Laws on name changes after any marriage will vary from state to state. Same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states, and any rules involving name changes after marriage should apply equally to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. However, same-sex couples may still face obstacles in certain states because the rules are often written only to consider opposite-sex couples. 

Even before the legalization of same-sex marriage, laws like the California Name-Change Equality Act changed the paradigm that a wife should generally take a husband’s name in an opposite-sex marriage. Couples are making more creative decisions about name changes, not limited to but including: 

  • blending names (i.e. Andersen and West becomes Westersen)
  • hyphenating names for both people (i.e. both last names are Andersen-West or vice versa)
  • choosing a totally different name  (i.e. both Andersen and West are now Harkness)
  • keeping original names (often for professional or reputational reasons)

If you change your name due to marriage, the first document that could bear your new name is the marriage license. Some name changes, however, may require a court order (involving a separate hearing or application process) in addition to a marriage license.

Once your name has changed, you will also need to:

  • Change your name on your Social Security Card
  • Change your driver’s license or state ID card
  • Change your name on bank accounts
  • Change your name with doctors, insurance companies, credit card accounts and so on to insure that they change your name in their files

Do I Need a Lawyer?

You may wish to hire a family law attorney if you need help understanding and navigating the name change laws in your area. Your attorney can assist you with the various requirements, and can also represent you during court if you need to appear before a judge.