Considerations for Deciding Whether to Change Your Legal Name Once Married

There are several considerations that must be made before getting married. Though there are major questions involved such as where you both will live, how many children you want (if any), how you will raise your children, and what the dynamics of your relationship will be, there are also smaller issues that may still impact your lives in ways you do not know. One of these issues is whether or not you and/or your spouse will change to a common married name once married. If you are considering getting married, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process and discuss with you the consequences of a name change, how to create a prenuptial agreement, and other issues that arise before marriage.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Changing Your Legal Name

There are many advantages and disadvantages when changing your legal name. The following are some advantages of changing your name to a shared, married name:

  • You like your spouse’s last name and/or you dislike your last name: Though this is simply a preference, sometimes the changing of a name to your spouse’s name if you like that name (or dislike your previous last name) can bring a cathartic reaction. Your last name may be harder to spell or pronounce, or your name may carry a negative association, and people may treat you differently as a result.
  • You want to reflect the coming together of you and your spouse: Sometimes in marriage there may be very little that changes to your lifestyle once you say “I Do”. However, when you get married, there may be a desire to show the world that you are now a family unit, and a shared name bands you and your spouse as a family and as a team.

There are also many disadvantages to changing your name such as:

  • You have made a career reputation that is based around your name: If you have made a professional impact on the world, changing your name may mean changing your brand. It can confuse clients who may not know you by another name and you could potentially lose business as a result. Your personal identity rests on your name and if your name has clout, changing it could lose some of that reputational pull.
  • You love your last name and/or dislike your spouse’s name: Preference is key. Confidence stems from your name and the personal identity associated with it.
  • You are the last descendant of your family line: Losing your old name may mean passing on an inheritance of ancestry and history.
Florida Legal Requirements When Changing Your Name

If you or your spouse have decided to change your name, Florida law requires:

  • You must be a resident of Florida and live in the county where you are trying to change your name.
  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • You must submit fingerprints along with your petition for name change and submit to a state and national criminal history check to ensure that the change in name is not for other purposes.
  • You must let the Court know if you have previously changed your name and where you changed it.
  • The court will have discretion as to the name change and the motive behind the change. The court will most closely review a petition to change a name if the petitioner:
  • Is on the sexual offender’s registry;
  • Has filed for bankruptcy or owes a money judgment to a judgment creditor;
  • Has been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a criminal offense; and/or
  • Has had his/her civil rights suspended and whether the civil rights were fully restored to the petitioner, among other factors.

When doing a family name change, the petition for the name change may include the spouses and the children within one petition. If one parent is looking to change his/her child’s name, the other parent will be notified and served documentation.

Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation regarding upcoming marriage and any legal issues that may arise as a result.