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How to Legally Change Your Name

A BEGINNER'S GUIDE

Article by Kate Baxendale

Photography by Stock Images

People often change their legal names after marriage or divorce, among other reasons. If you're not sure how this process works, it can be a bit daunting. Fortunately, Legal Zoom has the answers! Here's how you get started.

Change Your Name After Marriage

If you have gotten married and would like to change your last name, the process is a bit different than if you simply want a new name.

First, you do not generally need to file a petition with the court. Instead, you must submit a certified copy of your marriage certificate (in long form if available) to the Social Security Administration (SSA) along with Form SS-5, available on the SSA’s website, and other proof of your identity and citizenship or lawful immigration status (such as passport or driver’s license).

You may then proceed to change your name on other documents such as your driver’s license with the Department of Motor Vehicles and your passport with the U.S. Department of State.

Note that some states have different provisions for anyone other than a woman taking her husband’s surname after marriage (including hyphenating), and in those cases, individuals often have to follow the procedure outlined above for name change because of personal preference.

Change Your Name After Divorce

If you would like to reclaim your maiden name after divorce, in most states you can request this during divorce proceedings; the judge can then enter an order restoring your former name. You may need a copy of the order as proof of the change to then revert to your former name elsewhere such as on your social security card and driver’s license.

If your divorce is already final and didn’t include such an order, it may be possible to have the original order amended to reflect your desire to change your name back, though this varies by state. In this case, you would simply file a petition with the court to modify your divorce decree.

If the order can’t be changed or if you don’t want to go through that process, you may be required to file a petition for name change, but keep in mind that many states allow you to simply begin using your former name again so long as you do so consistently. You may then be able to request that it be changed on all your identification and personal records.

You should always keep proof of your original name (such as a birth certificate) in case you run into any difficulties with using it again.

READ MORE: How to Change Your Name


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