Future Mr. and Mrs. Mittenbex.
January 3, 2010 5:58 PM   Subscribe

Changing my last name in New York.

I'm getting married but I'm not sure I want to take my future husband's last name.

But... I'd LOVE to not have MY last name anymore. (Our last names are very similar)

I'd like a completely seperate last name that I might be willing to hyphenate with his last name.

I've read the guidelines on changing your last name once married but as far as I understand it only says a woman can take the guy's last name or he can take hers or you can hyphenate/use a combination of the two.

What are my options and what is the best way to go about it? Will I have to hire a lawyer? About how much would it cost in legal fees to go through this process?

I'm on Long Island so if you people think I need a lawyer - I'll gladly accept recommendations.
posted by mittenbex to Law & Government (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
All you need to do is write down your married name on the marriage application and then use that name without the intent to defraud going forward. You'd use your marriage certificate to chane your driver's license, passport, etc.
posted by dfriedman at 6:01 PM on January 3, 2010

You will need to get a court order to change your name to something other than the options listed on the marriage application, but it's very easy and you should not need a lawyer (though as I recall, it costs a few hundred dollars in filing fees). See here for info on the procedure, fees and forms. You can call your county clerk's office for more assistance; they often have helpful pro se packets for simple matters like name changes.
posted by hovizette at 6:14 PM on January 3, 2010

I can tell you that the marriage clerk will probably be a stickler for these rules based on my experience, but you may be able to fudge things anyway. I was not allowed to change my middle name to my maiden name per NY rules, so my marriage license reads First name Middle name Married name. But I had no problem taking that document to SSA and DMV and getting my new name to be First name Maiden name Married name.

You should probably go with option 4 above, then try for the name you really want in later documents. If it doesn't work, then you'll probably have to get a court approval, but I doubt you'd need a lawyer.
posted by saffry at 6:14 PM on January 3, 2010

But I had no problem taking that document to SSA and DMV and getting my new name to be First name Maiden name Married name.

I didn't have a problem with SSA, either, but I definitely had a problem with the DMV in Westchester County when I tried to do this. I did the same name change as Saffry (middle to maiden, and last to married name), and my new name was properly listed on my Florida marriage certificate. But when I tried to get a new NYS license, they would not issue it in my new name without the court order.
posted by hovizette at 6:25 PM on January 3, 2010

You are correct that New York limits the surnames you can adopt via marriage. However, I know this is not the case in some states (such as Iowa, although I doubt you'd want to make the trek over there!). If you don't want to go through a seperate name-change procedure, consider getting married in a different state.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:33 PM on January 3, 2010

As has been said, you need to file a Name Change Petition with the courts. It is annoying, but that is the way they do it in New York.

See here.
posted by Falconetti at 6:33 PM on January 3, 2010

I was not allowed to change my middle name to my maiden name per NY rules,

Really? Where in New York and where was this? My mother (in 1968) and I (in 1997) were both able to take our maiden names as middle names, and we both live in New York (Rochester, to be specific).
posted by Lucinda at 7:30 PM on January 3, 2010

Really? Where in New York and where was this?

New York name change law only allows you to change your surname through marriage, not your first or middle name. I've heard reports of people being able to make the middle name change using the marriage certificate at Social Security, but not on the marriage certificate itself.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:50 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Really? Where in New York and where was this?

This was true for my friend who lives in Manhattan.
posted by Falconetti at 8:25 PM on January 3, 2010

Hm, maybe that's the case. I don't know what my marriage certificate says, but my drivers' license and SS card both have Lucinda MaidenName LastName, and the only problem I had at all was that the Social Security people initially hyphenated it, but that was quickly remedied.
posted by Lucinda at 9:52 PM on January 3, 2010

We got married in New York, and I gotta tell you-- read option #3 very carefully. That's what we used, and it gives you an incredible amount of flexibility.

"All or a segment of" gives you a lot. I believe that you could use it to, for example, combine "Smith" and "Jones" into "Smones". Of course, yes, you'd have to get it past the clerk, but we did something not quite so radical, and it didn't raise an eyebrow.
posted by gregvr at 9:51 AM on January 4, 2010

If the options available when getting married aren't what you want, you can go to court to change your name. It's a fairly simple process. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project has very detailed instructions that are NYC-specific, but give you the basic idea.
posted by Mavri at 11:29 AM on January 4, 2010

That's strange you have to go through all the hassle.

For naturalized citizens, you're allowed to change your name on the certificate. That's why my mom and I did, including our last names.

I wonder if you could "add" a name instead of change? for e.g. your birth name, and aka (another name). I would assume the reason for the hassle is that you can't just change your identity whenever you feel like it. I have 2 names on my naturalization certificate: name A and aka name B.
posted by frozenyogurt at 12:37 PM on January 4, 2010

Different states have different rules. If you are married in a state that permits you to make the change you seek, New York would have to honor the change. This probably won't help you if you are having a traditional wedding and both of your respective families are in New York.
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 2:41 PM on January 6, 2010

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