How to Change Your Name After Marriage in Washington, DC

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Changing a name after getting married can be a fairly simple or more complicated process, depending on how much of the name is to be changed. In Washington D.C., as in other locations, names can be changed by going through the Social Security Administration or the county courthouse. Once the name has been changed by the Social Security Administration or the person has been issued a name change order by the court, she can then present her new Social Security card or the court-issued name change order to change her name on other documents.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Obtaining several certified copies of the marriage certificate or license as soon as possible after the marriage makes it easy to later provide one to the Social Security Administration or the courthouse.

Changing Names with the Social Security Administration

In Washington, D.C., people who only want to change their last name after marriage can do so for free through the Social Security Administration. They need to fill out the Application for Social Security Card, which can be found online at the Social Security Administration’s website or at their local Social Security office.

Besides the completed application, people need to provide proof of identity, proof of U.S. citizenship or immigration status, and a document supporting the name change. The Social Security Administration’s website has an interactive feature that lays out exactly which documents besides the application that people need to submit, depending on their situation.

Documents Required by the Social Security Administration

For example, for an adult born in the U.S. who wants a corrected Social Security card because he has married, he must provide a document that establishes his citizenship, a document that establishes his identity, and a document supporting his name change. For the citizenship requirement, he can use his U.S. birth certificate or U.S. passport. For the identity requirement, he can use his U.S. driver’s license, his U.S. passport or his state-issued identification card.

For the name change requirement, the supporting document can be a marriage certificate. The application should be submitted within two years of the marriage, or else there is also the requirement to provide a document issued in the previous name that proves identity.

The Social Security Administration only accepts certified copies and original documents. Photocopies or notarized copies are not accepted. All documentation is returned to the applicant after your application has been processed.

Submitting Documents to the Social Security Administration

After the application is completed and all of the necessary documents gathered, the packet needs to be taken to the applicant's local Social Security office or mailed to them. The administration’s Social Security office locator website provides a listing of local Social Security offices. Applicants generally get their new card, reflecting the new name, within 10 to 14 business days from the date the application was processed.

Getting Your Certified Marriage Certificate

In Washington, D.C, a marriage certificate is called a marriage license. People married in Washington, D.C. can get a certified copy of their marriage licenses from the Marriage Bureau. The Marriage Bureau is located in room JM 690 at the Moultrie Courthouse at 500 Indiana Avenue NW.

Those wanting certified copies of their marriage license need to provide at least the full names, including maiden names, of both parties and the date of the marriage. The fee for each certified copy is $10, which can be paid by credit card, check, money order or cash. Checks or money orders must be made out to “Clerk, DC Superior Court.”

The request can be submitted online via the District of Columbia Courts’ website and the payment mailed to the Marriage Bureau. Certified copies of the marriage license is sent back in the mail. People can also visit the Marriage Bureau in person. The Marriage Bureau is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Marriage Certificates from Outside Washington, D.C.

People who were married elsewhere will need to go to the clerk’s office of the county courthouse of the county in which they were married. Requests for certified copies of marriage certificates can usually be made in person, online, by phone or by mail.

Changing the Name on Other Documents

After changing the name with the Social Security Administration, people can then change their name on other identification documents, such as their driver’s license or state-issued identification card. Local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices have information on changing names. People typically need to fill out an application, provide proof of identity and documentation supporting the name change, and pay a fee for a new card.

People changing a Washington, D.C. driver’s license or identification card must provide their current driver’s license or identification card, their Social Security card with their new name and a certified copy of their marriage certificate. As with the Social Security Administration, Washington D.C.’s DMV accepts only original documents and certified copies.

The documents need to be taken to a D.C. DMV service center. The locations and hours can be found on the D.C. DMV website. The fee for a new driver’s license is $47 at the time of publication, and it can be paid by credit card. Some service centers also accept cash.

Court-Ordered Name Change

Those who are changing, not their last name, but their first name after their marriage, or who are changing both their first and last names will need to go through a court process. Generally, to have a court-ordered name change, a person needs to file an application, pay a filing fee, provide supporting documents, publicize her name change request, give notice to affected entities, and appear before a judge in a hearing.

Only residents can file a name change application in Washington, D.C.. A person is considered a resident if he has lived in the District of Columbia for at least six months before filing the name change application. Proof of residency, such as a rental lease, utility bills and/or pay stubs, must be provided.

Reason for Name Change

On the application, the applicant is asked to provide the reason for her name change. There doesn't need to be a specific reason for wanting the name change. Not liking the name or preferring to be known by another name is a valid enough reason.

Yet the court does have the right to deny name changes. At the end of the application, the applicant must sign under penalty of perjury that he is not requesting a name change for “any fraudulent or undisclosed purpose” and that granting the name change will not “infringe upon the rights of others relating to any partnership, corporation, patent, trademark, copyright, goodwill, privacy or otherwise.” This means that people can’t change their names for a fraudulent purpose such as to escape creditors and/or law enforcement.

The name change request may also be denied if the applicant wants name that is already the name of a business or is trademarked or copyrighted. Applicants can also be denied if the requested name is offensive or obscene.

Applying for a Name Change in Washington, D.C.

In addition to the application, other documents that an applicant will need to provide include an original birth certificate; valid photo identification, such as the passport or driver’s license; and a certified marriage certificate. Applicants may also be requested to provide other documents depending on the situation. The court will make copies of these documents and return the originals to the applicant

Those 21 or older need to file their applications with the Civil Actions Branch, located in Room 5000 of the District of Columbia Superior Court. Those under 21 need to file their applications with the Family Central Intake Center in Room JM‐540. The cost for filing the application is $60 at time of publication, which can be payable by cash or money order. Those who cannot pay the fee may request a Fee Waiver from the courthouse clerk.

Order and Notice of Final Hearing

Once the application has been filed and the filing fee paid or waived, the applicant is given an Order and Notice of Final Hearing date and time. The Order and Notice of Final Hearing tells the applicant when she will need to return to finalize her name change.

The applicant will also be given two certified copies of the Order of Publication along with its instructions. The Order of Publication’s purpose is to give notice to the public of the requested name change so people can file an objection if they want. With the Order of Publication, the applicant contacts a newspaper of her choice that covers the metropolitan area (Maryland, District of Columbia and Virginia), so they can publish a notice of her name change request. The fee to publish the name change request varies with each newspaper.

After three weeks of publication, the newspaper will give the applicant certified proof of publication. Applicants need to keep this proof of publication to bring with them when they return to the court on the date and time specified on their Order and Notice of Final Hearing.

Give Notice of the Application to Creditors

Within 10 days of filing the application, the applicant must also personally hand or send by mail a copy of the application and the Order and Notice of Final Hearing to any creditors. If sending notice by mail, it must be sent via certified or registered mail, with a return receipt. Creditors include mortgage companies, landlords, student loan companies, credit card companies, utility companies and other finance companies. Applicants then file an Affidavit/Declaration of Service for each creditor.

Name Changes for Someone with a Criminal Record

Those with a criminal record will also need to serve, by certified or registered mail, with a return receipt, a copy of the application, and the Order and Notice of Final Hearing to the Department of Corrections and Chief of Police. Those with a bankruptcy case or who have gone through bankruptcy must also provide notice, by certified or registered mail, with a return receipt, to Bankruptcy Court. Again, an Affidavit/Declaration of Service for each entity served must be filed before the final hearing.

Final Hearing and Granting of an Order of Name Change

During the final hearing, which is held before the Judge-in-Chambers, the application is granted or denied. If granted, the applicant is given certified copies of her Order of Name Change. With this order, she can then change her name on other identification. Generally, the entire process to change the name through the courthouse takes six to eight weeks.

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About the Author

Karen graduated from Southwestern Law School in 2003 with a Juris Doctor degree. She has worked for several law firms, providing legal services in various fields including immigration, housing, bankruptcy and family law.