How to Change Your Name after Marriage
Trying to change your name after marriage can feel like pulling teeth. It’s painful and annoying, but the faster you do it, the less you’ll have to worry about issues, such as filing your taxes properly or being able to deposit a check made out to your new surname. My wife and I just successfully completed changing her name in New York so I’ll document the step-by-step process along with the cost to try and save you both time and hassle.
I’ll cover the big three – Social Security, state ID/driver’s license, and Passport. And while our experience is in regards to New York, these general instructions should be a good guideline regardless of what state you live in. The only difference I would imagine is a couple of different forms.
How to Change Your Name
I’ll quickly mention that your name is legally changed on the day of your wedding when your pastor or wedding officiant signs your marriage license. When people say, “change your name,” however, they are generally referring to applying the name change to official documents and day-to-day purposes.
In addition, the steps I’ve listed below include as much mailing and as little person-to-person interaction as possible. If you’ve ever watched Parks and Recreation, you’ll know that government agencies are some of the most inefficiently run offices! That means long lines and hair-pulling waits. So while you can substitute many of the mailing steps below with an in-person visit to your favorite government agency, I don’t know why you’d want to!
Step 1 (Optional): Obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate, cost is $15 or $35
This step is optional, because you can always use your original marriage certificate, which you will receive in the mail a few weeks after your wedding. Some people don’t want to lose the original marriage certificate in the mail or want to keep it in mint condition so they get a certified copy for changing their name.
Here are the detailed instructions from the New York City Clerk’s office but all you really need to do is fill out this request form and mail it in along with a photocopy of your ID, such as state ID/driver’s license, and payment. The fee is $15 for a short certificate or $35 for a long certificate. The general rule is a short certificate can only be used domestically while a long certificate can be used internationally as well. You will need to pay with a money order or a certified check; a personal check won’t work.
Step 2 (Optional): Obtain a copy of your birth certificate, cost is $23.30 or $15
This step is optional, because you can always use your original birth certificate. Some people don’t want to lose the original birth certificate in the mail or want to keep it in mint condition so they get a certified copy for changing their name.
The easiest way is to order it online here if you were born in New York City or here if you were born anywhere else in New York state. The cost is $15 to get a copy of your birth certificate, but you will be charged an additional $8.30 for ordering it online. There is no additional charge for ordering a copy through the mail via this form, but you will need to include a photocopy of your ID and get the form notarized, which seems a bit annoying.
Step 3: Change your name on your Social Security card, cost is free
Here are the detailed instructions from the Social Security Administration but all you really need to do is fill out form SS-5 and mail it to your local Social Security office. Step 3 is when the previous steps come in handy, because you will need to include a certified copy of your marriage certificate (step 1), actual proof of identification NOT a copy, and proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a birth certificate (step 2). Note that a copy of your proof of identity won’t suffice; you will need to mail in the original, but you will get all your documents back.
The form doesn’t specify where to mail in the application and supplement materials so you will need to find your local Social Security office via the Social Security office locator and mail it to that address.
Step 4: Change your name on your state ID/driver’s license, cost is $12.50 or $5
For step 4, unfortunately, you are required to appear in person at the Department of Motor Vehicles, known infamously as the DMV. To find your closest DMV, look on their website here. You can fill in form MV-44 when you get there or ahead of time, and you will need to bring your old state ID/driver’s license as well as a certified copy of your marriage certificate (step 1). The fee is $12.50 for a driver’s license or $5 for a state ID.
Step 5: Change your name on your Passport, cost is $110 or $0 plus optional expedited service of $60
To change your name on your Passport if it was issued MORE than one year ago, you will need to fill out form DS-82 and mail it to the National Passport Processing Center. In your mailing, you must also include your current Passport, a certified copy of your marriage certificate (step 1), and a Passport eligible photo. You’ll also need to include a personal check or money order for $110. Add on $60 for expedited service if you need the Passport soon.
To change your name on your Passport if it was issued LESS than one year ago, you will need to fill out form DS-5504 and mail it to the National Passport Processing Center. In your mailing, you must also include your current Passport, a certified copy of your marriage certificate (step 1), and a Passport eligible photo. The service is free so you don’t need to include payment! Add on $60, however, for expedited service if you need the Passport soon.
The Main Point
The process to change your name is no walk in the park. Even if you start early, the whole process can take a few months due to the waiting time. I didn’t specify the waiting time for each of the steps since it will vary tremendously. Hopefully, the above guide will provide a one-stop source of information that makes the process easier. Even if you are the type to procrastinate, you should do step 1 as early as possible since it’s crucial for the rest of the process. Once you’ve changed your name for the big three (Social Security, state ID/driver’s license, and Passport), changing your name for day-to-day stuff, such as work payroll and bank accounts, should be a breeze.
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