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A maiden name, also called a birth name, typically refers to a woman’s last name before she is married. Depending on culture, individual preference and tradition, a man or woman may choose to adopt the last name of their spouse. The steps required to change a maiden name vary depending on the laws of the state or country in which a couple is a married or resides.
In the United States, a woman typically needs to produce an official copy of her marriage certificate to the Social Security Administration (SSA) office, Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and US Passport Agency. The SSA requires individuals to complete an SS-5 form in addition to providing a copy of the marriage certificate. Once all paper work is completed, the SSA notifies the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and provides a social security card listing the new name.
The DMV typically requires individuals to appear in person and present a copy of the marriage certificate in order to apply for a driver’s license that shows the name change. If a passport was issued less than a year from the marriage date, a DS-5504 form should be completed and returned to the agency with the old passport, two color photos and a copy of the marriage certificate. Otherwise, a DS-82 form should suffice along with all of the other required documentation.
Once the main forms of identification have been replaced, other agencies, such as banks, post offices, insurance companies and utility companies may be notified. If a man wishes to adopt his wife’s last name, he may encounter more legal complications. Depending on the state of residence, a man may need to apply for a name change through the court system and pay any associated legal fees.
In some countries, such as Belgium and Cambodia, women do not participate in the practice of changing their maiden name. France, Germany and England have similar procedures to name changing as that of the US. Generally, once proof of marriage has been presented, a woman may apply for new official documents bearing her husband's name.
Most couples who marry in Spanish-speaking countries do not legally change their maiden name, but their children often assume both the father's and mother’s last names. Similar customs are followed in Angola, Portugal and Brazil. In Chile, both the woman and man typically retain their legal names while their children often adopt the last name of the father.
@irontoenail - That's a really good idea. I've never seen that in real life, although I think I've read about couples who do that. It must be annoying when it comes to all the legal changing of the names though. It would definitely be worth changing them before you have the kids so that their naming will be relatively simple.
Another way of doing it that I've noticed recently is assigning a name to each gender. So, if you have a girl, she takes on the mother's maiden last name and if you have a boy he takes on the father's last name (or vice versa if you want).
That could be kind of confusing at school though, I guess, if your kids have different names, but then modern families tend to have weird naming conventions and convoluted origins anyway.
@umbra21 - My mother switched to my father's name and even after they split up she continues to use it. She told me she's used this name for most of her adult life and even after getting a divorce, her maiden name just seems like something from her childhood.
It might help that my parents aren't angry at each other or anything and that the split was friendly. And I know that my mother is careful to make sure people know she isn't married when she wants them to know.
It's funny though, I know one of my aunts really got into the feminism movement and actually changed her name to reflect both her mother and her father, even though her
own mother had taken her husband's name. Some people feel really strongly about it.
And I know other people who simply decide on which ever name is more attractive, or even go through pains to create a new name from both names so their children can all use that.
It is difficult to decide on how to deal with the name change in the modern era. I know it's tempting to try and keep both names, and sure, your kids will be fine with both names, but eventually one name will have to be chosen for the grandkids to carry, or they will be left with four names and the great-grandkids will have eight.
I think that people should just accept that using the husband's name isn't a sign of dominance, it's just a tradition.
My mother is still using her maiden name after over twenty years of marriage, but my brothers and sisters and I all use my father's name.
It's just an easy way of deciding which name to use, and we've never thought of it as being anything to do with social stigmas.
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