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Changing one's name may seem tricky, especially after having so much fun during the wedding. Fortunately, most states allow one to change automatically after getting married or following divorce proceedings. If the goal is changing one's name to their spouse's last name or a hyphenated combination of both, one only needs to provide their marriage certificate.
When the spouse's driver's license or passport has been changed, it will be easier to change in other places. Spouses may also want to change their name to an entirely new name. That will require both to complete a new name change procedure following the directives of the state court. That is as long as it meets the jurisdictional requirements concerning last names.
Every state provides the freedom to change one's name though it is not all-encompassing. For one, rude names are not an option. It is impossible to have one's name to something obscene, intimidating, racist, or offensive. This may prompt questions on what qualifies as offensive and what does not. The answer is if the name stirs internal debate on if it is appropriate, the most likely answer is it is not. It is also impossible to change one's name to something that confuses, like punctuation, symbol, or numeral. Some celebrities may have previously changed their names to something symbolic, but these are not legal name changes. In all probability, they are stage names.
Proof of marriage is typically required every time a name change is requested. Though the original version of a marriage certificate is stored at the County Clerk's office, they can also provide duplicates at a given fee. Some other required items may include birth certificates, proof of identification, proof of residency, state or federal criminal records check, and a sworn statement indicating outstanding child support obligations, if present. A sworn statement means the person completing the document must sign it before a public notary.
Fortunately, getting the documentation in order is the tricky part of a name change. Once the documentation has been assembled, the next stop would be the clerk of the court. It depends on the state, but one may have to publish a notice of the name change application. It usually involves paying for a notice at the local newspaper, or the courts may do it on behalf of the applicant. The clerk will review the name change, and it will be granted if the reason is appropriate. Some states require the applicant to appear before a judge though to approve the name change, and it may take weeks to get the certificate. Once the courts have approved the name change, one has to inform utility entities of the change.
A social security number is a unique nine-digit number used for taxation and identification purposes. All federal and state entities link the person's identity to the name on file. If the name on the social security records does not match the name one would like on their application for a new driver's license, it will be denied. The new social security card application may be made in person or via mail. It would require proof of name change, citizenship, photo identification, and a current social security card.
Following the new social security card, the Department of Motor Vehicles is the next stop. It is recommended that one upgrades to a REAL ID. This federally accepted form of identification that can be used to board a domestic flight or enter secure federal facilities. It is also prudent, considering every air traveler must provide a REAL-ID-compliant license by May 2025. Every state also has different application processes, and payment requirements, so applicants can check the state DMV to see what has to be filled out.
Most states will require the applicant to provide their new social security card or a receipt from the social security office. They will also need a current driver's license, a copy of their marriage license, and proof of address.
A name change on the passport is deemed a correction, and it should be applied via mail. The state department provides an interactive tool that helps applicants select the correct form to fill out before it is mailed to the National Passport Processing Center. If the most recent passport was issued within 12 months, updating the passport to one's new identity for free will be possible. Though if the passport was given more than 12 months previously, it may cost $130.
This is also important as it forms part of the applicant's identity package. It also reduces misunderstandings during traffic stops. Some DMVs cover the driver's license and title/ registration at one tie, but most require to be handled separately. One should visit the state DMV platform and follow the steps to update the title. Usually, it takes a few weeks to arrive in the mail, but the registration can be issued immediately. It is advisable to look up which documents are needed before visiting the relevant office. Several get turned away because they do not have the right identity documents or vehicle information before getting to the DMV.
Changing one's name may seem daunting after the wedding, but it is easy to do with the right approach. The first step is to file for a name change with the courts. If the name is inappropriate or offensive, it will not be granted. The clerk of the court or judge will provide notice for denial and the reason for their decision. If granted, the next step would be updating the name change at the local social security center. Changing one's name from the social security administration makes it possible to do the same at the DMV and update one's passport. Name changes usually take two weeks to five months, depending on the state.