Does my name remain the same?
September 5, 2006 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Have I successfully changed my name?

So, I got married over a year ago in NYC. I opted not to change my name at that time, but recently decided that I would like to.

This morning, I went and got my name changed on my Social Security Card to my new desired name: "First Middle Maiden" is now "First Maiden Married." When I researched how to change my name on my Passport, it said all I'd need to do is send them my Marriage Certificate. And here's (what I'm afraid might be) the rub: my Marriage Certificate says "New Surname: Maiden."

It would seem to me that because of this, the Marriage Certificate doesn't really help certify that I've changed my name. I'm pretty sure I'd be okay at the DMV and with credit cards and the like by using the SS card, but might this cause problems? And if not with the Passport people, then might I eventually run into an issue? How else can I certify that I've changed my name, if I have indeed done so at all?
posted by TG_Plackenfatz to Law & Government (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
You didn't change your name. Here's how to change your name in New York State.
posted by grouse at 9:50 AM on September 5, 2006


Just to tie up all ends, make it neat and all legal-like, you should probably petition the court to change your name. Shouldn't be much of a fuss since your reasoning is marriage. You fill out a form, pay a fee, and wait.

And then the US government passport site says you can use marriage certificate or court decree so you should be all set to take care of the passport.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:55 AM on September 5, 2006


Ah, I've read that NY courts info, but just when I think I totally get it, Section 65 confuses me again.

Also, I'm not thrilled with the idea of having to go the the courthouse (esp. seeing Sec. 65), which, on top of being $65, I've heard can take hours (esp since I have the DMV, Passport Office, etc. to look forward to already).
posted by TG_Plackenfatz at 10:05 AM on September 5, 2006


(And in the meantime, be aware that airlines require that the name on any tickets match the name on your passport, so just don't book an international flight with your new name and try to travel with a passport that lists your old name.)
posted by occhiblu at 10:05 AM on September 5, 2006


Changing your name on the marriage certificate would be what's covered in Sec. 65 -- that's what would be free. Since you didn't change it then, you don't get to do it for free now (even though you're changing it due to marriage). You missed your free chance to do it; that section no longer applies to you.
posted by occhiblu at 10:08 AM on September 5, 2006


Ah, I've read that NY courts info, but just when I think I totally get it, Section 65 confuses me again.

Also, I'm not thrilled with the idea of having to go the the courthouse (esp. seeing Sec. 65), which, on top of being $65, I've heard can take hours (esp since I have the DMV, Passport Office, etc. to look forward to already).


It sucks, but it's the process to make it legal. Bring a book and hope for the best.
posted by jerseygirl at 10:10 AM on September 5, 2006


Oh NY, how you love to make life easy. (From what I gather, the "New Surname" line isn't on the majority of states' Marriage Certificates.)

Just so I fully understand, if I haven't legally changed my name, how did I change the name on my SSN? Is that what they mean by adoption through usage?
posted by TG_Plackenfatz at 10:20 AM on September 5, 2006


The SSN people should have required a legal document saying you had legally changed your name. If they didn't, and they simply waved you through, then you basically just got lucky with that. Or, because most marriage licenses don't ask for the new surname, they just made the assumption you had requested a legal name change when you married, and so your husband's name was now your legal name.

But it's not. You need to go prove that you're not a criminal trying to evade justice, and you need to go pay the state to do the paperwork that will convince them of that fact, before you have a new name in the eyes of the state.
posted by occhiblu at 10:30 AM on September 5, 2006


Theorietically you're only supposed to change the name on your SSN records when you've already changed it legally. They probably assume that since many people change their names when they get married, that this is what you did and didn't require you to jump through crazy hoops. So yes the SSN change is not legal, it's presumed to be something you do after you change your name legally.

Also, this was a while ago but when I got a new passport, they asked for how I would like my name to appear on the passport. I was a wiseass and wrote something that was not on any of my supporting documentation, thinking it would be overruled by my birth certificate or social security card. For a decade, I had a passport that said my name was Jessamyn Spaz West, ymmv.
posted by jessamyn at 10:35 AM on September 5, 2006 [6 favorites]


How about calling/going to the NY Department of Records (or whatever office processes the marriage certificates) to see if they will just undo the "New Surname: Maiden"? Even if not, they may be able to tell you what you need to do.
posted by wryly at 10:36 AM on September 5, 2006


Wryly: they won't.

Thanks for your help everyone.

And not that I'm trying to "evade justice," and not go through with the civil court name change, but what would happen if I didn't? There don't seem to be many obstacles in the way of me changing all of the other documents. How, in the future, might my ass be bitten?
posted by TG_Plackenfatz at 10:41 AM on September 5, 2006


And not that I'm trying to "evade justice," and not go through with the civil court name change, but what would happen if I didn't?

I don't know for certain, but I can imagine. I guess just ask yourself if you really want to put yourself in a position of even possible ambiguity and confusion in regards to your legal identity.
posted by jerseygirl at 10:52 AM on September 5, 2006


The problem as I see it isn't so much that you can't go using your new desired name all the time as much as you want, but that there is no legally binding link between your old name and your new desired name. Part of a name change isn't just saying "this person is now know by the name of XYZ" it's also saying "the person previously known as ABC is now known as XYZ and those two people are the same person" We know how to do this in a ton of other ways, most notably in the US by comparing social security numbers. However jerseygirl's point is valid, I would worry that if, in the future, some bureaucrat decided to make my life a living hell over this, I'd rather have a better reason for not having done the paperwork than disliking the legal/court system.

Most specifically, what might come into play is whether you are the same person on your marriage certificate. There are only a few things that being married really matters for bureaucratically (there are many other rights afforded by marriage, but I'm thinking of wherer it might come up in a hurry) -- to the extent that you'd need to have a copy of this -- and the things I can think of off the top of my head are next-of-kin [possibly] and health insurance [maybe]. Both of these are things you don't think about when everything's going swimmingly and then it isn't and all of the sudden it's very very important that you have your ducks in a line.

So, generally I think your ass is covered, but I can think of specific instances in which one person not wanting to believe what you say might make something already stressful even more difficult, so I'd still strongly suggest getting it taken care of.
posted by jessamyn at 11:01 AM on September 5, 2006


I'm currently in the middle of this process myself (after 8 yrs of marriage), and if it makes you feel any better about doing it in NY, it costs $180 for the court fee in Massachusetts. Plus I had to place a legal ad in the local paper to publicly announce my petition; the ad cost an additional $87. My husband and I joked that it might be cheaper to get divorced, then married again, and I could take his name then.
posted by jessicak at 11:09 AM on September 5, 2006


Thanks again, everyone.

When I got married, I asked the Dept. of Records specifically if I'd have to go to court to get my name changed later, and I was assured I wouldn't. That, plus advice from wedding websites that didn't take into account local legislation, caused me to figure I was covered. I'm glad I noticed there might've been a legal oversight, lest I run into problems at a point in time when I don't need any more problems.

So I will listen to advise, stop being cheap, lazy, and stubborn, and make this all legal.
posted by TG_Plackenfatz at 11:15 AM on September 5, 2006


One other note: even if they WILL let you change your name for free when you get married, they actually WON'T if you're a man. I tried. No dice.
posted by rikschell at 2:00 PM on September 5, 2006


One other note: even if they WILL let you change your name for free when you get married, they actually WON'T if you're a man. I tried. No dice.

My husband did, no extra fee, when we got married in Vermont.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:56 PM on September 5, 2006


One other note: even if they WILL let you change your name for free when you get married, they actually WON'T if you're a man. I tried. No dice.

you can do this in connecticut too.

i just wanted to note that although i had my name changed right after my marriage, the name that is on my marriage certificate is my maiden name and in order to change my name to my husbands name i just had to prove that i had just been married, not that a certian name had been recorded on the marriage certificate.

good luck though, my husband also changed his name right before to his mothers maiden name and he had to go to probate court and pay $150.
posted by trishthedish at 7:09 PM on September 5, 2006


and by this i mean the man can take the womans name for free after marriage.

sigh.
posted by trishthedish at 7:10 PM on September 5, 2006


I (a male) had my name changed in NYS. I had "unofficially" changed it at one point and had no real problems until about 2001 or so when I received a letter from the IRS saying they weren't going to take my word for it anymore (my SSN card had my old last name) and I'd have to pay a pantload of taxes... or get my records fixed.

My name change was not in NYC, so circumstances may be different in the city. Yes, you have to file the paperwork. It's pretty easy and the forms are on the NYS courts site (albeit in abysmal form). You will need to take the form to the county clerks office and file it there. If I recall correctly, you'll need an index number. That's about $210 or so. You file all this with the clerks' office.

A few weeks (or whatever) later, you hear back. You don't usually have to go to court or anything like that. In most cases, the judge just signs where appropriate. You get yourself a copy of the official name change.

And, finally, also speaking from experience, if you plan to travel, you have to get yourself a new birth certificate, esp b/c your wedding cert sez you kept your maiden name. Depending on where you were born, this can be easy or difficult. Mine was relatively easy. I found the appropriate office in Texas, sent them a copy of the name change order (one with an embossed seal), the appropriate amount of $, and got a new cert a week or so later.
posted by jdfan at 11:33 AM on September 6, 2006


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