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Name Wrong on Marriage Certificate: Marriage invalid?

Mistakes on Legal Documents
Name Wrong on Marriage Certificate

Here’s a question that I’ve actually received a number of times: There is an error in my name as it appears on my marriage certificate. I am very unhappy in the marriage. Does that mistake mean that my marriage is null and void and I can walk away without having to go through a divorce?

Hey, that would be easy, wouldn’t it! I wish the IRS would spell my name wrong when they mail me things and then …. no, you and I can’t even think this way.

Scrivener’s error is a term meaning something similar to a clerical error. For example, in the description of the property boundaries in a deed there may be a typographical error. This does not, without more, mean you own your neighbor’s yard.

In your case, if it was an innocent mistake on the part of the clerk who entered your name into the system to produce your marriage certificate, and if you entered the marriage with intent to marry, the typo is not a valid “get out of jail free” card, invalidating your marriage.

Name Wrong on Marriage Certificate – Now What?

If you’re getting a divorce you’ll need a copy of the marriage certificate to submit to the court.  But, you’ll still need to go through the full process in order to obtain the divorce.  Errors in legal documents are not a pretty thing, but it does happen.

You may or may not have had the oppportunity, or the emotions of the moment may have deflected your full focus.  But, this is one of many examples indicating that one should never sign a document or accept a document without reading it first.  Even those pesky lengthy gym membership and cell phone contracts jammed with small print should be read in their entirety before signing.

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30 thoughts on “Name Wrong on Marriage Certificate: Marriage invalid?”

  1. Pingback: James
    1. C’mon, James. Let’s give people the benefit of the doubt. I answer the questions that come in. People who are in a tough spot sometimes need to “think outside the box.” I do not do divorce law, or what is called “family law”, but when I did I observed the stress and tension level was high. I do #personalinjury and #bankruptcy ad well as #civillitigation.

  2. Thanks for the info! My soon to be ex’s name on his birth certificate is different than on our marriage licence ex randolph instead of randy.

  3. My name is spelt with a z instead of s (lisa) on my marriage license. Now I wish to divorce after a 5 year separation. So I just dont know how to go about about it, as you have to copy whats put on the license. Thanks for the info saying its valid though.

    1. Dear Lisa;
      I would fill out the form this way: “Liza (sic) for Lisa”. Then obviously sign your name with the correct spelling. Better yet have an attorney in your jurisdiction do this for you, the attorney knows how the clerks in your local court would prefer to handle the issue. Best wishes.

  4. My maiden name is Bass, I married and it became Cole. Divorced September 13,2011. Changed my name back to Bass. Then REMARRIED the same man and Became Cole again on Feb 22, 2013. My problem is that when we applied for the marriage license I had the DL that still had my name as COLE. my legal name at the 2nd marriage would have been BASS. So the certificate says Nicole Cole married Devin Cole. Does this make everything invalid?

    1. No. (1) Your last name is Cole no matter how you arrived at it, the DL or the fact that you married, or remarried, Cole. (2) The point of the initial blog is that despite errors on a marriage certificate, if there was a valid marriage, you are married. They could have put your name down as rhinoceros. See a divorce attorney in your jurisdiction, and I truly wish you the best.

  5. On my marriage license it has miss in front of my maiden name instead of mrs. I don’t have my husband last name what should I do.

    1. It’s funny, my practice areas for the most part are personal injury and bankruptcy, but I wrote this blog article based on a question I got back when I used to write a newspaper column, and I get more questions about this than practically any other article. Go to your city or town clerk and talk to them about the issue because (1) I’m not licensed in your jurisdiction and (2) there may or may not be a simple way to correct this with an application without having to get an attorney involved. Thank you for reading my blog and sending me a question.

  6. What if my intent was NOT to marry but to just make a mistake. He was not kind. He threatened to toss me out if I didn’t marry him. I was just 18 and had no place to go. So I spelled my name wrong on purpose. A year later, when I could get out, I bought a do it yourself divorce kit and threatened him with jail time if he didn’t divorce me. He was abusive. Cops had to come by several times. He had a girlfriend besides me. I was 19 when the divorce was final. Now I’m nearly 50 and I wish I could say the whole marriage was fake or ennulled. Is there a way to rewrite the divorce?

    1. I am very sorry to hear of the horrible conditions in your early life. Doing an annulment generally requires a showing of a fraud, and the fact that 50 years has gone by could be a problem. I highly recommend that you seek advice from a family law attorney in your jurisdiction to explore options in your local court. I am a personal injury attorney in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. I initially wrote this blog article in response to a question one of my readers sent when I was also writing a newspaper column.

  7. My lovely husband one of his middle names was spelt laghan instead of lughan on our marriage certificate please is there a problem yes or no thanks

  8. My son got married and the the license show his first middle and last name and then the word suffix after his last name Aaron Dale Jones suffix…. is this marriage still legal

    1. The legal concept of a “scrivener’s error” happens when purely clerical errors, not substantial problems, appear. 9 times out of 10, the error can be corrected. The marriage is valid as long as there was intent to marry at the time of the marriage.
      I am a personal injury attorney licensed only in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. I like to write and publish a newspaper column so when I got this question a number of years ago I answered as above. It was an interesting question and I did some research including reading actual cases.
      The interesting thing to me is that of all of the literally hundreds of blog articles and columns I have written over the years, this is one of the top 2 or 3 that constantly get the most response.
      If you seriously question the validity of your marriage, please consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction who practices what they call ‘family law’.
      I have practiced personal injury law for over 25 years. I have recovered millions for my clients. I do not bang the drums or the table like the guys you see on TV. I simply do my best for people who want a knowledgeable attorney who will meet with them in person about their accident case, talk straight with them about their injuries and what can be done for them, and pursue their personal injury case to the best potential result.
      Thank you.

  9. My Husband’s ex wife is possibly going through her 2nd divorce. She told us that her middle name AND birth- date were wrong. But the husband doesnt know this. Hes now wanting a divorce. Is there a possibility of it being invalid because of both those issues? That the birth-date and the name? So that they can avoid an a divorce?

    1. Hi Jane. A minor misspelling like this certainly does not make the marriage invalid. We would all want, and often expect, documents to be perfect. Like life and humans, documents and those who make them are not perfect. You could always go to the town hall and ask if they would make a correction.

  10. What if I signed the marriage certificate with my married name but then later decided to keep my maiden name. What should I do?

    1. Dear Ellyn;
      This is a simple name change. You go to the local Probate Court and complete a name change petition. There’s a small fee. The court will more than likely allow the name change. This will have no effect on the validity of the marriage certificate.
      I do not know the context of your question. The reason I say this is that if you are going to go through a divorce, then the divorce court will grant your desire to change your name back to your maiden name through that process without filing a separate name change petition.

  11. What if in my NSO, the surname I’m using is my mothers surname but in my marriage certificate, my surname is my fathers surname? Is our marriage still legal?

    1. A spelling mistake on your marriage certificate will not invalidate your marriage. This is true especially where you had intent to marry and you were in fact married and lived as man and wife for years. This would also not be an “easy out” if one of you attempted to make an end run around the divorce laws and claimed you were not married.

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Attorney Myers is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association, Massachusetts Academy of Trial Lawyers, and New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association. The Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers offer a broad range of legal services in personal injury cases in Massachusetts (MA) and New Hampshire (NH) areas.

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