California's Stupid Marriage Name Change Law


Boy, this is just the week of dumb laws. Back when I got married (three years ago next week!) and Dr. M was going through the process of changing her name, I noticed that the marriage certificate was all the evidence she needed to get new ID cards, but that if I wanted to take her last name I needed to get a court order. I remarked that this was stupid, archaic, grossly discriminatory, almost certainly illegal, and quite surprising.

Apparently the ACLU agrees, and are suing to get the policy changed. It's an interesting story, particularly the part where Mr. Bijon goes to the DMV and the ladies poo-poo him. Props to Milbank for working some pro bono action in support of the downtrodden husbands.

Personally, I tried to talk Dr. M into coming up with an entirely new last name for both of us (my last name means "little arrogant person" in Gaelic, so I figured a change might be good), something cool like "McManus." But it never panned out. I'll just have to hope that we have twins so we can name them Tomax and Xamot.



This is similar to a law in DC where any child born in the district must have the father's last name (if a father is listed on the birth certificate.) If you want the child to have a different last name, say, the MOTHER's last name - you have to take that up with the courts. There was some talk of changing it - I wonder if anything ever come of it.

Lesson learned: don't list a father on the birth cert! ;)

Except why would a man ever change his last name to his wife's? Surely you jest. Very funny Sir.

Doesn't California law (and federal law, too, actually) still allow you to change your name via common law (usage) name change? I was under the impression that California Civil Code 1279.5 pretty much stated that it's your right to change your name at will.

I took my wife's last name when I got married in Arkansas. The marriage license(which is the SAME as the certificate in arkansas) was all the was needed as proof of name change(the license it's self doesn't even have a space for bride or groom to enter their new last names, it just list your old names as being married to each other) I didn't even have to change it on the social security card, just showed the DMV there my marriage certificate and out-of-state ID, they issued me a new ID with the new name right there on the spot.

Do you know if California State Law allows the bride (and even the husband) to take on a completely different name, too? What if they both hate their names and want something different?

I would imagine that if you list what you want your new name to be on the certificate, that they shouldn't care. I'm curious because I hate my maiden name, and don't love my husband-to-be's name, but I've used a common name of my step-father's, and I'd like to change it to that.

Thanks! :)

Try changing your name in Quebec! You are not actaully allowed to take your husband's name after marriage, or change for really any reason. You basically need to be a victim of abuse, have a stalker or move out of the province for more that 12 months to change your name.

In contrast to all other provinces where name change can be done via mail. So the moral of the story is that if you are born in Quebec, move to Ontario for a year, then when you move back to Quebec and have a new passport the provincial government is forced to change your name. Inconsistent and stupid!

Gen Dennis,

Any posiive outcome on this? Pity for Quebec residents. This is strange though that even women are not allowed to change their last names after marriage. I wonder why...

If you want the child to have a different last name, say, the mother's last name - you have to take that up with the courts.

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This page contains a single entry by hb published on December 15, 2006 8:44 AM.

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