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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 I wouldn’t owe taxes!  You know things do not work this way.

Scrivener’s error dates back to previous centuries when a “scrivener” would copy a document down word-for-word.  This occurred before the invention of photocopiers, scanners and other such devices.  Being human, scriveners made mistakes.  So the law decided that such minor errors would not defeat the legality of a document.

For example, scriveners hand-wrote deeds into the books of a registry of deeds.  Property boundaries in such deeds might contain a typographical error. This failed as a defense for your neighbor to claim part of your yard if in fact it was an honest mistake.

Even today, clerks and others face the task of entering data into public records.  So, in your case, a clerk may have made an innocent mistake entering your name into the system to produce your marriage certificate.  So, if you entered the marriage with the intent to marry, the typo provides no “get out of jail free” card, invalidating your marriage.

My answer to your question comes in as a no.  The typographical error or other mishap in the creation of the document provides no simple escape valve.  The scrivener’s error concept continues despite the invention of scanners, copiers and other devices.  The human factor means honest mistakes are made.

Name Wrong on Marriage Certificate – Now What?

Errors in legal documents sometimes happen even though they are to be avoided at all costs.

You may or may not have had the opportunity, or the emotions of the moment may have deflected your full focus. But, this provides 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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57 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.

    2. Probably the best solution is to go to the town hall or other office where the marriage license was issued and see if there is a simple solution to the issue you raise.

  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.

  12. Bless your patience you answer the same question over and over! A big thanks to you. I would ask but you answered my question 100 times. 🙂 good person!

  13. My spouse’s mother kidnapped him when he was a baby back in the 70’s. She changed his last name without legal means. His whole life she told him he was adopted by his stepdad but no documents can be found to substantiate her statement. We met birth dad who said he tried to find him but he was looking for a child with his last name. So we know she did it without his knowledge and hence could not have legally had him adopted.
    When we went to get married, I thought we had to get a copy of our birth certificates. He only has one and it is in his birth name only. Which he has never used.
    His social security card, military records, DL all in his current name not his legal name.
    We married using his DL and SS card in his used current name and not birth certificate name.
    Is our marriage legal since we married with his current last name and not birth last name.

    1. If you had intent to marry and had a valid ceremony yes the marriage is valid. The mixup with the documents should be corrected in the Probate Court. You should consult with a local attorney in your jurisdiction.

  14. My parents marriage certificate is all wrong. My dad’s last name is misspelled, and the wrong place of birth is listed, also my mom’s middle initial is wrong. Does this mean their marriage is invalid?

    1. The misspelling of a name and incorrect middle initial are scrivener’s errors as indicated in my initial blog. As to the date of birth I would not think this is a large error either, unless it goes to the actual identity of the individual. I am 99% certain that these minor errors do not render the marriage void whatsoever especially if their intent was to marry and they lived together and acted as married at any time. If you consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction experienced in marital law and they tell me something different please let me know and I will post their thoughts.

  15. Hello,
    I’m struggling to find information about what to do, I’m a legal resident of California and I got married here, I have all my documentation like SSN, IRS, RESIDENT CARD ID, with my maiden 2 last names (I never changed my name). But my marriage certificate has the first last name with my maiden name and my second with my husbands last name.
    So when I want to get my ID California card it says that I will have my first last name as I’m used to but my second with my husbands. It’s very confusing because everything else is under my maiden names and I don’t want to change that.
    What can I do? I just want to change the name in my certificate where it says new name (which I never asked for).

    1. Hi Isabelle;

      Thank you for reaching out to me through my website. I am licensed to practice as an attorney only in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. So, on top of that each state has it’s own procedure. So unfortunately I must recommend that you either see an attorney in the city or town where you live or start by going to the local clerks that issued your marriage certificate. I wish you the best.
      I am a personal injury attorney and bankruptcy lawyer and I posted this topic only because the original question came in and I guess other attorneys did not take the question.

  16. My middle name has a spelling mistake by 1 letter on marriage certificate. Does this effect me when filing for divorce?

  17. The birth certificate gives the last name of “Latifat”. Then in the marriage certificate gives the last name as “Lateefat”. Now what?

    1. Thank you for giving me a good example of a “scrivener’s error.” It is not correct, but it is a spelling error. Right or wrong, clerks are busy people with lots of duties on a daily basis and, being human beings, they make mistakes. Sorry, but this is not a free from having to file divorce opportunity.
      Think of it this way: I’m a personal injury attorney. It sometimes happens that officers investigating an accident scene spell the names of the people injured in the car accident incorrectly. Does that mean the injured accident victims were not in the accident? Don’t think so.

  18. I need to show proof of my grandmother’s marriage certificate to part of the documents needed for me to register in Ireland’s Foreign Birth Records office to gain dual Irish citizenship. She put down her middle name as her first name because she preferred it over her first name. She became a dual U.S. naturalized citizen after she got married and at her naturalization she had the judge legally change her first name to her middle name.

    I need to show proof of the legal name change but the date will show that it was done after the marriage date.

    Will this have an negative affect on me gaining dual Irish citizenship and if so what can I do to mitigate it?

    1. I’m an personal injury attorney and my office also does bankruptcies.

      I can’t comment on how the system in Ireland would view this and so I highly recommend you consult with an attorney who has represented others in your situation.

      I wish you the best.

  19. When I got married we had already had two children and my older daughter was potty training, so when we went to fill out the paperwork I misspelled my middle name. That was rectified, but they did have to reprint it (we got married the same day), it was late and the judge had already gone home so we left it and it was mailed to us later. Now nearly twenty years later I just noticed that my first name is incorrect. Mary Anne instead of Maryanne. You have already answered my question, I just think it is funny so I thought I’d share. 🙂

  20. Hi there. I was married in the Dominican Republic in 1994 and recently was asked for my marriage certificate for a pension. Unfortunately we have only just reviewed this properly and at first we noticed that my husbands name was spelt incorrectly (which looking at you blog isn’t a problem) however reading between the lines (as its in Spanish) it looks like they have recorded my mums name as Jane and fathers name as John when it should be Joan and James. I am now questioning the whole certificate. Is it still valid? Do I need to get it corrected please?

    1. Usually, not always, the marriage certificate is based on information provided to the clerk. If they made a mistake, they made a mistake but as pointed out in the main article a scrivener’s error should not be a problem. If it does present a problem I recommend that you consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction. I wish you the best.

  21. Hello. I need some advice. My middle name is Diamante but instead they wrote Diamonte. Any problem in the future? Now we are applying for my adjustment status. I’m worried.

  22. I discovered after a long, abusive marriage that my ex wife used a fake name when she married me. She started using the name to escape wrongdoings she had done in her home country. I didn’t know that though.

    She got citizenship as a result of our marriage. She’s a very, very nasty, evil, dishonest person. It’s embarrassing to admit that I put up with her for as long as I did.

    I’ve been told that I will have to give her half of everything. Also a lawyer told me that an unlawful name change doesn’t make the marriage void. How can this be right?

    1. No one ever said it was right what happened to you. At the same time if you had intent to marry and did marry and live together as man and wife and the longer you were married the more likely a court will deem the marriage entirely valid. As to the division of marital assets and the potential fraud argument I highly recommend you retain an experienced marital law attorney in your jurisdiction.

      I am a personal injury and bankruptcy attorney in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. That’s the best advice I believe any attorney can give you. All the best.

  23. My name is Analyn, I married before and now separated. I just wanna asked about, our marriage before my ex husband name had no suffix, then after marriage, he changed and used his name having suffix,,,is there a possibility that I’m widow or single on it?

    1. Hi Analyn;

      Thanks for reading my legal blog and for the question. No, if he is still alive and you are only separated. you are legally married unless and until a court decrees that you are divorced. Sorry but name issues are rarely if ever a get out of the marriage ticket.

  24. I got married last year, 2020. My husband said that his previous marriage was invalid because of misspelled name and wrong birth year on the certificate. So we got married. Does this mean that my marriage is not valid and that he is still married to his previous wife since they never went through a divorce?

    1. Sherry;

      I hope that your hubby got a divorce because if he didn’t this sounds like “scriveners error” to which I referred in the blog article. 99 times out of 100, errors on the marriage certificate are honest clerical mistakes. I highly recommend seeking legal advice in your jurisdiction.

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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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