TN 15 (06-13)

PR 02712.020 Kentucky

A. PR 13-080 State Laws in Region IV Concerning Changing a First Name in the Event of Marriage

DATE: February 17, 2012

1. SYLLABUS

SSA does not accept a marriage document from the states of South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and North Carolina as acceptable evidence for changing an individual’s first name in the event of marriage because these states do not have statutes specifically allowing an individual to change his or her first name in the event of marriage.

2. OPINION

We conclude SSA should not recognize marriage as a valid name-change event in South Carolina, for a number holder wishing to change her first name because South Carolina does not have a statute expressly allowing a first-name change in the event of marriage.  Most of the states in this region follow the common law rule allowing a person to change his or her first name in the event of marriage (or at any other time). However, Social Security policy requires a state statute expressly allowing change of one’s first name based on a marriage, before a marriage can provide a basis for first-name change for Social Security purposes.

BACKGROUND

Kelly , the number holder (NH), married Jerry in South Carolina on August 9, 2011. On November 7, 2011, NH filed an SS-5 application to change her name from Kelly to Samantha. In support of her application for a name change, NH submitted a copy of her South Carolina marriage certificate dated August 12, 2011 The marriage certificate does not specify the new name NH requests.

, a copy of her current Social Security card issued in the name of Kelly, and a copy of her South Carolina driver’s license issued in the name of Kelly .  According to the information we received, NH did not provide any evidence that she legally changed her first name from Kelly to Samantha.

DISCUSSION

For SSA enumeration purposes, a legal name consists of a first name and a last name. See Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RM 10212.001(A).  SSA recognizes a number of events as the basis for a name change, including marriage. See POMS RM 10212.010.  To process a name-change request, SSA must obtain evidence of a name-change event, evidence of a new name, and evidence of the number holder’s identity. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act requires SSA to “establish minimum standards for verification of documents or records submitted by an individual to establish eligibility for an original or replacement social security card . . . .” Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Pub. L. No. 108-458, § 7213(a)(1)(B); see POMS RM 10210.001, RM 10210.405(B).  "In name change situations, the applicant must submit the name change document (the document that shows the name change event)." POMS RM 10210.001See POMS RM 10212.015(A). SSA generally considers an acceptable name-change document evidence of the name-change event. See POMS RM 10212.015(B). In determining whether the document submitted is acceptable for a name change, SSA does not follow common law. See id. Instead, SSA generally follows State statutory law. See id.

SSA obtains the new name from the name-change document except when the name change is based upon an event such as a marriage. See POMS RM 10212.015(C). "Marriage certificates, souvenir certificates, and certified copies of marriage records are considered marriage documents and acceptable evidence of a name change." POMS RM 10212.25.  SSA will accept a name-change document based on marriage as evidence of the new name for the Social Security card if the new name can be derived from the document. See POMS RM 10212.055(B). However, SSA generally only permits changes to the last name using the names shown on the marriage document. See id. SSA will change an individual's first and last name as shown on a name-change document (e.g., a marriage certificate) only if State statutory law states the name-change document is acceptable evidence of a change to the individual's first and last name. See id. (Exception). 

Therefore, we researched the statutory law of the States in Region IV to determine whether each State would recognize a marriage certificate or other marriage document as acceptable evidence to change an individual's first name.  Below is a discussion for each State, presented alphabetically. We discuss NH's specific situation in the South Carolina section.

ALABAMA:

We did not find any Alabama statute that expressly allows an individual to change his or her name based on marriage. Alabama follows the common law principle allowing a person to adopt what name he or she pleases, if the change is not for fraudulent purposes. See State v. Taylor, 415 So. 2d 1043, 1046-48 (Ala. 1982). Alabama also allows a person to petition for a change of name in probate court. See Ala. Code § 12-13-1(b)(10) (2011).  A person may change his name by filing with the court a signed written declaration stating his old and new names. See id.; Esco v. Alabama, 179 So. 2d 766, 770 (Ala. 1965). Because Alabama does not have a statute expressly allowing a person to change his or her first or full name in the event of marriage, an Alabama marriage document would not be acceptable evidence to allow SSA to change a number holder's first name.

FLORIDA:

We did not find any Florida statute that expressly allows an individual to change his or her name based on marriage.  Florida follows the common law by allowing a person to adopt a name other than his or her own, in the absence of a fraudulent or wrongful purpose. See Isom v. Circuit Court of the Tenth Judicial Circuit, 437 So. 2d 732, 733 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1983).  Florida also allows a person to petition for a change of name in the chancery court in the county in which he or she resides. See Fla. Stat. § 68.07 (2011). “A facially sufficient petition for name change should be granted in the absence of evidence of a wrongful or fraudulent purpose.” In re Name Change Petition of M~, 892 So. 2d 1214, 1214 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2005). Because Florida does not have a statute expressly allowing a person to change his or her first or full name in the event of marriage, a Florida marriage document would not be acceptable evidence to allow SSA to change a number holder's first name

 GEORGIA:

Georgia requires an applicant to provide his or her full present name when applying for a marriage license. See Ga. Code Ann. § 19-3-33 (West 2011). The application also directs applicants to designate the surnames they will use as their legal surnames after the marriage is consummated. See Ga. Code Ann § 19-3-33.1 (West 2011). The spouse may use as his or her legal surname or the name of his or her spouse. Id.  Georgia law also allows a person who wants to change his or her name to file a petition in the superior court of the county of his or her residence. See Ga. Code Ann § 19-12-1 (West 2011). Georgia law specifically does not allow a person to change his or her name to fraudulently deprive another of any right under the law. See Ga. Code Ann § 19-12-4 (West 2011).  The superior court may grant or deny an application for name change based solely on a sound legal discretion. See Binford v. Reid, 63 S.E.2d 345, 346 (Ga. Ct. App. 1951). Accordingly, an individual applying for a marriage license in Georgia may change his or her surname, but Georgia statutes do not appear to allow an individual to change his or her first name when applying for a marriage license.  Thus, because Georgia does not have a statute expressly allowing a person to change his or her first name in the event of marriage, a Georgia marriage document would not be acceptable evidence to allow SSA to change a number holder's first name. 

KENTUCKY:

We did not find any Kentucky statute that expressly allows an individual to change his or her name based on marriage.  Kentucky "recognizes the common law right of any person to informally change their name by public declaration." Burke v. Hammonds, 586 S.W.2d 307, 308 (Ky. Ct. App. 1979). Kentucky also allows any person at least eighteen years of age to change his or her name in the district court of the county in which he or she resides. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 401.010 (West 2011). This statute does not abrogate the common law, but merely insures that a permanent record is made of the name change. See B~, 586 S.W.2d at 308.  A Kentucky marriage license must include vital information for each party, including the full name of each party. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 402.100(1) (2011). The marriage certificate also requires a statement including the names of the persons married. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 402.100(2)(a) (West 2011).  Neither the marriage license nor the marriage certificate appear to require the names of the parties after the marriage is completed. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 402.100 (West 2011).   Because Kentucky does not have a statute expressly allowing a person to change his or her first name in the event of marriage, a Kentucky marriage document would not be acceptable evidence to allow SSA to change a number holder's first name

MISSISSIPPI:

We did not find any Mississippi statute that expressly allows an individual to change his or her name based on marriage.  Mississippi law provides, "at common law, any person of mature years may voluntarily change his name, without necessity of statute, provided the change was not for fraudulent purpose and does not interfere with the rights of others." Marshall v. Marshall, 93 So. 2d 822, 826 (Miss. 1957). Mississippi also allows a person to petition the chancery court to alter his or her names, but the statute is silent on what evidence, if any, is required for a person to change his or her name. See Miss. Code Ann. § 93-17-1 (West 2011). An application to obtain a Mississippi marriage license requires the parties to include their names and other information, but Mississippi law does not require that the application or the marriage license or certificate include the names the parties would use after the marriage. See Miss. Code Ann. § 93-1-5(a) (West 2011). Because Mississippi does not have a statute expressly allowing a person to change his or her first name in the event of marriage, a Mississippi marriage document would not be acceptable evidence to allow SSA to change a number holder's first name

NORTH CAROLINA:

We did not find any North Carolina statute that expressly allows an individual to change his or her name based on marriage. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 51-8; 51-16 (West 2011). North Carolina follows the common law by allowing a person to adopt another name at will, absent a fraudulent or illegal purpose. See State of North Carolina v. Johnson, 690 S.E. 2d 707, 709 (N.C. Ct. App. 2010). North Carolina also provides a judicial process for a name change. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 101-2 (West 2011); however, this procedure does not abrogate the common law. See In re M~, 216 S.E. 2d 147, 150 (N.C. 1975).  An application to obtain a North Carolina marriage license requires the full names of both applicants, but does not identify the names the parties will use after the marriage is completed. See N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 51-8, 51-16 (West 2011).  Because North Carolina does not have a statute expressly allowing a person to change his or her first or full name in the event of marriage, a North Carolina marriage document would not be acceptable evidence to allow SSA to change a number holder's first name

SOUTH CAROLINA:

We did not find any South Carolina statute that expressly allows an individual to change his or her name based on marriage. See S.C. Code Ann. § 20-1-220 (2011).  South Carolina follows the common law by allowing a person to change his name without the intervention of Court or Legislature. See Brayton v. Beall, 53 S.E. 641, 642 (S.C. 1906) (holding court ordered name changes fix the time of a name change with some certainty, but they do not affect the common law right of a person to change his or her name). South Carolina also allows a person to petition for a change of name in family court. See S.C. Code Ann. § 15-49-10 (2011).  An application to obtain a South Carolina marriage license requires the names of both applicants, but does not identify the names the parties will use after the marriage is completed. See S.C. Code Ann. § 20-1-220 (2011). Because South Carolina does not have a statute expressly allowing a person to change his or her first or full name in the event of marriage, a South Carolina marriage document would not be acceptable evidence to allow SSA to change a number holder's first name. Consequently, NH’s marriage certificate would not be acceptable evidence of a valid namechange event and SSA would not be able to process a first name change for NH. 

TENNESSEE:

We did not find any Tennessee statute that expressly allows an individual to change his or her name based on marriage. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-103 (West 2011). Tennessee follows the common law by allowing a person to use any name he or she chooses, without fraudulent purposes. See In re J~, 87 S.W. 3d 513, 515 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2002). Tennessee also allows a person to petition for a change of name in the circuit, probate, and county courts. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-8-101 (West 2011). An application to obtain a Tennessee marriage license requires the names of both applicants, but does not identify the names the parties will use after the marriage is completed. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-103 (West 2011). Because Tennessee does not have a statute expressly allowing a person to change his or her first or full name in the event of marriage, a Tennessee marriage document would not be acceptable evidence to allow SSA to change a number holder's first name.

CONCLUSION

NH’s marriage certificate is not an acceptable document for changing NH's first name because South Carolina does not have a statute that expressly provides for such a change in the event of marriage.  Additionally, SSA should not recognize marriage documents from the other Region IV States as acceptable evidence for changing an individual's first name because these States also do not have statutes specifically allowing an individual to change his or her first name in the event of marriage.  

Sincerely,
Mary Ann Sloan

Regional Chief Counsel

By: ___________________

 Natalie K. Jemison

 Assistant Regional Counsel

All County Letter 08-25.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1502712020
PR 02712.020 - Kentucky - 06/21/2013
Batch run: 07/06/2016
Rev:06/21/2013