18/01/2016 2:30 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

How To Legally Change Your Surname After Marriage

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Mixed race businesswoman drowning in paperwork

There are a number of reasons someone might want to change their name. Maybe they're newly married and want to take on the surname of their spouse. Maybe they are the grown-up child of a celebrity and don't like their birth moniker of Moondust Sprinkle Heaven. Or, maybe someone wants to revert back to their maiden name after a divorce.

Whatever the reason, the actual process of changing your name can seem overwhelming -- where do you actually need to begin?

First up, it depends on why you're doing it. Changing your surname after marriage or divorce is quite straightforward, whereas if you're changing it because you don't like it or even "just because", it's going to take a little bit more effort.

For newly married couples, a Marriage Certificate issued by your state or territory’s Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages is enough to get the ball rolling. With this certificate, you are able to legally change your name on all of your identification documents -- you can even buy an Easy Name Change Kit which will send you all the documents you need in one handy bundle, so you don't have to traipse around.

If you want to save your dollars, you can change your name on your documents (driver’s license, passport and your bank accounts, for example) by contacting each institution directly. It's strongly recommended you start off with your licence and passport though, as this will make the process easier for the others.

When it comes to changing your name after a divorce, the Marriage Certificate issued by your state or territory’s Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages is usually enough proof of the link between your maiden name and married name to be able to revert back to your maiden name without making an application. Keep in mind, though, some institutions will still require evidence of your divorce, so it's wise to keep that handy.

Where it becomes trickier is if the reason you are changing your name has nothing to do with marriage or divorce. This is when you'll have to see if you are eligible to change your name in your state or territory, and if so, fill out an application form, which requires the support of several documents, including your birth certificate. Those applying by post will have to have these witnessed by a registry approved witness.

There are also restrictions as to what your new name can and cannot be. For instance, it can't be too rude, too long or include numbers or symbols (so unfortunately, something like Prince$$ simply won't fly) and you can only change your name once every 12 months, with some states imposing a limit on how many times in your lifetime.

And unless you thrive on the thought of living a dual existence, it's recommended to give yourself a timeline to get everything done -- you want to avoid the situation where your bank has you listed under your old name, but your new driver's licence says otherwise.

Want to know who and where you'll need to contact once your name is changed? Find out here.