You've made the emotional commitment, but are you ready for the technical challenges of getting married? There are several hurdles you'll have to jump over before you're a completely wedded same-sex couple. The challenges are even greater if one spouse is changing his or her last name. Here's what you need to know before you tie the knot so you can get organized and make a smooth transition into wedded bliss.
Getting the Marriage License
If you're in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, getting the marriage license is usually pretty simple. Marriage requirements vary between states, but the basic process is the same everywhere. You go down to the local courthouse, get the marriage license paperwork, fill it out, present your ID (both of you will need at least a driver's license, and some states also require birth certificates and Social Security cards), and pay the marriage license fee to have it filed. Some states have a waiting period before you can use the license, while you can use it right away in others. The important thing is to have all of your identifying documents with you at the court house.
Changing Your Name on Your Driver's License
You can do this right at the DMV. Simply bring your old license and a certified copy of your marriage license. They'll change your last name to your spouse's with no questions asked and issue you a license with a new picture on it right then and there.
Changing Your Name on Your Social Security Card
This one is the nerve-wracking one for most couples. You actually have to send in an original certified copy of your marriage license, your birth certificate and your driver's license to the Social Security Administration. This must be done by mail, so you're letting some pretty sensitive documents out of your immediate control. Some couples are so uncomfortable doing this that the name-changing spouse never does it at all. However, it's important that your name is officially changed with Social Security for tax, Medicare and disability or retirement income purposes.
The Social Security Administration does send your original certified marriage license back to you, along with your new card. However, it can take a few weeks to get to you. Anything can happen to your license or your old card in that time. You don't know who is going to be looking at it. Most ID theft facts and articles, including those found on Lifelock.com, mention this as a good opportunity for ID thieves. Before you send your sensitive information into the world on its own to change your name on your Social Security card, you should get an identity theft protection service like Lifelock to protect you, just in case your documents fall into unscrupulous hands.
Filing Your Taxes Together for the First Time
This will be the trickiest time you file taxes together. Every other time should be easier. The thing that makes it complicated is that you earned income as single people for part of the year and as married people for part of the year. Oh, and that whole marriage equality thing. It really depends on where you live if you can file jointly on your state taxes. Last year when section 3 of DOMA was overturned, the United States government declared that it would allow legally married gay and lesbian couples to file their federal taxes jointly, even if you live in a state that does not recognize your marriage. There is usually a name change involved for one of you, too. This can make filling out even the 1040EZ form challenging. It is best if you get some professional help on this one, such as going to an accountant, even if you usually do your own taxes. Using a professional this one time will make the process so much easier and you'll be sure you're covering all of your tax bases. It's worth it.
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