Name Change After Marriage Recommendations

name change on California marriage license
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Changing your name after marriage is a major life decision that can turn into a shortsighted, costly mistake. Why? California law establishes that in order for you to change your name after marriage, your future name change MUST be specifically noted on your marriage license.

name change on California marriage license
This box should have your name change even if there’s tiny chance you might want to change it.

If you don’t have your name change on your marriage license, then when you are ready to change to your married name you will have to file a name change petition with the Superior Court in the jurisdiction where you live. To complete the filing of the petition you would have to either retain an attorney or handle the matter yourself.

Even if you represent yourself you will have to pay approximately $435 in court filing fees and up to $100 to publish your proposed name change in a local newspaper. If you retain an attorney to handle the matter for you your attorney fees may be more than double the filing and publication fees. If you and your new spouse both want to change your names those fees would double again. Those costs do not include the time it would for you to prepare your name change petition and/or to consult with your attorney.

To ask the court to change your name, you have to follow these steps or your attorney does:

1. Fill out your court forms
2. Have your forms reviewed
3. Make at least 2 copies of all your forms
4. File your forms with the court clerk
5. Publish the Order to Show Cause for Change of Name (Required in Most States)
6. Go to your court hearing
7. Get your Decree Changing Name from the court

As you can see, it’s a costly hassle.

I have been contacted by many of the couples that I have married, after all the paperwork has been filed, that have a change of heart. At that point, it’s too late. You have to follow the steps above.

When you include your proposed married name to be on your marriage license it does not cause your name to automatically change. Instead, it just preserves your option to change your name at any time in the future if you decide to do so. Your name change does not become official until you take a certified copy of your marriage license and certificate

  1. first to the Social Security Administration
  2. and then to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles
  3. and to the Passport Office.

You will not receive your certified copy or copies until several weeks after your wedding date. If you never take the steps to complete your name change it will not change but you will have reserved the option to complete that name change at any time in the future that you choose.


I know many of my hardcore feminist friends who kept their names and then years later changed their minds “for the sake of the kids” or because it’s just easier. So, my recommendation, as a person who issues countless California marriage licenses every year is to think long and hard about it. People change their minds throughout their lives. If you think that there is even a tiny chance that you might change your name after marriage, even way after, even decades later, put it on your marriage license.

Would you take your spouse’s name? Would they take yours? Would you hyphenate it? Would they? Would you take both last names without a hyphen? Would you make up a new last name (it must include a segment of each of your pre-marriage last names)? If you know what you might change it to if there were a 1% chance of you doing it…put it on the marriage license.

Everyone pretty much knows what they would do if they did change their name to their spouse’s name, or vice versa. So put it on the marriage license and save yourself some time and money. It’s so much easier to change your name on your CA marriage license…and it’s free. My wife of 26 years chose to keep her own name because she didn’t want to go around as Mrs. Robinson hearing all the snickering from the movie, “The Graduate”. Still, she put  it on the marriage license, just in case.

If you  need a  California confidential marriage license done correctly and with advice, please consider giving me a call. I’d be happy to provide your marriage license to you on a moment’s notice or anytime in advance of your wedding. I can also marry you easily.

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