The Name Equality Act: California

California NewlywedsThe Name Equality ActName change is certainly tricky in all 50 states (with each state allocating their own laws on what constitutes a married name change versus a legal name change, etc.), you may be shocked to find out that in California couples can decide to make up a new last name to take after marriage thanks to the Name Change Equality Act*.  While this is not a new law by any means, it’s definitely worthy of talking about!  The state of California allows one or both applicants to elect to change their middle and/or last names by which they wish to be known as after they are officially married.  That means if you are planning to marry in CA and haven’t already applied for your Marriage License, this opportunity applies to you, so now you and your future spouse have a decision to make! Will you take his last name?  Will he take your last name?  Will the two of you have a combination of your two last names?  Decisions, decisions!

What you need to know:  Only at the time of applying for your Marriage License can you elect to make these changes.  Once your name is listed on your Marriage License (however you choose to list it during the application process), that is how it will later appear on your Marriage Certificate (the legal document used as proof of your marriage issued by your state).  You cannot decide to add or amend this information after your Marriage License has been issued without having to obtain a Legal Name Change through your local superior court system; which can be costly, so it is important to put some thought into the name you will list on your Marriage License Application.  After all, this is the name you will ultimately be known as in the future!

Each of you can elect to have one of the following last names:

The current last name of either spouse

The last name of either spouse given at birth

A name combining into a single last name all or a segment of the current last name or the last name of either spouse given at birth

Each of you can elect to have one of the following middle names:

The current last name of either spouse

The last name of either spouse given at birth

A hyphenated version of the current middle name and current last name of the person or spouse

A hyphenated version of the current middle name and the birth last name of the person or spouse

Confused yet?!  Here’s an example:

Woman: Jane Marie Doe

Man: John Robert Smith

They can become Jane Smith Doe (and John Smith Doe), Jane Marie-Doe Smith (and John Robert-Doe Smith), Jane Marie Doesmith (and John Robert Doesmith), etc.

Do you and your spouse share a combination last name?  Was your family supportive of your choice to make up a new last name?  Tell us your story…

*This law currently only applies to couples marrying in California and to all California Marriage Licenses issued on or after January 1, 2009.

0 thoughts on “The Name Equality Act: California

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Name Equality Act: California | Newlywed Blog by the Name Change Experts at --

    1. Danielle Tate

      Hi Alvin! First name change is something you must go through the court system to affect. I would check out our Legal Name Change page for more details.

  2. Crystal

    Hi my fiancé and I recently applied for a license (two weeks ago) but they told us since he has two last names (his fathers and Moms) that I was required to take both his last names and not just one and I had to drop my last name. I didn’t want to but I agreed. Anyway, my wedding isn’t til the end of November. Is it possible to try and change this whole mess? Please reply!

  3. LuAnn

    My fiance is half Japanese and half Chinese. He has a Japanese middle name and a Chinese last name. He and I both resonate with Japanese culture more so than Chinese culture. We would like to change both of our last names to his Japanese middle name instead of his Chinese last name. Is that possible in California?


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