Name Change after Same-Sex Marriage

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 What Is the Law for Name Changes after a Same-Sex Marriage?

The laws that govern name changes after marriage vary from state to state. Because same-sex marriage is not legalized in all 50 states, any rules that apply to name changes after marriage should apply equally to both opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples.

Same-sex couples, however, may still face some obstacles in certain states because the rules in those states were written only considering opposite-sex couples. Even before same-sex marriage was legalized, laws such as the California Name-Change Equality Act changed the paradigm that a wife should typically take a husband’s name in an opposite-sex marriage.

These days, couples are making more and more creative decisions regarding their name changes after marriage, including, but not limited to:

  • Blending names, for example, Andersen and West becoming Westersen;
  • Hyphenating names for both individuals, for example, both last names are Andersen-West or vice versa;
  • Choosing a totally different name, for example, both Andersen and West are now Smith; and
  • Keeping the individual’s original names, which is often done for professional or reputational reasons.

If an individual changes their name when they marry, the first document that will have their new name is their marriage license. There are certain changes, however, that may require court orders, which involve a separate hearing or an application process, in addition to the marriage license.

Once an individual has a same sex marriage name change, they will also have to change their name:

  • On their Social Security Card;
  • On their driver’s license or state ID card;
  • On heir name on their bank accounts; and
  • With doctors, insurance companies, credit card accounts and other places to insure that they change the individual’s name in their files.

What Are the Advantages to Keeping My Maiden Name?

One of the main issues an individual may encounter when they change their name is that it can be a time-consuming process that requires changes on many different documents. In some states, if an individual changes their name after they get married, they have to change their name on their marriage certificate in addition to paying the required fees.

Additionally, the individual changing their name will be required to do so on any government issued identifications, which include:

  • Passports;
  • Driver’s licenses; and
  • Social security cards.

There are also numerous other items that an individual may have to change their name on, including, but not limited to:

  • Credit cards;
  • Health cards;
  • Banking cards;
  • Insurance bills;
  • Utilities; and
  • Other items.

If, however, an individual keeps their maiden name, they will not be required to make any of these changes. It is also important to consider that, if an individual has a well-established career, especially if they are self-employed, if they change their last name, it may result in less name or brand recognition.

There are also some individuals who believe the practice of changing their last name is an old custom that no longer applies in modern society. Changing names originated from the idea of the past that women were considered to be property of their husband and taking their husband’s last name reinforces this old and possibly offensive tradition.

What Are the Disadvantages to Keeping My Maiden Name?

There are some disadvantages an individual may experience if they have a different last name than their spouse. Couples with different last names may have a more difficult time being processed by various business and government procedures.

This is due to the fact that these types of entities often process a couple faster based on their shared last name. For example, if a married couple with different last names is flying together, they may find it more difficult to check in together.

If the married couple has children, there is not a clear answer as to which last name the children should take. If one of the spouses hyphenates their last name as well as their children’s last names, the children might not keep their name in that form when they get married or have children of their own.

In addition to these issues, if one spouse’s last name is different than the last name of their children, it may make certain things more difficult, such as:

  • Travel;
  • Hospital visits; and
  • School pick-ups.

An individual who changes their last name may also strengthen their relationship on a psychological level. This is because, instead of being two individuals with different names, the couple becomes more of a unit if they share the same last name.

If I Change My Name, Will My Criminal Record Under My Maiden Name be Expunged?

No, a name change procedure will not expunge their criminal record under their maiden name. It will also not get them out of legal trouble or assist them with evading prosecution.

Additionally, it will not provide them with a clean record or provide them with a new identity. If an individual is changing their last name in an attempt to avoid legal trouble, they may actually face more legal trouble.

It is also important to note that, when an individual changes their name, it does not change their social security number. This number will be the individual’s for the rest of their life.

How Do I Return to My Former Name after a Divorce?

In some states, an individual who is involved in a divorce can request that the court include a formal order that restores their former or birth name in the divorce decree. In these cases, the order in the divorce decree will serve as the official documentation for the individual’s legal name change.

It is important for an individual to obtain certified copies of the order that shows their name change. These documents are usually obtained from the court clerk.

The individual will also be required to submit name changes to all of the entities that they submitted their name change to.

In a Same-Sex Marriage, Who Gets the Last Name?

In the United States, it is tradition for a woman to take her husband’s last name in an opposite-sex marriage. If, however, the couple is the same sex and wants to share a last name, it is not as clear whose name should be used because there are not any precedents.

As noted above, the couple can keep their names, have one of the individuals take the other’s name, hyphenate their names, or pick a new name together.

What Other Legal Issues Do I Need to Consider?

If an individual decides they want to change their name, there are some legal considerations they should take into account. The individual may have a difficult time accessing bank records that are under their maiden name, especially if the paperwork changing their name has not been processed or the individual does not yet have their new government identification with their new name.

If the individual does not have their new identification yet, they can take their name change paperwork to their bank. If the individual signed a contract using their maiden name, they may be required to provide proof of their new name and that they are, in fact, the same individual.

This will especially apply in cases where an individual needs to change the terms of their contract or enforce their contract.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you are considering changing your name and you would like legal advice regarding the possible consequences, it may be helpful to consult with a family law attorney. Your lawyer can also assist you with the process of changing your name.

If you need to appear in court or make a request with the court, your lawyer will help you with these processes.

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