Do You Legally Have to Get a New SS Card When You Get Married?

By Laura Payet

Do You Legally Have to Get a New SS Card When You Get Married?

By Laura Payet

Your Social Security card displays your name and Social Security number (SSN), the nine digits uniquely associated with you and used by government agencies and businesses alike to identify you. Your SSN is assigned at birth and, in most cases, never changes. You are not legally required to get a new Social Security card when you get married unless you change your name. If you decide to adopt your spouse's last name or hyphenate your name, the Social Security Administration (SSA) says you must notify them so you can obtain a corrected card with your new name. Otherwise, the Social Security taxes your employer deducts from your wages may not be properly credited to you, resulting in future reduced benefits.

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A Brief History of Social Security

The Great Depression of the 1930s saw more than 25 percent of the U.S. population unemployed amid the failure of thousands of banks and businesses. Most of the country's elderly were unable to support themselves. These circumstances led to calls for radical changes in the way the U.S. cared for its elderly and ill citizens. The Social Security program, created in 1935 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, derives from the idea of "social insurance," a doctrine new to America at the time but widely accepted in Europe. In essence, social insurance describes a mandatory public insurance program that protects against economic risks such as the loss of a salary or other income because of age or illness. Workers pay into the program while they are employed and, upon retirement, receive benefits based upon the amount of their contribution.

Today, workers see their Social Security contributions deducted from their wages and paid directly into the program to be recouped as benefit payments upon retirement at age 65 or in the event of disability. Your SSN is how the government keeps track of your years of employment and your contributions during that time to be sure you're paid the benefits you've earned. Additionally, your SSN is used by employers, banks and other financial institutions, credit card companies, and other government agencies to verify your identity. If the name you're using doesn't match the name on your Social Security card, you might miss out on benefits you've earned, have trouble filing your taxes, and experience difficulty starting a new job or opening a bank account. And before you can update other forms of ID, such as your driver's license, you must update your Social Security card to reflect your married name.

Getting a New Social Security Card

Obtaining a new Social Security card that reflects your new, married name isn't difficult. There is no fee for the service, and you can find a blank application for requesting the change on the SSA's website. You must take the application to a local Social Security office or mail it to the SSA, together with the necessary supporting documents. The supporting documents must all be originals or certified copies from the issuing agency, not photocopies. After processing your application, the SSA returns all original documents to you.

The SSA requires original documents proving your identity, your citizenship, and your name change in order to supply you with a new card. A certified copy of your marriage certificate should be sufficient to prove your name change. Acceptable documents showing proof of identity include your state-issued driver's license or ID card or your U.S. passport. Your passport also proves your citizenship, as would your birth certificate showing that you had been born in the U.S. or your Certificate of Naturalization if you are a naturalized citizen.

If your marriage certificate doesn't show your name change because you decided to take your spouse's name at a later date, updating your Social Security card may require a court order permitting you to change your name legally. An online service provider can help you navigate this process.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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