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How to Change Your Last Name After Marriage

You said "I do," the marriage is legal, and now you want to change your last name. But how do you go about making your last name match your spouse's after the wedding?

For most people, changing your name is a long legal process that requires a hefty fee, some annoying paperwork, and a day wasted in a courtroom. But if you've recently gotten married and want you and your spouse to have matching last names, the process is easier.

It's not quite automatic; you still have to contact a lot of people. But legally your name can be changed much more simply after marriage.

The reason name changes can be difficult is that the law doesn't want you to take a new name and leave your responsibilities behind.

Before you can change your name, generally the court will investigate whether you're trying to escape any debt, liability, or criminal punishments. If you're trying to hide or mislead people with a name change, your request will be rejected.

But after you're married there are certain presumptions that apply to name changes.

The most important is that the law assumes you aren't changing your name for any devious or illicit reason. That means you can skip the court procedure.

Instead, all you have to do is start using the new name.

You'll also need to change it on your driver's license, your Social Security card, and with any accounts you have. Most will ask for proof of the name change.

If you'd gone through the legal process, that would mean a court order. But for married couples that just means faxing over a copy of your marriage certificate. In the majority of cases you won't have any problems.

Sadly that will probably mean a trip to your local Motor Vehicle Division office. (But at least you're lucky enough to live in Arizona rather than Florida like poor Lazaro Dihn.)

Even if you do have trouble, just ask to speak to a supervisor. It's absolutely legal to use your marriage certificate as proof of a name change and eventually you'll find someone on the other end of the line who understands that.

Of course, this only works if you're changing your last name to match your spouse's. If want a whole fancy new name, like Phoebe in "Friends", you'll have do it the hard way.

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