New passport, new driver's license, new credit cards, new work ID, new checks, new name.
January 24, 2011 5:29 PM   Subscribe

[When-to-change-name-filter] We were married by a judge in June 2010. Our big wedding is this May 2011. We're filing taxes jointly in a month or so. We're going on an out-of-country honeymoon in June 2011. Taking all of that into mind, when is it going to be easiest for me to legally take his name?

If we weren't going on the honeymoon to Norway in June I would say it would be easy - wait until after we file taxes and then change my name. Since the marriage is already legal, the wedding this coming May is really just for family and friends and doesn't really matter with respect to the government. But given that we want to file jointly and that I need a valid passport in June, is it just going to be easiest to wait until July to change my name? I'd rather do it sooner than later, and I don't really care if it happens before or after the wedding since my parents have already started referring to me as a portmanteau of both of our last names.

I'm in the US.
posted by kthxbi to Law & Government (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: To be clear - I'm fine with changing my name tomorrow if that's easiest. There is no lower bound here.
posted by kthxbi at 5:30 PM on January 24, 2011

The only thing that was annoying for my wife when she changed her name was making sure you can get a new passport in time to travel with that name. Everything else wasn't really a problem.

Why don't you just file your taxes tomorrow and change your name the next day? I'm not really even sure taxes will be a problem (I don't remember them being a problem the first year we did them together), since your W-2 and stuff for last year will have your old name anyway.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 5:40 PM on January 24, 2011

You still have time to get a passport issued in the next 5 months, so I'd do it now. My wife waited until after we traveled to change her name because it wasn't just the passport, it was the bank/credit card accounts, insurance, phone, etc. All told, it took her about 3 months to get everything settled. During this time when you have a "split identity", make sure you order a copy of your marriage certificate to carry around - that was like my wife's secondary ID for a lot of little things (membership cards, etc.) since they still had her maiden name in the system while her new name was on her ID. I laughed about her having to show her papers all the time (Soviet Russia-style), but seriously, she had to do this a lot.
posted by krippledkonscious at 5:46 PM on January 24, 2011

Taxes go by your SSN, so don't worry about that part. I'm pretty sure I filed taxes with one W2 showing my old name and one W2 showing my married name for the year I got married (I changed jobs midway through the year).

Because you'll be traveling internationally, if you have a current passport in your maiden name, it will probably be marginally easier to wait and change your name legally after the honeymoon just so that you don't have to worry about getting your passport in time (though with five months to go, you have plenty of time to get a new passport).
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:46 PM on January 24, 2011

I think it'll be easier if you wait until after you come back from the honeymoon so you don't have to deal with your passport. I assume it's not totally critical to your emotional well-being, because you've managed okay for seven months. (You would tell us if you were all sobbing at night about it, right? Or he was?)

(Also my in-laws and my parents all renamed me whatever they felt like, so I don't think the legalities matter much. YMMV.)
posted by gingerest at 5:48 PM on January 24, 2011

Best answer: Taxes shouldn't matter, with regards to changing your name. To change your name, you need your marriage license (from June). My wife took that and some other id (maybe passport- I forget the exact requirement) to Social Security. Changed her name there, first (took about two weeks, total). Once she had the new social security card, she got the drivers license done (same day) and then the passport (regular wait for the passport).

For the passport, she mailed the current passport, marriage license, a change of name application, new photos, and whatever the processing fee was. Only took a couple of weeks (whatever the normal passport wait is).

Since we got married and went on the honeymoon two days later, she traveled under her maiden name. Officially changed her name a few months later.
posted by tommccabe at 5:49 PM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Popping back in to say--I didn't run into any of the trouble Mrs. Krippledkonscious had. Maybe I got lucky, but I found that once I got my new social security card (which took a week or two from my visit to the SSA office), it was easy to change everything else. My credit card companies didn't seem to care, they just reissued cards in my new name. I think the bank wanted a copy of my Social Security card. The DMV just wanted to see my new Social Security card and gave me a new driver's license on the spot. I dragged my feet on my student loans, but my lenders didn't care (they have my SSN and I kept paying them) and when I did finally call them to see about changing the name on my account, I think one organization just changed it right then and one organization may have requested a copy of my marriage certificate.

Honestly, the only hard part about changing your name--I think--is remembering to change all the right stuff. Even while you wait for those changes to go through, you can still easily prove that you're you.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:56 PM on January 24, 2011

If you put your new name on your marriage certificate (the one you signed in front of the judge), then you already have changed your name. That paperwork is your proof of name change, you just haven't filed the forms to change it in a number of important databases.

You might as well do that now, because you've got enough time to get it sorted before your first deadline (filing taxes before April 15). First, get a couple of official, certified copies of your marriage certificate, from the county that you were married in... because you'll need to show these.

Then file the change with the Social Security Administration, by "">filing SS-5. It'll take two to three weeks for you to get your new card, with your new name, but the SS and IRS computers will be updated within 48 hours of receipt. Wait to receive your new card (or the receipt that says your information was updated and your card will arrive shortly) before filing your taxes. File them in your new name.

While you're waiting for your SS card, go ahead and file for your name change on your passport. Again, you'll need to provide a certified copy of your marriage certificate from your county. It will take 4-6 weeks for you to receive an updated passport.

That passport and SS card proves your identity and citizenship in your new name. In most cases, those documents (and sometimes, but not always, a glance at the marriage certificate) will be what you need to change your name with DMV, your bank, your utilities, etc. etc.

There's really no reason to wait.
posted by toxic at 6:07 PM on January 24, 2011

Response by poster: Something I didn't think of - the plane tickets to get us to the wedding in May were purchased under my current name. What happens if I try to fly in May with his name on all my IDs and my maiden name on the plane tickets? Just take a marriage certificate with me?

Also, the marriage certificate was signed with my maiden name.
posted by kthxbi at 6:12 PM on January 24, 2011

Yes, take the marriage certificate with you. Also, when you change your passport, you should be getting your old one back (it might come in a separate envelope) so you can bring that too.
posted by spec80 at 6:21 PM on January 24, 2011

Response by poster: Oh cool I didn't know you got the old passport back.
posted by kthxbi at 6:31 PM on January 24, 2011

Oh, since the tickets have already been purchased DO NOT change your name until you get back as you need to fly under the same name as your passport to save yourself a lot of hassle and airlines generally consider this name change a pretty big deal and will either refuse the request or charge you the full change fee. This doesn't necessarily apply if you have bought full fair first class tickets because then the airline will make it work. Otherwise nix the name change until you are back home.
posted by saradarlin at 6:32 PM on January 24, 2011

Just saw that the airline tickets might be for a domestic flight which makes the passport name=ticket name much less critical than an international flight.
posted by saradarlin at 6:34 PM on January 24, 2011

Response by poster: The tickets to Norway in June have not been purchased. The tickets to Wisconsin for May have been. Does that make a difference?
posted by kthxbi at 6:35 PM on January 24, 2011

Goodness, I'd wait until after the honeymoon just to save any potential stress from something getting lost.
posted by gaspode at 6:59 PM on January 24, 2011

Slight derail: you may not get your passport back. I didn't, probably because it was initially issued when I was under 18.
posted by charmcityblues at 7:14 PM on January 24, 2011

Also, the marriage certificate was signed with my maiden name.

The SSA and passport department of the State Department both expect to see your married name on your marriage certificate. That document is what proves your name changed. What state and SSA are doing is recognizing the change, and updating their data.

From the SS-5 instructions: "A document supporting a name change must be recent and identify you by both your old and new names. If the name change event occurred over two years ago or if the name change document does not have enough information to prove your identity, you must also provide documents to prove your identity in your prior name and/or in some cases your new legal name."

This is going to make things more complicated, but not impossible (someone's bound to chime in here saying that it was no problem for them). However, when you combine it with the pre-purchased plane tickets, then you should just wait until you return from your international trip. The worst-case scenario is that you'll have to go through the procedures that people go through to change their names independently of marriage (which vary by locality).
posted by toxic at 7:16 PM on January 24, 2011

If you put your new name on your marriage certificate (the one you signed in front of the judge), then you already have changed your name.

This is apparently not true in all US states, surprisingly enough. So the OP needs to figure out what's applicable in her state. This seems to cover it if she is still in WA.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:25 PM on January 24, 2011

Response by poster: Yeah I was married in and still reside in Washington State - King County specifically. According to the site Sidhedevil linked to, I did do the right thing - "All marriage license documents are signed with one's current legal name, never the intended new name."

Also, based on this: "Washington State law does not impose a time limit after the wedding by which a name change must be accomplished. However, if you are making the change more than a year after your wedding, check with each agency to determine if a certified copy of your marriage license will suffice to change your name with them." I think I should get my name changed now since if I wait until after the honeymoon then over a year will have passed since our marriage by the judge.
posted by kthxbi at 8:32 PM on January 24, 2011

Just make sure that you purchase your Norway tickets under whatever name is on your passport at the time of your flight.
posted by saradarlin at 9:05 PM on January 24, 2011

It seems like it would be easiest to change your name after the second wedding and honeymoon.

When all that is over, you go to your county clerk's office and say "I got married by Judge Hoffenfeffer in June 2010, here is my marriage license. I didn't change my name, but I have changed my mind and would like to do so. How do I do this?"
posted by gjc at 6:00 AM on January 25, 2011

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