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I'm a woman who is planning to be married soon. Do I have to take my husband's name?

No. When you marry, you are free to keep your own name, take your husband's name or, if you wish, adopt a completely different name. Your husband can even adopt your name, if that's what you both prefer. Give some careful thought to what name feels best for you. You can save yourself considerable time and trouble by making sure you are happy with your choice of name before you change any records. Any change other than taking your husband's name will probably require a petition to the court.

Can my husband and I both change our names to a hyphenated version of our two names or to a brand new name?

Yes. Some couples want to be known by a hyphenated combination of their last names, and a few even make up new names that combine elements of each. For example, Ellen Berman and Jack Gendler might become Ellen and Jack Berman-Gendler or, perhaps, Ellen and Jack Bergen. You can also pick a name that's entirely different from the names you have now, just because you like it better. In the past, it was relatively easy to make all these changes simply by consistently using your new name. Today, unless you follow the traditional pattern of a woman adopting her new husband's last name, you will probably need to go to court to get an official order changing your name.

What if I do want to take my husband's name? How do I make the change?

A woman who wants to take her husband's name upon marriage need do nothing beyond promptly beginning to use that name. Use your new name consistently, and be sure to change your name on all of your identification, accounts and important documents. To change some of your identification papers -- your Social Security card, for example -- you'll need a certified copy of your marriage certificate, which you should receive within a few weeks after the marriage ceremony.

Copyright 2005 Nolo

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This publication and the information included in it are not intended to serve as a substitute for consultation with an attorney. Specific legal issues, concerns and conditions always require the advice of appropriate legal professionals.


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The Law Offices of Michael R. Magaril
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