple; as long as gay marriage is legal in your state and you have a marriage certificate, the process should go smoothly, even with the Social Security office. As long as your state’s laws allow you to change your name for no particular reason (not to evade creditors or commit fraud), you should have no problems whether your state recognizes gay marriage or not.

For whatever reason you need or want to change your last name, it shouldn’t be as difficult as you’d think. As long as you’re not obviously trying to escape debt, lawsuits, or criminal charges, changing your name should be a fairly simple process.