For many soon-to-be-wedded couples, the stress of getting married revolves around the big day, and the burden is off by the time the last dance wraps up. But for Pamela Capalad, the hardest part has only just begun.
Like two-thirds of women in America, the 31-year-old certified financial planner is hoping to take her partner's last name after her wedding ceremony in New Orleans. However, the Brookyn-based newlyweds were quick to discover that, even after you've said "I do" in front of an officiant, getting hitched in the legal sense involves yet more paperwork, dreaded trips to government agencies — and money.
Changing your name is a convoluted process that differs state by state, and you should brace yourself, because it can be a total pain in the ass. To give you an idea of the financial costs and time commitment involved, we've invited Capalad, who runs financial-planning service Brunch & Budget, to share her experience and de-mystify the many hidden price tags involved.
Getting your paperwork notarized when you file with the government is par for the course, and luckily, many states keep a law that caps the maximum charge. Going to a notary public in New York will cost you $2 per signature, and it costs a maximum of $10 in California. Capalad points out that since the fees are so low, most banks are willing to perform this service free of charge for their customers.
Civil Court Fees
Capalad is hoping to use her maiden name as a middle name — a trend that's been steadily on the rise in the last decade. However, New York state recognizes a name change by marriage only if she tacks on her married name as a hyphenated double-barrel, or if she drops her maiden name altogether. Since Capalad is hoping to essentially change her middle name and last name, she is required to appear in civil court and petition in front of a judge. The court fees vary by location — with some courts upstate charging up to $300 for an appearance — so Capalad opted for the relatively cheaper Kings Civil Court in Brooklyn. This will still cost her $65 to go in front of the judge, not to mention the weeks spent to schedule a court date.
Once the judge granted Capalad's name change request, she had to publish a name change notice in a local newspaper within 60 days, in order to make it a public record. You can only pick from a designated list of papers, and the publication costs differs depending on the title. As an example, The New York Times charges $500, while The New York Post charges $200. Capalad went with a smaller, local paper, which she paid $45 to run her notice.
Loss of Work Hours
"I feel like the real money loss is having to take time off work to do all of this," Capalad said. There are so many variables that affect how much time you need to get your name change request approved, so taking half-days or full days off work seems necessary. Since Capalad is self-employed, she has no annual leave to use for such trips. She estimates that she lost a total of 1.5 to two days of income between the civil court petition and the DMV visit.
Changing Your License/ State I.D.
After your request is approved and signed by the judge, there's no escaping one of the worst experiences known to man — a trip to the DMV. It will cost you $27 to change the name on your driver's license and $29 for your state I.D. Meanwhile, updating your Social Security Card is free.
If you've just received a new passport within the past year, you won't be charged for changing your name. If you've held your current passport for a year, the fee to renew is $165. A word of caution: You might want to hold off on any changes if you've already purchased a plane ticket under your maiden name: Under TSA's Secure Flight Program, the name you used to book the flight has to match completely with that of your photo I.D.
Name-Changing Kits (Optional)
With services like Hitchswitch and MissNowMrs claiming to help with changing your name starting at $29, it's tempting to go with the seemingly most hassle-free option. However, these sites don't file the forms for you; rather, they send you a completed version of everything — which you could just download from the state agencies anyway — and supply the envelopes for you to mail. If you hate filling out paperwork, this is a great tool to use, but we suggest considering your situation and making the judgment call to deliver your application by post or in person.