Personal Finance 

Changing Your Maiden Name After Marriage

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One of the tricky things about being “recently married” is that the missus was in name limbo. “Technically,” she’s my wife with my last name (that’s right!). “Legally,” she still retains her maiden name until she goes to the Social Security Administration to change her SS card name and the DMV or MVA to change her license name. So what happens when we get a check written out to her new name? Trickiness! Headaches! But not to fret, I’ll try to capture everything we’ve done so that it can be as painless as possible for all you newlyweds out there.

First, just to cover the check situation, she just needed to sign her new name (what the check was made out to) followed by her former name (the name on the account), to deposit the check. In reality, unless the issuer contests it, chances are anything reasonable would’ve worked.

Now, onto the name changes…

Marriage License

This is the linchpin of the whole name changing operation. Everything requires this and no names can be changed without the signed marriage license or certificate. The fact that it’s been issued is proof enough that the state recognizes the marriage and the signature is proof that the marriage went through, the document was never notarized, as is required of many legal documents, but having a notary there probably would’ve killed the mood.

Driver’s License

You’ll need to go to the DMV/MVA (whatever the place is called in your state) to make this name change request. In Maryland, you’ll need to go to a full service location with your marriage certificate and current license. Like every other trip to the DMV/MVA, I’d budget a healthy few hours and a few dollars to take care of this but somehow my wife was able to get in and out on a Tuesday morning in about half an hour (they run two different queues and the driver’s license queue was ridiculously short that day). The great thing about this step is that you are immediately issued a new license, there’s no need to wait around for one to be mailed to you.

Social Security Card

Changing your name on a Social Security Card is a bit trickier and the Social Security Administration provides this guidance, which is essentially you need to fill out a new application. You can mail in the application with the original or certified copies support documentation (proof of citizenship, legal name change, and proof of identity), but I would just go into an office rather than risking the mail. One gotcha here is that you need to bring proof of your old name too, so an expired Passport will do nicely.

Your Company HR

This step is crucial after you change your name with Social Security because your employer will be reporting Social Security payments. Depending on your company, this could be a pain or this could be a cinch. Either way, contact HR about changing your name and you will need, at most, the same documents you used for Social Security.


If your passport was issued within a year of the marriage, you’ll need to fill out a Name Change, Data Correction, and Limited Passport Book Replacement Form: DS-5504 and send it in with two Passport photos, a certified copy of your marriage certificate, and your old passport (and $60 if you want expedited service). If it was more than a year, you’ll unfortunately need to apply for a totally new Passport with Form DS-82 (and pay $60).

Online Accounts

Strangely enough, changing your name on online accounts turns out to be a bigger PITA than anything. For example, we are both members of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Frequent Flyer program and for her to change her name, she needs to send the request in writing along with a photocopy of the marriage certificate and her driver’s license. At first I thought, “why the hassle?” until I realized it was all in the name of security, and rightfully so. I recommend starting this process as soon as you get the driver’s license because the processing time could be a few weeks.

{ 33 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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33 Responses to “Changing Your Maiden Name After Marriage”

  1. zanzibar says:

    I was married,(briefly) out of the country (recognized by the US) and was divorced (in the US)within less than 2 years. We split after 3 weeks, so all I changed was my DL which included my unmarried name hyphenated with the new one. (ie. Smith-Jones) I only changed my DL and NOTHING else. I really only use this name for social and writing purposes. I now have to renew my passport. Must I legally change EVERYTHING because I changed my DL? Note: SS states you only need ot change your SS card record for employment and tax purposes.
    In short – Since my unmarried name is still the beginning of my surname on my DL, Can I renew my passport just under my unmarried name?
    (ie. Smith) SS office is puzzled and I can’t get a straight answer from the Passport Office.

    Thanks for your help!

  2. WisCali says:

    So what happens when the children of parents with hyphenated names marry? My wife’s name was “better” so I took it and saved my kids some PITA. Cheers,

  3. mike says:

    Question, if my wife divorced to marry me. While divorced she still had her ex husbands name. She married me while having her ex husbands name. Would I be able to take her maiden name even though her ex husbands name is on the marriage certificate? Or, if I wanted to take her name I would have to take the name on the marriage certificate? My question is, could I take her maiden name even though her maiden name is not the one on the marriage certificate? The one on the certificate is her ex husbands.

  4. Anna says:

    I got married 4 years ago, and I never changed my last name. Now, I want to do change it.
    The first thing I have to do is change my driver license, then change my S.S, and then my passport?

    Can I have also get from the DMV an id with my old last name in case I have to prove that I am the same person?

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