What’s in a Name? — Changing Last Names in Same-Sex Marriages

What’s in a Name? — Changing Last Names in Same-Sex Marriages

Traditionally, in opposite-sex marriages, women took on the last names of their husbands. This practice is common in most countries, including the U.S. However, times have changed, and this situation can be a bit complicated for same-sex couples. So how do same-sex couples change surnames, and is the process any different compared to opposite-sex marriages? Have a look below to find out! 

Why Is It a Big Deal? 

Newlyweds always get confronted with the question of last names. In heterosexual relationships, the decision for a woman to change her surname often revolves around ideology. However, many say that LGBTQ couples who marry have to consider lengthy family nomenclature, as well as a lack of tradition. The matter can be quite complicated to some couples, especially if they’re not familiar with marriage laws or if they’re not set on their decision. 

Of course, same-sex marriages have been fully legal in all U.S. states since the Supreme Court’s decision in 2015. However, the name change procedures may vary depending on your state. Plus, while a marriage certificate is enough to allow you to change your last name, many state laws can cause problems later on. 

For example, Alabama’s Madison County has a rule that makes changing your last name on a driver’s license incredibly difficult. If a newlywed wants to alter their name on their driver’s license, they cannot use a same-sex certificate of marriage. Instead, they have to get a court order. These rules aren’t only set for LGBTQ couples, but for heterosexual newlyweds as well. For instance, in a few states, men who want to use their wives’ last names have to get a court order to do so. 

If you want to swap your last name after your wedding, the best way to go about it is to investigate the laws in your state. You could even consult your legal professional. LGBTQ couples should consider all their options and investigate the name change process. 

Options for Name Changes 

So who carries the last name in gay marriages, and what are the options? Actually, there are several different ways to go about this. However, regardless of the options, it’s worth noting that the process is identical compared to the one taken by opposite-sex couples. The reason is that marriage laws have become gender-neutral. That is, LGBTQ couples can decide in the exact same way as heterosexual couples. A man, woman, both women, and both men can change their name any way they see fit. It is their own personal choice. 

Here’s What Same-Sex Couples Can Do 

Firstly, data shows that nearly 50% of same-sex couples use only one partner’s last name. As with any name change, this process requires some time. You will need to gather documents and complete various forms. It may not be the best option for those who run a business named after them. That takes much more effort than simply printing out new business cards. In fact, a new name could hinder the reputation of your business, regardless of if you’re in a heterosexual or same-sex marriage. 

The second most popular option so far is to use a hyphen. That is also becoming increasingly common for heterosexual couples. The hyphenated form allows you to keep both last names. It doesn’t require you to change your original last name, and it is especially useful for couples who have children. It’s also possible to hyphenate without switching the name on your passport or other documents in several states, as long as it doesn’t show any intention of fraud. 

But, others who do not wish to hyphenate can merge their last names together. That means that they can create a new name. It’s a creative option for those who want to get a new start. However, it’s not cheap. It includes high court fees and additional costs. 

And the final option is to simply stick with your own surname. That is the easiest option since you won’t have to go through any legal process. However, your name won’t serve as a public declaration of your marriage.

The Name Change Process 

Once the couple has decided on their last name, they will need to go through the full name change process. As mentioned, you could visit your attorney to find out exactly what you need based on your case. Also, couples should be prepared to go through the process of updating their identifications, as well as legal and financial documents. 

One way to simplify the process is to use a name change agency like HitchSwitch. This service can update your name automatically for a set fee. But, if you want to do it on your own, you’ll have to take several steps.

The first step is to get a valid marriage license. Then, you’ll have to renew your Social Security Card. The process takes around ten days, but you’ll also need to change your driver’s license, bank accounts, and any other documents that require your name. 

That could include notifying employers, utility companies, and the post office. You could also notify your alumni associations, insurance companies, mortgage companies, and doctors’ offices. It’s also important to inform the voter registration, passport, airline, and similar offices. 

For many of those offices, couples may have to complete the process in person and fill out various forms. Others could allow you to confirm your new name by phone. 

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, same-sex couples change their last name in a nearly identical way compared to opposite-sex couples. The couple has full freedom to decide what’s best for them. Still, if you’re planning to swap your last name, definitely follow some of our tips, and they will make your life much easier. Good luck!