Assemblyman Buchwald Announces Major Clarification of DMV Policy Important to Women

February 19, 2014

In a victory particularly important for women, Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester) announced at a press conference that, in response to his inquiry and subsequent efforts, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will now provide a much simpler process to change middle names to maiden names on an individual’s driver’s license upon marriage. The DMV will only require a marriage certificate to make this change. Previously, the process had proven to be costly and time consuming.

Buchwald was joined at the press conference in front of the White Plains DMV by Professional Women of Westchester Vice President Rose Colonna, American Association of University Women Westchester Branch President Jane Pendergast, Women’s Enterprise Development Center Executive Director Anne Janiak, Woman’s Club of White Plains President Susan Rade Doherty, State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, White Plains Mayor Tom Roach, presidents from local branches of the League of Women Voters, and Danielle DiBiase Esposito, a resident of the 93rd Assembly District who told her personal story.

“This is a victory for women and married couples across New York,” said Assemblyman Buchwald. “I am pleased the DMV has modernized their procedures to the benefit of newlyweds, especially the growing number of women who choose to keep their maiden name as their middle name. We do not need to be filling up court dockets with routine name change applications. Clarifying this long-standing policy will not only make this process easier and more affordable for couples across the state, but it will reinforce the equality of both partners in a marriage while simplifying the lives of professional women.”

This is a practice that has grown over the past few decades, with famous examples including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and civil rights leader Coretta Scott King. The trend has particularly increased in recent years. The new policy recognizes that middle names now often change at the time of marriage, and such changes should be just as easy for newlyweds as altering their last name. Prior to Assemblyman Buchwald’s inquiry, the DMV often only recognized a change of middle name when the individual pursued one of two difficult pathways. One possibility was to provide a series of documents that was sometimes impossible to obtain. Alternatively, an individual could change their name legally through the court system, a burdensome process that would take several months and cost at least $100 in fees. Assemblyman Buchwald’s inquiry updates the much-needed system so that a middle name can be changed to a maiden name simply by providing a valid marriage certificate.

According to a recent Chicago Tribune article,[1] the practice of women keeping their last name as a middle name after they marry has quietly taken hold in the U.S., where studies show that 90 to 95 percent of married women take their husbands’ last names. Studies indicate that between 3 and 25 percent of married women nationwide are using their maiden names as middle names. And about 18 percent of women at the marital-name-change website, MissNowMrs.com, have taken their maiden names as middle names in the past six years.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment for 40 years,” said 93rd Assembly District resident Danielle DiBiase Esposito. “After I married my husband, I was able to change my middle name to my maiden name in every aspect of my life – in business, on travel documents and on my credit cards – except on my New York State driver’s license. My daughter-in-law, recently married to my son, has also been successful in changing her name in all other facets of her life except her New York State driver’s license. The state policy was confusing, burdensome, and quite frankly, too much of a hassle for working parents like myself and my daughter-in-law to continue pursuing. Because of the efforts of Assemblyman Buchwald, New York State will finally recognize my maiden name, and in doing so, simplify my professional life and honor the legacy of my family.”

“On behalf of the Professional Women of Westchester, we would like to thank Assemblyman Buchwald and the DMV for addressing this practical issue that affects professional women in Westchester and across the State,” said Professional Women of Westchester Vice President Rose Colonna. “As professional women, many of us start our careers while we are single and, in many cases, it becomes a dilemma as to which name to use professionally once we are married. With this sensible change in State policy, we can focus our time and energy on our businesses, career and families. This is one less cumbersome obstacle for professional women.”

“I personally recall arguing with an employee at the DMV forty years ago trying to use my maiden name as my middle name, and being told that it was simply not possible, and illegal,” said League of Women Voters of Bedford, Lewisboro and North Salem Co-President Katherine Flannery Dering. “It's hard to believe that it has taken this long to resolve the right of women to carry their own maiden name as their middle name. I express my thanks to Assemblyman Buchwald and the DMV that this change has finally happened in New York.”

“This is a no brainer,” said Women’s Enterprise Development Center Executive Director Anne Janiak. “My daughter, who works part time and has two small children to raise, recently tried to change her middle name to her maiden name on her driver’s license, and she found the process was just too time-consuming and burdensome. These are the kinds of common-sense policy changes our legislators should be focusing on, and I thank Assemblyman Buchwald and the DMV for simplifying and streamlining this process for women.”

“Today is a great day for women in New York,” said American Association of University Women Westchester Branch President Jane Pendergast. “This change in State policy, prompted by Assemblyman Buchwald and implemented by the DMV, is a reflection of the increasing number of women in our contemporary society who wish to hold onto their family identities as a student, in the workplace and at home. Times have changed for women in New York, and I’m proud our state policies are changing with it.”

“The fact that a married woman is now able to use her maiden name as her middle name on her driver’s license without a court order process and a hefty fee is an important victory for women,” said Woman’s Club of White Plains Co-President Cathy Schauber. “Thank you Assemblyman Buchwald and the New York State DMV for updating this long-needed policy.”

“The League of Women Voters of New Castle heartily supports this new streamlined procedure making it easier for married persons to change their name on their driver’s license,” said League of Women Voters of New Castle Co-Presidents Sheila Miller Bernson and Jennifer Mebes Flagg. “We thank Assemblyman Buchwald and the DMV for adopting this new simplified system.”

Assemblyman Buchwald heard of these unnecessarily burdensome requirements regarding name changes from personal friends who shared their marriage stories. The Assemblyman and his fiancée, Lara, are set to be married this March.


[1] “A Modern Take on How to Craft a Married Name: More Brides are Moving their Maiden Names to the Middle,” http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-06-26/features/sc-fam-0625-women-name-change-20130626_1_maiden-laurie-scheuble-married-name