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There are many reasons someone would want to change their name. While the most obvious and common reason is that a person wants to take on the surname of their partner after getting married, there are also reasons that are becoming increasingly popular, such as someone wanting a more ethnic name to stay in touch with their roots. 

If getting married is the reason you want to change your name, you are in luck. This process is much more streamlined and concise. However, if you want to change your name for any other reason, it is still possible.

Changing Your Name After Getting Married

After having recently gotten married, the complicated process is still fresh on my mind, so let me share with you how to legally change your name after getting married.

The sequence goes like this:

1. Use your new last name on your marriage certificate. 

Your marriage certificate is the first place your new name should officially appear. The reason for this is that if your new name is listed on your marriage certificate, then the rest of the process is streamlined and much easier for you. Your new marriage certificate is a government sanctioned form that includes witnesses and an officiant recognized by the state. All of these factors give you the upper hand when working through the rest of the name-change process. 

2. Register your new name with the Social Security Administration.

The social security card is the basis of citizenship in The United States. It contains your social security number which is the primary form of identification each citizen in the United States has and is the only ever-present form of identification for Americans (you can forfeit your driver’s license or other government forms of ID but never your social security card.) For those reasons, changing your name on your social security card is the second step in the name-changing process. 

Given that the social security card is a federally issued form of identification, the process to change your name on it is the same regardless of where you are in the United States. You can find instructions from the Social Security Administration here.

Basically, have the right documents ready for the proof of citizenship and fill out this application. Then, take those things to your local social security office and voila, you are on your way to changing your name on your social security card. 

3. Update any other government forms.

Once your social security card is changed, the rest begins to fall in place. To keep this process moving forward smoothly, finish updating the rest of your government documents before moving on to civil documents. These documents may include:

These secondary government documents (at least in comparison with the social security card) are listed as the third step in this process because trying to update civil documents is a lot easier when everything is already sorted with the government. So, with all of your government documents updated, let’s move on to the final step in this process.

4. Change your name on civil documents. 

This is the final step of legally changing your name but it should not be overlooked. Changing your name on government documents and then forgetting to do so on all of your civil documents will be cause for a frustration later on. There are the obvious things that need to be updated like bank accounts, credit cards, and your lease or mortgage, but don’t forget about maybe lesser obvious things like your car title, car insurance, and medical offices. 

Finally, your quest to have the same name as your spouse is complete. Congrats!

Changing your name for reasons other than marriage:

If you want to change your name for any reason other than getting married, don’t be down! Your process requires a little extra leg-work but is doable if you know where to start. There are lawyers who are also able to expedite the process for you, as they have gone through it with previous clients and know exactly how to work the system. If you have some extra funds and not a lot of time, this could be a great option for you.

However, the process can totally be done on your own. Where a married couple has a marriage certificate to start the process, a person changing their name for other reasons needs to go through a process with their local government, concluding with a court hearing, to get the process started. Just follow these steps (steps 1-3 replace step 1 in the married couple’s process):

1. Ensure your name is legal.

This one is fairly easy:

  • No trademark infringement (i.e. Joe Pepsi)
  • No explicit content
  • No numbers or symbols

2. File a petition with your local civil court.

This step starts the process to you having a court hearing and making your name change legal! Keep it up! 

3. Publish your new name change.

Many local communities request that you publish your new name change in an approved local paper or bulletin board. This is to give anyone in the public a chance to object.

4. Attend your court hearing.

Here is where the government hears about why you want to change your name. It will also monitor your criminal record and any outstanding debts that you owe so to make sure you are not fleeing justice or defrauding your creditors. 

Once your name change is approved, complete the process above, starting with your social security card.

Though the reasons for changing a name may vary, it is important to follow the process and make sure that everything is completed thoroughly. This is to save each of you, the government, and anyone trying to reach you, from the huge headache of going back to court or trying to track down names that no longer exist.