Getting Social Security to change my middle name to my maiden name
September 3, 2015 5:57 PM   Subscribe

I got married. I’m trying to change my name so my maiden name becomes my new middle name and I drop my given middle name entirely. It’s harder than it looks.

For both personal and professional reasons, it’s important to me to keep my maiden name as part of my legal identity.

I sent in an application to the Social Security office to change my name to FirstName MaidenName HisLastName, making my maiden name my new middle name and dropping my given middle name altogether.

The new social security card I got back says FirstName MiddleName HisLastName.

When I called to see if it was fixable, the woman on the phone told me “You can’t just change your middle name like that” and said the only way to do it would have been to apply for a card that says FirstName MiddleName MaidenName-HisLastName.

I clarified, “Must it have the hyphen?” She said yes, it must have the hyphen.

I feel like this isn’t true at all (based on Google research before I decided how to change my name), but obviously there wasn’t much point in arguing with her. She said I could go to the local office if I want and see if they can help me there.

I’m afraid that showing up with a social security card that now has my married name on it, and *just* asking them to change the middle name to my maiden name, is going to be significantly more onerous than getting them to do it from the beginning. Getting them to change my last name *again,* so that it includes both my maiden name and married name (hyphenated!), also seems kind of unlikely.

However, one possible point in my favor is that I copied the entire application before I mailed it in, so I do have proof that my request on the application I sent in does not match the card I got back.

My questions:

1) Is it really true that you can’t change your middle name to your maiden name as part of a run-of-the-mill marriage name change?

2) Is it worth the time to go plead my case at the local office, or will this be completely fruitless?

3) If/When I do visit the local office, how should I present it? Any particular strategies that will make things go more smoothly?
posted by the turtle's teeth to Law & Government (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not very helpful today, but fwiw my mother did this in 1986, so it was possible then at least.
posted by crazy with stars at 6:05 PM on September 3, 2015

I have Firstname MiddleName MaidenName HusbandsName with no hyphen. Yes, it can be done.

edit: I did not make my maiden name my middle name. I simply have two last names, with a space in between. They seemed to understand that distinction.
posted by joan_holloway at 6:08 PM on September 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Nearly every woman I know who has changed her name upon marriage in the last 6 years did exactly this, including myself, and it was a complete non-issue. I would go in person and politely raise hell.
posted by gatorae at 6:10 PM on September 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

I did exactly this in 2009, no hyphen, so it should still be possible. I did go to my local office to do it, not because I suspected it would be difficult, but because it was two blocks from my office at the time. It went really smoothly for me so I would try going in with the copy of the original application.
posted by kiripin at 6:11 PM on September 3, 2015

If all else fails, you can quite easily get a court document to change your name to whatever you want. Process outlined here.

Once you have that court document with your new name exactly as you want it, it shouldn't be any problem at all to take it down to the SS office and get the change made there.
posted by flug at 6:13 PM on September 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I kept my middle name (which has family significance), dropped my maiden name and took my husband's last name. The guy at the SS office was surprised because most women do exactly what you're doing. He asked me repeatedly if I wanted to drop my maiden name even if it meant keeping all four names.

Stop by the office.
posted by 26.2 at 6:14 PM on September 3, 2015

All I had to do was show them the completed marriage paperwork that had my new full legal name on it.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:25 PM on September 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had to chane it when I applied for my marriage license (what anem will you be using after your wedding) and then they took the info off off that Massachusetts 7 years ago
posted by ReluctantViking at 6:33 PM on September 3, 2015

I got my SS card without fuss changed to Firstname MaidenName MarriedName in 2011 in Seattle.
posted by matildaben at 6:37 PM on September 3, 2015

My wife did this when we got married in 2012. She had her middle name dropped and her maiden name then became her middle name, so it is definitely possible to do.
posted by Telpethoron at 6:37 PM on September 3, 2015

I got married in 2013, and changed my middle name from "middlename" to "middlename maidenname," no hyphen. I did this for both social security and my US passport.

I got it done by going in person to the Social Security Office in my city and telling the guy behind the desk that that's how I wanted it done. I don't remember it being a problem.

I hope you're able to get it sorted out!
posted by Pearl928 at 6:38 PM on September 3, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you everyone very much for the answers! I was pretty flustered after my phone convo with the SSA this morning so I'm very glad to hear that I wasn't totally off base in thinking this was A Thing That Could Be Done. I'm feeling much more optimistic now.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 6:44 PM on September 3, 2015

My wife did this exact thing. She changed it on the marriage certificate as part of the license and then used that to get the social security card.
posted by Karaage at 6:47 PM on September 3, 2015

Response by poster: I'm not sure if this matters or not, but the state I got married in didn't include any info about name changing on the license or the application for the license. The application I filled out for a new Social Security form is the first document where I've requested the name change.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 6:52 PM on September 3, 2015

I'm not sure if this matters or not, but the state I got married in didn't include any info about name changing on the license or the application for the license.

Mine didn't either. Our license only asked for our then-current legal names and verified that my then-current surname was my original maiden name. You should be fine.
posted by gatorae at 7:14 PM on September 3, 2015

Best answer: I got married in 2009 in South Carolina and became FirstName MaidenName HisLastName with no problems. I went to the SS office in person with my marriage certificate in hand. Total non-issue.

My sister in law, who has always been called by her middle name, got married several years later in SC. She wanted to drop her first name (that no one has ever called her) and be MiddleName MaidenName HisLastName and they told her she could not change her FIRST name without a court order.
posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 7:24 PM on September 3, 2015

I did this in 2007- I went in person to the office (in AZ with a CA marriage license) and it took a second look by the person helping me, but was not a big deal at all. Over the years I've had exactly zero comments about it. It's for sure something that is done. For whatever its worth, I got the impression at the time that I could have changed my name to whatever I wanted and it wouldn't have been a big deal.
posted by LyndsayMW at 8:41 PM on September 3, 2015

I did this in 1993. The person you spoke with was mistaken.
posted by pearlybob at 9:12 PM on September 3, 2015

I did it in '97 with no issues whatsoever. (Except for when we bought our house, and the bank attorney put a hyphen in my name after I'd signed everything.....blargh.)
posted by Lucinda at 9:23 PM on September 3, 2015

I clarified, “Must it have the hyphen?” She said yes, it must have the hyphen.

As others have said, nope!
My social security card says First Middle Maiden Last. (I added the Last, my husband's last name, when I got married.)

My drivers license says First Maiden Last. My passport says Last, First Middlemaiden (ugh). My work lists me as Maiden Last, First Middle ('cause they're morons who can't make Banner use a different name for payroll and for class lists). I have a credit card under First M. Last (where the M stands for maiden). At my kids' school I am listed as First Last. And I publish under First Middle Maiden.

In conclusion, yes, you ought to be able, at the very least, to tack on your husband's name to your SSN, and then once you've got that, you can do anything you want, and it's not a problem.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:30 PM on September 3, 2015

It's harder in some states than others. When I investigated this in New Jersey, I was told that to change my middle name, I'd have to go through the same court process others would if they wanted to change their first or entire name. Maiden-to-middle wasn't something I could achieve just by bringing my marriage license into the DMV. It wasn't that important to me so I let it go.
posted by kimberussell at 4:05 AM on September 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding kimberrussell. In New York, in 2008, I had to get a name change order through the court to change my middle name to my maiden name. Then I was able to change it with the DMV and Social Security. The court order was a bit of a pain, but the clerk's office was very helpful; this is something they are accustomed to helping people with, so it's not necessary to hire a lawyer.
posted by hovizette at 5:16 AM on September 4, 2015

Best answer: Just to note -- if they keep giving you shit about it, stop talking to SSA and instead talk with either your Representative's office or one of your Senators' offices. Other folks in your area will know who has the best reputation for constituent service.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:29 AM on September 4, 2015

A sidenote: each state will have different policies about this. Some are more lenient with what you are allowed to do during a marriage or divorce to change your name; some specify that for certain changes, you must do a separate name change (which is a whole other filing with different forms and, alas, fees). That's why you are getting a variety of answers.

(I am a person who processes divorces and name changes; however, I am not your person who processes divorces and name changes ;] )
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:42 AM on September 4, 2015

I did this in 2000 and honestly it was more of a hassle to go from First Maiden HisName to First Middle Maiden after the subsequent divorce.

I'm wondering how you did this without being in person in the first place? I had to change my name this year and you had to go in the office.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:23 AM on September 4, 2015

Response by poster: getawaysticks, I followed the instructions here: printed and filled out the application form and sent it along with my marriage certificate, birth certificate, passport, and previous social security card (originals). All the documents, with the exception of the previous social security card, came back about two weeks later, and the new social security card followed about a week after that. I thought doing it by mail would be less hassle than going into the office. Heh.

Anyway, I'm going to bring all the documents into my local office next week and see if they can help me out. Thanks again everyone for all your answers!
posted by the turtle's teeth at 7:54 AM on September 4, 2015

I did this all the way back in 1991, a year after I was married, so yes it is possible and, as you can see from the rest of the comments here, not at all unusual. We were in Michigan then, if that helps.

Good for you for sticking up for yourself and going to the office to get this done! Please come back and let us know how it works out!
posted by blurker at 8:20 AM on September 4, 2015

On a related note, my son't birth certficate reflects what I consider to be his full name: First Middle Mom'sLast Dad'sLast. We sent his birth certificate to SSA and his SS card says First Middle Dad'sLast.

So, they dropped his second middle name (and chose which one to drop). Jerks.
posted by Pax at 9:29 AM on September 4, 2015

I too took my maiden last name to replace maiden middle. My local social security office told me on the phone that I would need my marriage license - signed with the new name - and the *new driver's license* with the new name on it. Of course, the MVA told me I'd need the new SS Card to get the new license. Turned out (and thankfully, there were offices less than a mile apart and pretty near my home, so the back and forth wasn't onerous) that the MVA caved first (I begged really politely) and once I had the driver's license the SSA office processed the change in mere minutes. It's totally normal to replace maiden middle name with maiden last. Really, totally normal and common. Has been for centuries.
posted by AliceBlue at 4:01 PM on September 4, 2015

I did exactly this! I had to go in person to the SS office which was a total pain, but it took are of everything at once. Then they gave my new-name letter which I could then bring to the DMV, etc. the final step was getting the marriage license motorized and sending things in for a new passport.
posted by floweredfish at 7:34 AM on September 7, 2015

Response by poster: Late-breaking update: Due to my own embarrassing levels of procrastination, as well as the fact that the office was mysteriously closed the first two times I went out there, I finally just made it through the doors of my local Social Security office today. I brought a photocopy of my original application as well as all the original documents. I was helped by a very nice man who was able to fix the situation for me with no problems, and it didn't take very long. He gave me a receipt with the corrected name on it, and the new social security card should arrive in a couple weeks. Yay! Thank you again everyone!
posted by the turtle's teeth at 2:24 PM on October 19, 2015

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