My dog wants to change his name, too. I'm marrying him next week.
September 24, 2008 3:31 PM   Subscribe

How do name changes work for same-sex marriages that are not federally recognized.

My wife wants to change her last name. Ordinarily, as this comment lays it out, applying for a new Social Security card is the first step. But our marriage isn't federally recognized, so what happens when she presents the SSA office with our marriage license? Would she need to go through a formal court-driven name change process? If we went to the CA DMV first would the SSA accept the new license?

Yes, we'll probably ask a lawyer. No, you are not my lawyer. Just wondering what experiences others may have had. Anonymous for my privacy and hers.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if the SSA in CA will recognize a same sex marriage certificate. If they don't, follow the steps I've outlined below:

Your wife will have to go to court (a very simple process) to change her name (but not as a consequence of marriage). Anyone can change their name for any reason but it has to get court approved to become official. Then you go to SSA and show them the court order. Once approved (usually a week or two), they will notify the IRS and your DMV. Then go to DMV and get a new license/reg.

For all other things (credit cards, banks etc) just show your new drivers license and court order to change those.

It's a bit of a pain but a fairly straightforward process.
posted by special-k at 3:51 PM on September 24, 2008

DMV first won't work in CA. From How To Change Your Name on Your License or ID:

Please contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to change your name on SSA records before you make an appointment with DMV to have your name changed on DMV records. DMV electronically verifies your name, birth date and social security number with the SSA.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:51 PM on September 24, 2008

From this article in the LA Times:

I'm getting married and want to change my last name to my spouse's. Do I need to go to court?

No. To change your name, you need to present your marriage license and photo identification to the Social Security Adminstration. "We will be accepting the new same-sex marriage California certificates" for the purpose of changing a spouse's last name, Social Security spokesman Mark Hinkle said. You'll need to change your last name on your Social Security card before you change your driver’s license.

How to change your name on your Social Security card

Congratulations! I am going to have to go through all the name-change bureaucracy next week.
posted by desjardins at 3:52 PM on September 24, 2008

I recently had cotact with the SS office, and it turns out the rules have changed. It used to be true that you could use any name you wanted, and if you used it long enough, the SS office would recognize that (as a "professional name" if you had used it forever, among other reasons). They told me the law has changed, and your legal SS name is now what is on your birth certificate, your husband's last name if you are married, or it must be changed legally, meaning in court.
Given the status of same sex marriages varying in different states, etc. I think I'd just spend the money and get it changed in court so they can't cause problems down the road.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 3:55 PM on September 24, 2008

My wife went through all this earlier this year, though in AR. If you do have to get a court order, it was really simple to do but did cost money so yeah. You could save yourself some money if you don't need it, but if you do it was no biggie, in other words.
posted by CwgrlUp at 4:12 PM on September 24, 2008

DMV first does work, or did in 2004. Take a copy of your CA marriage license to CA DMV- they will issue you a new driver's license. 10-12 business days later (when you receive your new license in the mail), you take that to the SSA office and request a name change. Then you can change your credit cards/passports/etc. I did this in 2004, with a copy of my marriage license we obtained during the 2/04 same-sex marriage hoopla that went down.
posted by mochilove at 4:55 PM on September 24, 2008

It used to be true that you could use any name you wanted, and if you used it long enough, the SS office would recognize that (as a "professional name" if you had used it forever, among other reasons).

This sounds more like a "legal alias" than a name change. And...wading through database and domain and other programming stuff (not to mention a defunct TV show) is making it awfully hard to verify anything having to do with aliases.
posted by desuetude at 6:14 PM on September 24, 2008

Hey, I did this! In TX, though, so I didn't have a marriage certificate. Went through the court to get a court-ordered name change. Here is the order in which you can change your name everywhere:

1. Get the court order
2. Change it at the DMV
3. Use your new driver license to change your name at the bank
4. Change your name on your Social Security card
5. Change your name at work

Congratulations! It's been a fun ride, hope yours is fun too :D
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:09 PM on September 24, 2008

Oh. Heh. That comment was from my thread. I'm a bit slow right now.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:11 PM on September 24, 2008

Just want to reiterate that firerycupcake's suggestion will not work in California. Here you must start with SSA and then go on to DMV. The DMV computers cross check with the ssa database and if there's no match, they will not update your DL.

Good luck.
posted by special-k at 9:01 PM on September 24, 2008

I know that all of my same-sex married friends in Massachusetts who changed their names had no trouble getting their Social Security cards changed with their marriage license as their supporting document.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:27 PM on September 24, 2008


As long as your wife is adopting your last name or hyphenating the names, she just needs to take her marriage certificate, driver's license or passport showing her "old" name, and a completed SS-5 with her to the SSA office.

SSA recognizes documentation of marriage or civil union for name change purposes when the marriage or civil union is recognized by the State in which the document was issued. Instructions have been sent to offices nationwide to accept California certificates as proof of name change. All the California SSA offices should be well aware of this. (Should you have any problems with the rep at the SSA office, direct him or her to emergency message "EM-08063 Revised" which was issued on August 1.)

The key is that the State has to recognize the marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership. In places where a county or municipality recognizes the partnership but the State does not, SSA follows the State and does not recognize the document.
posted by weebil at 8:31 AM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

It used to be true that you could use any name you wanted, and if you used it long enough, the SS office would recognize that (as a "professional name" if you had used it forever, among other reasons).
This sounds more like a "legal alias" than a name change.

I think it's the same concept kind of thing. Over the course of many years, I had shortened my first name, lost my middle name, and changed my last name to match my father's, out of respect, and because I had a grandkid whose last name matched my father's, also out of respect.
I mention this only because I did this for decades and they let me, and yes, you can start with the DMV and use that to get the SS card (I'm assuming that still works, but it sounds like people have been doing it lately.) The problem did not become a problem until I applied for benefits, at which point they got extremely cranky, and told me about the "what's on your birth certificate or marriage license" clause.
You may wish to ask the SS what the ramifications would be under what circumstances. (Not saying don't do it, just saying you would want to make an informed decision. If it's not a problem until you request benefits, that's not a bad thing, and all you have to do to fix it is fill out a form or two, and they mailed me the forms and I mailed them back, no big deal. I'm just pissed that the government gets to pick out my name instead of me.)
posted by unrepentanthippie at 9:15 AM on September 25, 2008

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