Can I Choose My Family Name?

Before or right after tying the knot, many wonder if they can represent the big event by changing their family name. Legally speaking, anyone has the ability to choose his or her family name. Usually, a name change is done by people going through a significant life event, especially couples getting married. Sometimes individuals spend long hours deciding on whether or not they should commit to a change.

There are many benefits and downsides to actively changing and choosing your family name. They represent different needs and costs concerning social ties, professional life, and personal satisfaction. This article outlines the different reasons why you may want to choose your family name, and the legal process involved in doing so.

Why Would You Change Your Family Name?

Traditionally, people getting married (or divorced) go through a common name change process. The wife chooses to change her surname to the name of her new husband. In the event of a divorce, the woman often reverts back to her original maiden surname.

Nowadays, there are many options for married couples. While some couples choose to retain their birth surnames to preserve their professional or even social identity, others choose family names more creatively. Someone with the last name of “MacMillan” marrying someone with the last name “Smith” can choose a combination of the two –“MacSmith”. Couples can also choose to make an entirely different and unrelated family name, which can confuse some people.

More moderate couples can choose to hyphenate to equally represent both parties, while others do the reverse of tradition (the man takes the name of the woman). Often, these couples consider social and professional standings.

There are other cases entirely unrelated to marriage or divorce. Someone entering a professional field or becoming more prominent at work might choose to change an embarrassing family name. You can also choose to change a family name that is difficult to spell or pronounce.

All of these reasons are valid and reasonable. Depending on where you live, the process of choosing can be as quick and easy as introducing yourself to people consistently with the new name. In other instances, you may need to make an appearance in court.

How Do You Change Your Family Name?

Getting legal advice is helpful to ensure you won’t be questioned by authorities or troubled by other bureaucratic problems. A name change has implications in your ease in international travel and guardianship over your own children.

A legal team can advice you when changing your family name is not allowed. These exceptions include:

  • Changing your name to escape a debt
  • Changing your name to commit or facilitate a crime
  • Choosing a family name that is obscene, or contains a slur

A family attorney can advise you on specific state marriage laws, court proceedings for changing the name, and ways to change important legal documents, such as government-issued ID cards, your passport, and health insurance papers.

If you do choose to commit to a family name change, do it without regrets and worries. Contact a trusted family attorney today!

Written by Bandre, Hunt and Snider in Jefferson City, MO. Bandre, Hunt and Snider are the best attorneys Jefferson City MO have to offer.