Changing Your Name After Getting Married...

Updated on February 27, 2011
L.P. asks from Uniontown, PA
30 answers

Ok, so I have a very strong compulsion to retain my maiden name after I'm married for 2 reasons. First in priority is that my son has both mine and his father's last names, which we did since we were not married when he was born. He has his first, middle, my last name, his father's last name. For general purposes, he goes by his father's last name, but he does know his full name, and that we share the first of the 2 last names. The second reason is that I am 37 and have grown rather attached to my name, not to mention I'm an only child of my father's.

All that said, I don't want to lessen the meaning of my marriage (I know, marriage is way more than a name), or to hurt my soon to be hubby by totally rejecting taking his name. SO, I'm thinking that I'll keep mine, and add his. Best of both worlds, I guess.

My question is, what do I have to do legally? Anything? If I don't do anything legal, can I just assume using my hubby's name in the times I want to, and continue to use my maiden name when I want? For instance, I might prefer to keep my maiden name at work for simplicity. But if I want to have checks made with both our names on them, can I use his last name there, if I haven't changed anything officially?

As you can see, I'm really confused by this. What reasons are there to do the name change officially, or are there any reasons to do it officially? Looking for some clarity on this...

Added: I don't want to hyphenate, but I would consider just adding my fiance's name to the end of my names, as in first, middle, my last, his last name, with no hyphen...

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answers from Minneapolis on

I just kept my name. My kids have my husbands name. People call me Mrs. Miller all the time, I answer to it. I just felt to old (at 31) to change my name... he didn't care one way or the other so that's what we did. My kids have a name, middle name, my last name, and then Miller.

Several of my friends also kept their names, and their kids have the husbands name.


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answers from Bloomington on

My aunt changed her maiden name to her middle name when she was married in her 30s. So she can sign first, maiden, married. It's a thought!

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answers from Chicago on

I know you don't want to hyphenate, but it is an option. My friend did this. Her children had her maiden name and their dad's last name. Then she had her maiden name and her new husband's last name. Just a thought...

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answers from Seattle on

When you go to fill out the change of name paperwork you just bring your marriage license and you just fill out all 4 names. That easy.

The 3 times in life it's super easy to change your name are birth, marriage, and divorce. In our state it's an automatic "grant" (aka you don't have to petition the courts, you just fill out the form at the SS office and show them your ID and marriage licence). Then you take the SS paperwork to your Department of licensing and get your drivers license changed.

I went from 3 names to 4 when I got married. Took 2 minutes (not including drive time). It only gets tricky IF you're changing the ORDER of your names. Don't ask why. The answer is longer than it deserves.

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answers from Dallas on

I didn't legally change my last name until we were 4 years into our marriage. I just dropped my middle name completely and now my middle name is my maiden name. Not sure how strict your company is....but every company I've worked for will not make changes to your name unless you have legal documentation i.e. ss card, driver's license etc.
Every checking account I've ever opened requested a copy of my driver's license so I'm guessing they will only list your name as you have it legally. You wouldn't want a name listed on your checks anyway if it doesn't match your ID card.
P.s. you just have to go to the local social security office to change your name...take your marriage certificate.

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answers from Utica on

For legal purposes, if you choose not to actually hyphenate or change your name you will not be able to use his last name as you feel with anything legal. Example, checks and your license, or forms that will be legally filed, your taxes. But if its for random things then I would say you can call yourself whatever you want

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answers from Seattle on

I love my maiden name and what it represents, and am deeply proud to carry it with me.

I did not change my name when I married. My daughter (born before her father and I were married) was given my husband's last name at birth. I've never shared a name with her. In my house of four people, we have three last names. Mine, my husband/daughter's and my nieces. We've never had any difficulty or confusion from not sharing our names.

Our bank account has both of our names on it, so that it matches with our ID. When his family writes us or refers to us, they do so as Mr. and Mrs. "his last name". Doesn't bother me. Legally I have my same name, and sometimes socially I have his. If you are planning to use his name for any reasons other than socially, I would suggest having your name legally changed to include his in some way. Here in Washington, it's a very simple process to change a name when getting married...but I'm not sure about PA. Seems as though bank accounts, work, taxes, etc. need a legal change in order to be recognized.

BTW, and most importantly, CONGRATULATIONS L.!!! I'm really excited for you!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

You can keep your last name and still use your new hubby's name socially.

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answers from Denver on

You have to jump through hoops to do a name change - whether you retain your maiden name as part of your name or not. It is UNBELIEVABLE how much work it is when you are older, but it does make life easier. If you want to use his last name SOMETIMES, you may want to hyphenate. Pretty much as you were considering. Just be prepared to do the leg work - you'll need an officialy copy of the marriage certificate every time....

I actually retained my middle name and dropped my maiden name, but I use my maiden name when I please if it's not a legal issue (for example, I still sign paintings using my maiden name, just as I have been doing for 20+ years). But for checks - you have to use a LEGAL name.

By the way, I am not old fashioned and I had intended to hyphenate but I did that for a year before making it legal and decided was was just too hella long. And I was ready for an "identity change" anyway.

Plus, my husband was adopted and always wanted to feel more that he was part of the "McX" family - so now, he, I, and our children ARE the "McX" family. It was a gift I could give him. But he would have been OK with hyphenating too.

Well, that was rambly....I hope it was helpful....

(And yes, he acknowledged that wanting me to change my name was unfair).

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answers from San Francisco on

If you want to keep your own name, why not just keep it? Will your husband really be upset by that?

You could legally keep your own name while calling yourself by a hyphenated version, if you want. You can call yourself "George" if you want, just as long as in all legal matters you use your legal name.

With the many names in my family, I am often called any mixed-up version of the names, and I answer to all of them.

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answers from Indianapolis on

The only thing you HAVE to do is make sure for IRS purposes that your social security information and your IRS filing information match. I changed my name (hyphenated with his) about 4 years after we were married and then needed to file taxes under the new name. In Indiana you also need to change your license to match what social security has on file and your passport will need to match as well. I still have several credit cards under my maiden name and use both names socially and at work (except for the official work documents which match social security).

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answers from Los Angeles on

I promised my dad I would always keep my last name (if I didn't give it to my daughter it would have died off). I love my last name too, more people call me by my last name then my first name. SO, whenever we get married, would like me to take his last name as well. Ok, whatever lol. So here you have to change it legally with the records section of our courthouse, then you have to change it at the bank, drivers license, social security office. When you pick up your marriage license they usually ask you if there will be a name change, and will give you the necessary paperwork.
Even if you officially change it, you can continue to have people call you by whatever, but for tax reasons and such HR needs to change all your paper work to your new last names (at least that is what I was told). I hope this helps. Good Luck!

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answers from Atlanta on

I've never changed mine and neither have a number of my friends. One of my friends actually ALWAYS uses her husband's name, but she's never gotten around to legally changing hers! I hyphenate mine with my husband's most of the time, but legally it's still just my maiden name. I used to tell him I was going to change it to the hyphenated version legally before our first child was born, but now we have two and it still hasn't happened, and I just don't have the time or desire to go hang out in the social security office for hours -so, I doubt I'll ever do it! I can't do it by mail or online because I lost my social security card over 20 years ago, so I have to have a new one of those made as well in order to not do it in person, so I'm screwed into a visit to the SS office either way and I just don't want to do that.

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answers from Honolulu on

I have retained my maiden name and added on my Husband's name to my last name.
I do NOT have a "hyphen" in between my maiden name and my Husband's name.
IF you put a "hyphen" in between the 2 last names... that 2 name last name, becomes 'legally' your name....and is considered as "one" name. So you thus have to use both names, always. IF you do NOT have a 'hypen' between your 2 last names, you can legally use EITHER last name- your maiden name or your Husband's last name, or both.
So that is why I chose to do it that way.
I got professional legal input on that, per whether to put a hyphen or not between the 2 last names.

I retained my maiden name because:
1) my Dad/Mom do not have sons. Only daughters. I thus, want to retain my maiden name, because, I want to continue my family name. It is a prominent name, historically and culturally.
2) because, by retaining my maiden name WITHOUT putting a "hyphen' between my and my Husband's last name... I then, did NOT have to go about changing my 'last name" on all my bills/legal documents/credit cards etc. BUT for important accounts/insurance/medical/legal papers, etc, I do of course, informed them of my name combination change.

But yes, if you keep your maiden name and add on your Husband's you DO need to inform your insurance/accounts/life insurance etc., because these are more legally and financially important... and to also declare a "beneficiary" per your choice.

For me, I can use my maiden name OR my Husband's last name or both. Per the level of importance or applicability, per accounts etc.

My kids, they just have my Husband's last name.
I do wish though... that they had my Maiden name as well. Because as I said, my Dad had no sons and my siblings have no kids. Therefore, our family name, will be LOST.... in my subsequent offspring and theirs as well. My Husband, said I can add my maiden name to theirs if I want... or they can do that when older. I long to do that.
Because as I said, my family's last name is historically very prominent. And culturally. I do not want to lose, our lineage... or its important in my kids lives etc.

Many women, retain their maiden name, for professional reasons. As well. It is not so unusual nowadays.

My kids, have NO confusion, about their last name and 'why' I still have my maiden name and my Husband's name.
You just explain to them. I simply told my kids, that I wanted to keep my maiden name, my family name. Because of the reasons I stated here.
They totally understand. They know, my maiden name, is very important and because Grandpa didn't have sons, to carry on his name. So I am.
They are proud of that. They understand completely.

all the best,

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I kept my maiden name legally. Everyone at my work uses that name. However, when I am my husband's work social events, people call me by his last name and it's all good.

I think this is the easiest way to go - not changing anything legally, and socially I answer to either one.

Our checks do have different last names though, because the check usually needs to match your driver's license, and that is of course my legal (maiden) name.

My husband (then fiance) was surprised when I first told him that I didn't want to change my name. But he got used to the idea and was fine with it after he realized that of course my name had nothing to do with my commitment to our engagement, nor was it a reflection of my opinion of him in any way.

We've been married almost 13 years now, and it's never caused any kind of issue - legally or socially.

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answers from Modesto on

What ever you decide to put on your SS card is what it will be. You dont have to hyphenate it. I took my husbands last name because is was so much more awesome than mine :)
If you like your maiden name you dont have to change it. You're married no matter what. If his family wants to call you Mr and Mrs WHATEVERHIS LASTNAMEIS let them. No one has to be the wiser.
At school if you dont share the same last name as your child, well, that's pretty common. I think it's neater for the child for the parents to have the same last name as they do, but it's really just a formality. Do what you want. My vote (because I'm old school) would be that you and your kids would share your last name with Dad. It just seems like the right thing to do to me. You are a unit. You are now leaving your parents and cleaving to your husband. jmo

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answers from Boston on

I found the name change process to be quite easy, as Riley J noted below. You sign your marriage certificate with what you want your legal name to be (in your case, first name, middle name and then both last name on the last name section with no hyphen), then take that to social security along with your ID and whatever other documentation they need (the website will tell you) and they will issue you a new SS card. You can then take that to your RMV to get your new license with your full legal name. You will also want to change your payroll records at work so that your W-2 will match your tax filings. Beyond that, what name you use where is totally up to you. Most companies allow for differences between legal names for HR purposes (payroll and benefits) and what you use for e-mail, business cards etc. Your bank and credit cards will only change if you request them (all of my old financial records are still under my maiden name only as I was too lazy to send in name change paperwork to multiple companies). You will have to choose one signature for how you sign checks, but the name that appears on your account can be whatever variation you want.

I technically added my maiden name to my middle name and took my husband's last name when I married, but if I write it all out it looks just like what you want (first, middle, maiden, husband's). Like you, I have a son with my maiden name and I did this to retain our connection in name. For things related specifically for him (school, work etc.) I sign first, maiden and husband's last name. Other times, I sign with first, two middle initials and husband's last name. Sometimes I just go with first and husband's last.

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answers from Philadelphia on

When I got married, I dropped my former middle name and replaced it with my former last name, so now my name is first name, former last name, husband's last name. But when I introduce myself, I do say "K. Husband's Last Name." And, yes, I had to fill out paperwork to legally change it...followed by new drivers' license and passport applications. I WAS only 23 when it all happened, so I'm not sure if I would do the same NOW as a 39yr old. I know plenty of women who kept their last name and it hasn't diminished their marriages at all. Whatever's comfortable for YOU is whatever is correct. Congrats on your upcoming marriage, BTW!!

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answers from Washington DC on

Do the legal paperwork and have it changed to your maiden name (hyphen) - his last name. Like Smith-Jones. It will be less confusing for your son when he starts school by having the same last name as you and your hubby. Honor your DH by using his name too. Honoring each other was part of your marriage vows (unless you wrote your own).
The first thing I think you have to do (it's been 10 years so bear with me) is send in your marriage certificate to social security and get your name changed there. Then go to the DMV and get issued a new license. I think websites like "" have checklists on what do to first, second, etc... I honestly don't remember. You will need your original marriage certificate for most places to change it and don't feel weird about mailing it if you have to, it comes back to you.

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answers from Los Angeles on

As far as the banks are concerned, in order to change my name on the account after we got married I had to show my marriage you might want to call and check with your financial institution.

~I too, wanted to keep my maiden name, my Dad passed away and it is the last thing I have of him. It is just my sister and I and she was married before me and ditched our last name with no problems what so ever and never understood my need to keep my name but its what I wanted so I do not/did not/will not ever care what anyone else thinks, well besides my hubby, and he hubby was opposed to the we came to a compromise...I dropped my middle name altogether (it was Lynne, I never like it and I shared it with a cousin anyway) and moved my Maiden name to my middle was perfect! I didn't even have to change my signature! *My signature before marriage was that I have taken my hubby's last name, my signature is K.Igou H. so not only did I not get rid of my name, it is the focus when I write my name :) which is very important to me! I am and always will be an 'Igou' but hubby is satisfied because legally I have his last name. Everyone wins!

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answers from Las Vegas on

I kept hyphenated my maiden and married name because my daughter carried my last name. It seemed to be best for everyone and like you, I was attached to my name.

With all the different databases out there, I can never remember how my name is entered into each database. Sometimes it will take the hyphen, sometimes it makes them squish it together, sometimes it drops part of his last name and it is just a pain.

I use my husbands name for most purposes, but recently I was in the hospital and my family could not find me because my name starts with a G for the first last name not an S for the second last name. When they looked me up, they looked for the second last name only and nothing close came up. Insurance requires you to use your legal name, which is both, so the hospital registered me under both.

As far as work goes, they allow me to use whatever name I want, except now we have new phones and the names were entered from our HR records. My maiden name is the one that pops up and no one knows who that is when I call other departments. I bet some even think I have divorced.

Checks, you should be able to put whatever name you want on your checks. But I am rather curious when I receive a piece of mail with my maiden name on it because rarely use it anymore.

If you change your name, you have to take your marriage certificate to the department of motor vehicles and change it there, then with the social security office, and so on.

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answers from Roanoke on

It's all about what you like and want. For me, I dropped my maiden name when I got married, because 1) my dad was adopted so it didn't have a deep "family" meaning, and 2) it was a pain to spell and say, and everyone always said it/wrote it incorrectly. So, I have my first, my middle, and my husband's last name. Whichever you choose, it's an easy thing to change. If you want, you can even come up with a brand new name! :)

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answers from Minneapolis on

I kept my name when we got married. Our children were given names the same as your son -- They have two middle names, the 2nd of which is my last name.

I have friends who mix and match their names as they see fit. One took her husbands name but professionally still goes by her maiden name. Doesn't matter that it not her legal name unless she has to sign a legal contract at work and then she does have to use her married name. Another friend ditched her middle name and made her maiden name her new middle name. Whatever works. But...The changing of your name upon marriage is FREE. So do make a decision now. If you delay and don't make a decision until after your marriage, you have to pay for that.

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answers from Johnstown on

I think you have to hypenate your name if you're going to assume using your hubby's name at times. I know our banks require ID that has the name you're to be using on the accoun. I don't know if a copy of the marriage license is enough. You might want to call the county prothonatary office. They'll know.

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answers from Charlotte on

You don't have to give reasons for why you want to keep the name you were born with. If you want to, it's fine. I did and went by my maiden name for 22 years. Then my family and I moved overseas, and I was worried that it would be too confusing to the culture. So I went by my married name. It has been no big deal.

On my ss card, driver's license and passport, I have both names. But I only went by one name out of the two. You don't have to go by both names to have them on your legal documents. It's like being called Liz when your real name is Elizabeth, if you understand what I mean.

I have checks that have both my maiden name and both names. The bank didn't really care. So do what you want and don't worry about it.


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answers from San Francisco on

My sister felt very compelled to keep our maiden name too. During her first marriage, she did not change it (perhaps she knew the relationship would not last?) because now with her second marriage, she has legally changed her middle name to the maiden name and has taken on her husband's last name as her last name. It seems to work for her.

Good luck!

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answers from Tampa on

I'd say it's easier to just keep your original birth name.

I got married and kept my name, my daughter has my last name only and my soon to be next child will also only have my last name. If I have a biy, he will have my husband's last name as a middle name.

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answers from Cumberland on

You don't have to do anything to keep your maiden name. If you make even the slightest change, you have to change SS card, driver's license, bank accounts, etc

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answers from Albany on

Hmmm, I think it's ok, L..

Personally, I don't really have any desire to be the second Mrs. Sosa either, in the event I marry my guy. I'm just me.


You know, I should add, we will not be having any more babies (he's 55, I'm 44) married or not. I've only been officially divorced 14 months, separated for 4 years, I think the reason I handled changing my name the first time, was it just seemed best that we all (kids especially) had the same name, you know? I have no real affection for my maiden name, or my married name. As far as joint accounts go, you can put two entirely different names on checks, don't even need to be married.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

When the person marries you that is when your name legally changes. You just file the marriage certificate with SS and where you renew you licenses when they expire, usually the tag agency.

If you want to do something different with your name I think it might be something you discuss with an attorney to make sure it is legal. A lot of attorney's advertise free first consultations.

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