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New law complicates middle name changes for married women

April 3, 2021 GMT

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota law passed this year to allow people to change their last name while receiving a marriage license will also make it more costly and time-consuming for women who want their maiden name to become their middle name.

The Rapid City Journal reported that people who want to change their middle name after getting married will soon have to pay more than $70 in fees, publish the change in a newspaper and appear in court.

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County officials had urged lawmakers to create a pathway for people to easily change their last names on marriage licenses. But the new process left out those who want to change their middle names as well, meaning they must go through the formal legal process of a name change.

“We all understand the biggest impact here will be on women,” said Hannah Haksgaard, a professor of family law at the University of South Dakota.

She said that the new law will do away with an “informal system” in which clerks at the Department of Motor Vehicles would allow middle and last name changes with a marriage license.

Republican lawmakers who pushed the bill defended it, but said the law may be amended in the future.