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How to Change Your Name After Marriage in Alabama

Changing My Name After Marriage in Alabama

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 7 per 1000 residents get married in Alabama every year. Traditionally, couples opt to assume a new name to reflect their change in marital status. However, name changes are ineffective without a marriage certificate. Although a marriage certificate will state a person's current and married names, it does it indicate coverture. Rather, it facilitates the name-change announcement process.

Generally, a formal name change is optional, and keeping one's maiden name does not affect the legal benefits and obligations conferred by marriage. Nevertheless, when an individual decides to change their name, they must ensure that all existing legal documents reflect the new name. If several documents contain different names, the individual risks losing access to services or rights until he/she updates the information. Since Alabama marriage records are a significant part of the name change process, interested and eligible persons may request these records from the courthouse where the license was issued before making their name change request.

How to Change Your Name After Marriage in Alabama

A person who wishes to change his/her name after marriage in Alabama must:

  • Obtain a Certified Marriage Certificate

Generally, certified marriage certificates are available at Probate Court, where a couple filed the marriage certificate to validate the marriage. Interested persons may also obtain a certified marriage certificate from the Alabama Department of Public Health in person, mail, or online. Comparing all the means of access, going to the local probate court or the local health department offers the fastest way to get a certified marriage certificate. Upon getting the certificate, the individual may initiate a name change on other legal documents, starting with his/her social security card.

  • Obtain a Court Order

While a marriage certificate is the primary document needed to change a name in Alabama, a court order from the local probate court is just as effective (Al. Code. § 12-13-1 (10)). However, the process is not as straightforward as getting a certified marriage certificate. For one, the person must obtain a certified criminal history record from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Then, the individual must go to the local probate court and file out the necessary forms regarding a name change. Other requirements include a valid ID card with the current name and a certified birth certificate. The individual will pay a filing fee, and the Clerk shall schedule a court hearing date where the individual goes before a probate court judge who grants or denies the petition. If granted, the judge will issue a decree confirming the name change. The individual must then obtain certified copies of the decree from the Court Clerk. A rule of thumb is to make as many copies as necessary.

  • File the Appropriate Paperwork with State and Federal Agencies

Armed with a certified marriage certificate or court order, the individual must notify the relevant state and federal agencies of the name change and obtain new identity documents reflecting the new name. The first of these is the social security card, which is often necessary to process a name change on other state and federal databases and identification/legal documents.

Persons who wish to perform a name change in Alabama may go the DIY route if armed with the correct information. However, because the process requires medium-term commitment and attention to detail, where a mistake can make or mar the entire process, many people hire a family law attorney or trusted name change service.

How to Update Your Social Security Card in Alabama?

Married persons who wish to assume the identity conferred by marriage must inform the Social Security Administration and apply for a corrected card for free. The process is not available online, and interested persons must visit the local social security office in person or send a mail request.

The agency has provided systematic instructions for accomplishing this objective on the official pamphlet, which also contains frequently asked questions about the process. Generally, updating a social security card after marriage goes thus:

  • Prepare the necessary documents, including a certified marriage certificate or certified name changing decree.
  • Attach an original identity document showing former name and age, i.e., driver's license or passport and certified birth certificate.
  • Download and complete the SS-5 application form for a new social security card (read the instructions carefully to submit a valid application).
  • Enclose the application form and identity documents in a self-addressed stamped envelope
  • Mail them to the nearest Social Security office (use zip code to find the closest office)

Upon receiving the request, the Social Security Administration will process the new card with two (2) to four (4) weeks, depending on administrative workload. Applying in person helps reduce the risk of losing original documents in the mail. The requester may also choose to pick up the new card in person (provide a daytime number for correspondence).

Considering how long it takes to process a new social security card and its importance in getting a new driver's license, consider starting as soon as possible.

How to Get a New Driver's License in Alabama?

A person who wishes to get a new driver's license following a name change must visit the local probate judge, license commissioner's office, or an ALEA Driver License Office to get a duplicate license (use interactive map).

As usual, the requester must present valid name change documents, i.e., certified marriage certificate or certified name changing decree from the probate court. The licensing office will also require the new social security card as proof that he/she has completed a name change with the Social Security Administration. Other requirements depend on the requester's residential or citizenship status. Generally, a new license costs $36.25 and along with a $5.00 test fee. Payment is in the form of credit cards only.

How to Update Your Insurance Information in Alabama?

A person who has legally changed his/her name must visit or call the local office of the insurance company. If he/she enrolled through an employer or third party, the individual must contact human resources or the insurance broker/agent. Interested persons may search for an insurance company through the Alabama Department of Insurance or use this search tool. Either way, the individual must present proof of legal name change, including a certified marriage certificate or decree changing name.

Many insurance service providers also allow concerned persons to complete the process online, e.g., Blue Cross Blue Shield. Others require the client to complete and submit a name change form with the Department of Insurance.

Where Do I Go to Change My Last Name in Alabama?

For most persons, signing a marriage certificate with a new last name suffices. However, a person may change his/her last name by obtaining a name changing decree from the probate court in the county of residence. To accomplish this:

  • Obtain a certified criminal history from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.
  • Gather acceptable photo ID, e.g., driver's license, passport, and a certified birth certificate.
  • Visit the local probate court (see directory).
  • Complete a petition for name change by filing the necessary forms.
  • Attach a statement declaring the reason for the name change (ask the court staff for an acceptable format).
  • Attach the identity documents and certified birth certificate.
  • Pay the filing fee and get the scheduled hearing date from the Clerk.
  • Attend the court hearing and explain the reason for the name change to the probate judge.
  • If the probate judge grants the petition, the judge shall issue a decree confirming the name change.
  • Finally, the individual must obtain certified copies of the decree from the Court Clerk.

How to Update Information with Alabama Mortgage and Utility Companies?

Regarding separate and marital properties, Alabama is a common-law state. Thus, husbands and wives have separate legal and property rights. In turn, this means keeping one's old name on the mortgage deed makes the property a separate property unaffected during a divorce.

However, in the event of death, the individual's spouse or children cannot legally claim the property without making a probate case out of it. Also, a person who wishes to sell, refinance or get a new homeowner insurance policy will need to update the name on the mortgage to match identity documents, e.g., social security card and driver's license.

A person who wishes to update mortgage information must:

  • Obtain a certified marriage certificate or certified decree changing name.
  • Fill out the quitclaim deed with the old name as the grantor and the new name as the grantee.
  • Include a legal description of the home, including address, map, tract, and page of the parcel (see original title for these details).
  • Send a copy of the documents to the mortgage lender.
  • Notarize the quitclaim deed.
  • Submit the documents to the local county assessor's office.

The process is different for utility companies. Generally, a person who wishes to update his/her name with any utility company must call the company and explain the situation: "I recently got married and wish to update my name on the utility bill." Many companies can make this change over the phone or online via the account settings dashboard.

However, most companies will mail a change of account holder information form to the individual's residential address. The requester must complete this form with the new name, attach a certified marriage certificate or certified decree changing name, and mail it in a self-addressed stamped envelope. Upon receiving the required documents, the utility company shall update the information and notify the customer.

What Documents Do I Need to Change My Name after Marriage?

The documents required for a name change in Alabama depend on the county. For example, the Jefferson County probate court and Montgomery County probate court have different guidelines and requirements for a name change. Nevertheless, there are documents common to all name change processes in Alabama. These include:

  • A certified birth certificate.
  • A certified marriage certificate.
  • A valid driver's license or photo ID.
  • A valid social security card.
  • Proof of residency, e.g., mortgage records, tax card, and utility bill.

How to Get Certified Copies of Your Marriage License in Alabama?

In August 2019, the Alabama legislature abolished getting a marriage license to solemnize a marriage in Alabama (Ala. Act 2019-340). And under this Act, probate courts no longer issue marriage licenses in Alabama. Instead, a marriage certificate is the only necessary document to validate a marriage in Alabama. Persons who wish to obtain certified copies of the marriage certificate must contact the probate court that issued the marriage certificate or the Alabama Department of Public Health. Depending on how/where a person gets the document – in person, mail, or online, a certified marriage certificate costs as low as $15.00. But it may go for as much as $98.50.

How to Change Your Name After Marriage

A reliable alternative for obtaining vital records are third party websites. These are non-governmental aggregate sites that process record requests in a seamless, timely manner. While obtaining records from third-party sources is substantially easier than sourcing them from government-run repositories, the records and information contained in these sites may vary since they are privately-owned and independent of government sources.

How to Get a New Passport in Alabama?

Following a name change, a person must request a new passport from the US Department of State or use valid travel documents for local trips. The Department of State has outlined guidelines and requirements for getting a new passport and special instructions for name changes.

Generally, the requester must

  • Download and fill out the applicable application form.
  • Prepare and attach his/her most recent US passport.
  • Attach the certified marriage certificate or decree changing name.
  • Attach one color passport photo (see photo requirements).
  • Enclose the documents in a self-addressed envelope.
  • Send the application form supporting documents via USPS. UPS, FedEx, or DHL.

Upon receiving the application, the Department of State shall process the request and issue a new passport within ten (10) to twelve (12) weeks. Under extenuating circumstances, a requester may arrange for expedited delivery. Persons with a successful application will receive the new passport in the mail and the old passport (with a hole punched through).

In the meantime, a person may use his/her social security card as travel documents. However, travel documents are limited to domestic travels, traveling to Canada, Mexico, US territories, and closed-loop cruise. Also, the individual must present a certified birth certificate as proof of citizenship before he/she may enter the United States upon return.

How to Change your Name on Bank Accounts in Alabama?

Persons who have received a certified marriage certificate, a new social security card, and a driver's license have the basic requirements for updating bank accounts and other financial records.

Still, a basic rule of thumb is to check with the financial institution about specific requirements and procedures. Most banks require the individual to visit a local branch with the necessary documents and a letter requesting the change. Persons who use checkbooks may need to present the old one and ask for a new checkbook reflecting the new name. The same applies to credit cards and debit cardholders.

Persons employed at the time of marriage must forward the new banking information to his/her employer by completing a new Form W-4. This update is essential for tax purposes, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Although not as pressing as the Form W-4, the individual may later perform re-verification with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) using a new Form I-9 (see the difference).

Furthermore, the individual must review his/her financial statements to identify automatic payments on credit and debit cards. He/she must then contact the service provider and submit the updated financial details reflecting the new name. Most service providers have simplified this process and make it available online – on the user's dashboard.

How Long Does It Take to Change Your Name in Alabama After Marriage?

It takes a minimum of two (2) weeks to assume the new name lawfully even with a marriage certificate. A marriage certificate containing the individual's married name does not make the name change automatic. Nevertheless, it is not a crime for others to address one with the new name stated on the marriage certificate.

How Long Does It Take to Change Your Name in Alabama?

At least two (2) weeks. A person retains the identity associated with the old name until the social security administration issues him/her a new social security card. Arguably, a court decree changing name should suffice to assume the new name with friends, family, acquaintances, and for non-official purposes. However, only a new social security card makes bearing the new name lawful for official purposes.

It is possible to change one's name without help. However, because the process of changing one's name can be overwhelming, interested persons often hire a family law attorney or a trusted name change service to streamline this process. Nevertheless, one must know that the cost of performing a name change may run into several hundreds of dollars – even with accurate DIY instructions.

A rule of thumb is to make as many copies of the certified marriage certificate as necessary. Doing this enables the individual to process multiple legal changes at the same time since most agencies have the same basic requirements.