How to Change Your Name after Marriage in Common Law Marriages

Common Law Married Name ChangeSome of you may be asking yourself what is a common law marriage*? It’s when a couple has lived together for at least 7 years, right?  Actually…no, that’s a MYTH. A common law marriage is union (between a man and a woman who have not been formally married) recognized by a state based on that particular state’s laws.  After some research, I found that not all 50 of the United States recognize common law marriages. As a matter of fact not even half do!  States that recognize common law marriages (in some form or another) include: Alabama, Colorado, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.  Each state has its own requirements to meet for a union to be defined as common law marriage; which is precisely why it is important to take a look at your state’s laws to see if you are indeed in a valid common law marriage according to the state in which you reside.

The next order of business is your name change.  Unfortunately, since there is no formal ceremony for common law marriages (and no Marriage Certificate) it is not the same process as changing your name after marriage and requires you to complete an additional step in order to legally change your name.  Federal courts rule that a name change at will or by “common law” is perfectly legal under the U.S. Constitution—meaning I can call myself Rainbow Bright if I want to**! However; in order to make the name change “official” you will need to take it one step further than just assuming your new name; which means a legal name change through your local county court system.  Please contact that office directly for further information on obtaining a legal name change.

Once you have a name change order (legal permission to officially change your name) you will notify each agency of your name change by submitting the proper paperwork.  Each agency will process your name change requests and issue new state and government documents (i.e. Social Security card, Driver’s License, Passport, etc.) in that new name.   Sounds like going from Miss to a hassle, doesn’t it? This is where the married name change service can help you! While we can’t obtain a name change order for you, once you have it you are able to use our service to help complete your paperwork and provide you with the step-by-step filing instructions to notify each agency of your new name.  We promise to make it as painless and stress-free as possible!

Have you changed your name at will or by “common law?” Did you have trouble obtaining new state and government documents without a name change order?  Help us and our readers further understand the process by leaving a comment below.

*Common Law Marriage is not available to same-sex couples.  Lists of states and requirements are courtesy of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

**There is no way that I’m changing my name to Rainbow Bright…just sayin’

0 thoughts on “How to Change Your Name after Marriage in Common Law Marriages

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention How to Change Your Name after Marriage in Common Law Marriages | Newlywed Blog by the Name Change Experts at --

  2. Vanessa

    That is a great blog post, thanks for explaining a confusing area! It seems like the name change process in the US is quite different than here in Australia.

  3. Gina

    I have been common law in Ohio since 1985. Grandfathered in pre-1991. I took his name in 1985. Have done all of my legal documents, banking, work documents etc. under this name. No problem until post 9/11. Then I get a notice from the IRS that my name does not match my SS number. Now, I have an affidavit that we both signed and had it notorized recognizing us as common law and living as husband and wife since 1985. I went to get my name changed on my SS card and they wouldn’t accept the affidavit because the only choice for common law on the SSI database was Texas and Oklahoma, none for Ohio. He told me to go to the court house and do a legal name change. My issue is this…my drivers license states my name as is, under his last name has always been this way since 1985, but my SS card states my given name. So, how can I do a name change if my drivers license states the name that I am changing it to and that I haven’t gone under my given name since 1985? Doesn’t make sense. If I put my maiden name as the previous name then that is wrong because I am going under the current name. Does anyone have any advice on this? I wonder if the court can recognize the common law marriage officially instead of doing the legal name change. Under my taxes post 9/11, I have to file under maiden name-current name and the same goes for my investments and insurance documents.


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