Changing My Name After Marrying

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 20, 2013

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Every state has laws that allow for legal name change through the court system and most states follow what is known as the “common law” rule that you can use any name you want as long it is used continuously without “intent to defraud.” So, theoretically, you can start using your maiden name again as long as you do so on a regular and consistent basis, and without the intent to avoid creditors or for some other fraudulent reason. Many states, New York included, allow a woman to legally use either name during the course of their marriage, or for the couple to decide what name they would like to be known by together while married (have you ever seen hyphenated last names?). The marriage license application should state that you have the option to take both names, or you can keep your own, or you can make up another. The marriage license becomes official proof of the new name, but it is also proof that you can legally use both. If you live in one of these states that allows this option and you chose the option, you should just have to bring your marriage license down to your local DMV as proof for changing your name back. Unfortunately, it is doubtful that it will be that easy. Your best bet is to file for an official name change back to you maiden name.

Name changes done through the courts are done by filing a petition through the clerk of the court that allows the filing of such requests (in New York it would be filed in Civil Court, for example), without the need or use of an attorney. The court will generally have the forms you need to fill out. Bring your birth certificate with you and bring your marriage license as well. You will have to pay a fee for filing the paperwork. If the court grants the name change then sometimes the court will require that you publish your new name in a newspaper. The court will tell you which paper to publish in and how many times. There will also be a fee for publishing.

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