Name Changes After Marriage

Authored by , LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

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Most Common Family Law Issues:

Do I Have to Take My Husband's Name After We Get Married?

A woman is not required to change her name upon marriage.  However, a woman may do any of the following listed below.  For the purposes of clarifying the examples, the names "John Smith" for men and "Jane Roe" for women will be used:

If I Do Want to Take My Husband's Name How Do I Make the Change?

A woman who wants to take her husband's name upon marriage should do all of the following:

Many of these changes require you to show a certified copy of your marriage certificate.

Are There Any Advantages In Keeping My Maiden Name?

There are a few reasons a maiden name should be retained.

First, the woman already has an established professional identity which the public or the profession already recognizes. Consumers and partners may recognize an established name, but changing the name may remove an otherwise large advantage in the market. Authors and business owners may benefit the most from retaining their maiden names, especially if the business owners have their names in their company’s name as well. Changing the company name “Jane Roe Designs, Inc.” to “Jane Smith Designs, Inc.” may be more hassle than it is worth.

Second,the woman may decide it is not worth the expense or time. Changing the name on a single document isn’t that expensive or time-consuming, but given that multiple documents must be changed and the wedding itself may have been expensive, the amount of effort to change identification may add up.

Finally, some women may decide that living in the 21st century trumps silly traditions about marriage. Women were once considered their husband’s property and the usage of the husband’s last name was meant to reinforce that idea. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you have to give up your original identity for that of your husband’s. 

Are There Any Disadvantages to Keeping My Maiden Name?

There are a couple disadvantages to having a separate last name.

First, couples which share a last name may find some government and business procedures faster as those government and business entities process those couples based upon a common last name.

Second, you lose the sense of being part of a new family after the wedding vows are exchanged. This drawback can be lessened by pursuing some of the alternatives listed above.  

Finally, if your new spouse or new in-laws really insist on having a shared last name, the decision to retain the maiden name may be a cause of future arguments and disputes.

Who Decides What Last Name We Should Use?

Deciding on a last name is a personal decision for you and your new spouse. Friends and family should be consulted as well.

For same-sex couples who live or wish to marry in a state which recognizes same-sex marriage, traditional notions of last name change will be absolutely useless. Thus, it may be more prudent to either have both spouses keep their original last names or to create an entirely new last name for both spouses.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Change My Name After Marriage?

An experienced family lawyer can make sure that you have the appropriate documentation to begin changing your name on all your identification and personal records.  If you are seeking to change your child's name, a family lawyer can also help you make these alterations.

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Last Modified: 10-15-2012 03:57 PM PDT

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