Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Free Advice on How to Change Your Name After Marriage

I did this all wrong. I am putting my suggestions into print for other women who choose to change their names after marriage.  Hopefully others will have fewer hassles than I did. I am located in the state of Virginia, so my advice particularly pertains here.

Once you have tied the knot, you will need your marriage certificate, i.e., the formal document with a seal. My employer is the only organization so far that has accepted a photocopy. The Social Security Administration, the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and one of my banks all require the original. I also belong to an out-of-state credit union that requires a copy of the new driver's license.

Besides the need to have the correct documentation, it is most important to get your name changed on your most important documentation in this order:
  1. Social Security Card,
  2. Division of Motor Vehicles for driver's license or whatever you use for official documentation, then
  3. Banks and employer
  4. Anyone else. This website has a good checklist.
I made the mistake, in my enthusiasm for changing my name, of starting with my bank, figuring I could easily get new identification from the DMV, which has more convenient hours for me than the Social Security Office. Once I changed my name at the bank, I was warned that I could not easily cash checks inside the bank, for example, without new identification. I figured the DMV would be easy.


I went to the Virginia DMV with all the documentation it requires according to its website and then some.  Its interactive guide was especially helpful, and the clerks seemed impressed that I had all the documents I would need. I passed the eye test, paid my fee, had my picture taken, but the license would not print. Apparently, Virginia DMV has its computer communicate with Social Security's computer, and since the information there differed, DMV couldn't issue a license, no matter what documentation I had brought.

Now they tell me!

At least they refunded my money.

The supervisor offered to fax some of my documentation to Richmond, the state capitol, so an expert there could launch an investigation into my identity. But nobody at the DMV could give me any timeline for when I could get my license nor any idea of what the process would be once the fax was sent.

Would I get a call? Nobody knew.

I asked them to fax away. So far I've heard nothing.

I went to my local Social Security Office about a week later with the documents listed on its website. The irony is that Social Security requires less documentation than the DMV does. Another part of the website tells you that in most areas you can mail your application in, but since you need to send an original of your marriage certificate, I felt more comfortable going in person. There is an online office locator to help you find a convenient office or "Social Security Card Center" depending on where you live.

The good news is that the new card is free.

 The bad news is that the hours our local office is open are most inconvenient for working stiffs like me: 9 AM to 3:30 PM. Plus the place is busy, you have to take a ticket and wait a long time to get called, and you feel like an impersonal number until then. Be sure bring something to read or otherwise entertain yourself while you wait.

The nice man who eventually called my number, checked my paperwork, and changed my name for me knew about the potential problem with DMV, but he couldn't tell me any more about the computer-communication process or give me any definite timeline for returning to the DMV. He did hazard an educated guess. He said the new name would show up on the Social Security computers by the next business day, but he'd give it a few days before heading back to the DMV just in case.

Wish me luck!

**Update for 5/25/12: I went a few days later back to the DMV after I fixed things at Social Security, and everything turned out fine.

Be sure to change all your health insurance, dental, etc., cards, as soon as you have taken care of Social Security and your license. I had trouble making a doctor's appointment because the name on my i.d. and the insurance card didn't match. This could be awful in an emergency.

My Bank has given me the most trouble so far. It took me three trips and two times waiting in line to see a customer service person to change my name. Then, after I had all the paperwork done, weeks later, and AFTER I'd received my new ATM/debit card and checks, THEN the bank apparently lost my documentation! So I've gotten a call and a nastygram demanding I "provide the original or a certified copy of the legal document for this name change..." within 5 business days. Their letter was dated May 16, and I didn't even receive it until the 22nd. This is for documentation I have already provided, mind you!

Needless to say, I plan to bank elsewhere in the near future.

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