Hyphenate, take two last names without a hyphen, add a maiden name to a middle name, replace a middle name with a maiden name, take a spouse’s last name or don’t change at all. These are a sampling of the name change options faced by the 2.3 million new couples married in the United States each year.
With so many choices available and so many factors affecting name change, it is no wonder that it is one of the most difficult personal choices women make today. It is highly advisable to consider all of the facets and ramifications of married name change before taking the plunge to become a legal Mrs.
As you consider your name change, it is important to look at all of the options available. You may not want to lose your maiden name, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take your spouse’s name in some way. Maiden to middle name change is the latest trend in name change. It’s popularity stems from the fact that it allows the bride to keep her maiden name, but she does not have to use two last names legally.
While your name change is your decision, it is important to discuss the topic with your spouse. He or she may have very strong opinions about you taking the family name (or they may not care). Open communication is the best way to avoid a rocky start to your marriage and lifetime of hurt feelings.
Name change options vary by state, so it is important to research your state’s name change laws. For example, residents of California, New Jersey, Ohio and Washington cannot take their maiden names as middle names using the married name change process. Knowing state level options can help you identify the best name option available to you.
Many women have their personal and professional identities tied to their maiden names. Changing or losing that name can make them feel like they lost a part of themselves. Also, women who trade on their name professionally, such as doctors, lawyers and real estate agents may lose business if they eliminate their maiden names completely after marriage.
To legally change your name using the married name change process, you will need to file a series of government forms with your certified marriage certificate. These include forms for Social Security, the IRS, the State Department (for your U.S. passport), the U.S. postal service, state driver’s license, voter registration, vehicle registration. You will also need to notify all of your banks, credit cards, insurance providers, utility companies, medical providers, professional licensure boards, employers, etc. via a letter stating your former and new names.
Once you file your name change documents, your new married name is your legal name. You cannot use the married name change process to make any changes to your name unless you are marrying for a second time. If you do wish to change your your name post marriage, you will need to petition the U.S. court system for a legal name change order. That process is very lengthy and expensive, so take your time making your name change decision.
Your name is just that...your name. No one can make you change your name against your will, nor should you change your name unless you want to. Caving to family or peer pressure can result in resentment and living under a name you didn’t want. Stand up for your personal beliefs on name change, whatever they are.
If you choose to change your name after marriage, be certain to change it across the board of legal and social entities. Changing your name on some legal documents and not others can lead to big headaches, especially involving international travel and taxes.
Brides are not the only members of a married couple that can change their names. More and more grooms are changing their names post wedding. Men who live in California, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York or North Dakota can use the married name change process to change their names (as these state recognize a man’s right to change his name based on marriage).
Name change doesn’t simply affect you. It has implications for any children that you may have. Hospitals, schools and TSA are notorious for not allowing children to be picked up or transported by parents having different last names. This shouldn’t be the case, but unfortunately is and it motivates many women to change their names as they become mothers.
While there are many married name change options and an equal or larger number of influencers affecting the decision to change your name, it does not have to be a stress point in your life. Taking time to evaluate your options, your personal beliefs, your spouse’s opinion and how name change relates to the various facets of your life will give you the clarity to make the right decision for you.
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