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Kokua Line

June Watanabe

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


What couples wed
in ’Vegas should know


Question: I recently got married in Las Vegas and decided to take my husband's surname as my own. I have had no problems changing my name on my driver's license, credit cards, membership cards, medical plan, vehicle registration, bank accounts, and credit union accounts. All they wanted was a copy of my marriage certificate. But I found out from my employer that my new name is not legal in Hawaii until I have it legally changed with the Lieutenant Governor's Office. I called the Lieutenant Governor's Office and they told me the same thing. They said Hawaii does not recognize the name change if a couple gets married in Nevada. I have spoken to several people who have gotten married in Vegas and they were not aware of this. I feel people who get married in Vegas (there are many from Hawaii) should be made aware of this important information.

Answer: It took awhile to find out exactly what is required in an instance like this, because our question about whether this was true ended up in the hands of state attorneys.

The Lieutenant Governor's Office asked the Attorney General's Office to clarify the matter just to make sure.

Based on the legal opinion that came back, we were told that a person who gets married in a state that does not have the equivalent of Hawaii Revised Statute 574-1 -- regarding declaring middle names and surnames -- must follow procedures set forth in HRS 574-5 to legally adopt a spouse's surname.

HRS 574-1 basically says that, upon getting married, both the bride and groom shall declare the middle and last names each will use as a married person.

"The attorney general does not believe this violates the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution, because the validity of the out-of-state marriage is recognized," said Dawn Matsumura, administrative services specialist with the Lieutenant Governor's Office.

That clause, found in Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, says: "Full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof."

Nevada, "the foreign jurisdiction" in this specific case, does not provide a procedure for individuals to publicly declare what names they will adopt and use after marriage, Matsumura said.

So, Hawaii's change of name law applies. You and other Hawaii residents who get married in Nevada are required to go through a formal name change procedure with the Lieutenant Governor's Office.

You must submit a notarized petition to the office; pay a $100 nonrefundable filing fee; and get a notice of the name change, signed by the lieutenant governor, published once in a newspaper of general circulation in the state of Hawaii.

There is also a $25 Bureau of Conveyances fee and the cost to publish a notice in a newspaper, which may vary.


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