A Guide to Legally Changing Your Name After Divorce

Changing your name after divorce

It was all over. The divorce had come through and was waiting to be announced.

Jenny Matthew’s divorce proceedings had left her distraught. There were umpteen legal proceedings that had to be dealt with in time, leave alone the agony of going through them all. There were times when she kept visualizing the aftermath over and again in her head. Was it all worth it? Probably it was. Now, with her marital status changing from ‘married’ to ‘divorced’,  she had other things that she had to take care of instantly – for instance, her name change after divorce, legally.

Are you finding yourself in the same boat as Jenny?

Changing your name after divorce, by a civil partnership, by marriage, deed poll, or post-divorce, can prove to be expensive and onerous. Here are some ways of avoiding the pitfalls, keeping the overall costs of name change after divorce down and some handy tips on how to change your name after divorce.

Steps to change name after divorce

How to legally change your last name after divorce

Many people, who go for a voluntary name change after marriage (understandably), would like a name change after divorce too, they would like to go back to using their former names. For instance, when she got married, Jenny had adopted her husband’s surname ‘Matthew’ to replace her original surname “Swift.” After her divorce, she wants to change her name back to Jenny Smith; fair enough. However, the process of legal name change after divorce has some predefined steps that have to be adhered to get things underway.

The first cue on how to change last name after divorce is that it varies by jurisdiction. While it’s pretty convenient in some states to request the court judge (divorce) to enter a formal declaration, or order, to restore your maiden name, the process can be cumbersome one in others. In case the divorce is finalized, and encompasses a court order relevant to your name change, then there is very little that’s left to do.

Just get hold of the certified copy of your court order to serve as proof for the legal restoration of your name. The copy of court order is enough for getting your maiden name back on your bank accounts, identification cards, magazine subscriptions, and all other documents that necessitate a legal name change after divorce. In fact, with the court order in your hand, you can make the name change after divorce in just about any documents, bank accounts, IDs, etc. as you wish.

Name change in divorce decree

The divorce decree does NOT have an order for name change after divorce. Divorce decree name change order is not required most of the times. In case your divorce proceedings are finalized but the issued decree fails to contain direct orders pertaining to your name change after divorce, then it’s essential that you try to get your court order changed accordingly. The new court order should include such language that permits name change after divorce legally.

For instance, if you happen to be a resident of California, all that you need to do after getting your court order without a mention for name change is file an Ex Parte Application for the “Restoration of Former Name After Entry of Judgment of Order.” Also referred to as FL-395, the application will enable you to legally change your name after divorce without much fuss. After your request is accepted and signed by the judge, you will be served a certified copy. This certified copy can be used as bona fide evidence for getting your name changed whenever you desire to do so.

There is little cause for worry if the issued divorce papers fail to show any request for legal name change after divorce and the same cannot be entered into court records; even in such a situation, you are likely to get your name restored to your original surname. For this purpose, you will require documentation with your old name inscribed on it; say your passport or birth certificate. Indeed, there will be some states where you will be queried about the reason for choosing to go back to your old name. Once your request is accepted, you may go ahead and apply for legal name change after divorce on your personal records.

Be informed that there are lesser hurdles in the way of going back to your previous name, which you had been using before marriage, than adopting an altogether new name. There are a few paperwork barriers that have to be sorted out before you can get everything changed as per your desire. In case you cannot find appropriate documentation pertaining to your old name, or are a recent immigrant, you may have to face even higher barriers.  

Managing the names of children after divorce

Managing the names of children after divorce

Once you have got divorced and attained your original (or new) name, you would like to arrange for legal name change after divorce of your children too. Traditionally, many courts have held that a child’s father procures the right to insist that the father’s last name be used by the child as long as long as he fulfills his parental duties. Nowadays, though this traditional rule is used by many courts, there are some jurisdictions that are changing the approach to this issue.

As per the current trends and laws, a court may give an order for changing the child’s name to the mother’s maiden name if it is in his/ her best interest. The factors considered by the court for changing back to maiden name after divorce would include the child’s age, the mother-child relationship, the duration for which the father’s name has been used by the child, negative impacts that may make the child suffer in case the name change was ordered, as well as the future benefits for the legal changing of child’s name. Also, these factors are to be balanced by the court for ascertaining how strong the father-child relationship is.

Even after the court order is issued for changing the child’s name to the divorced mother’s maiden name, the legal relationship existing between the father and child is not changed. Also, the ensuing name change after divorce does not impact any rights or responsibilities of both parents in any way in context to child support payments, visitation, inheritance, or intestacy rights. If remarriage is in the offing, and the new spouse is ready to adopt the child via stepparent adoption procedures, the forthcoming adoption process may lead to the child’s name change if the mother so desires.

Changing back to your maiden name after divorce

Your marriage certificate and the decree absolute would be required for changing your bank accounts and IDs back to your original maiden name. Alternatively, it is possible to legally change your name after divorce by having a deed poll issued for the cause and presenting this document instead.

Does it cost to change name legally after divorce?

Wondering how much does it cost to change your last name after divorce? The cost to change name after divorce would depend on the content of your divorce decree. If things are not the way you want them to be, all that you would need to do is get a certified copy of your decree with the legal name change clause inserted by the judge. You may or may not have to pay anything more for getting this done. Also, you may like to check up the costs with a clerk associated with the court where your divorce was filed and get an easier way out. Changing last name after divorce may involve an expense in this case.

Is the divorce complicated?

For people going through complicated divorce procedures, prior knowledge of the name change regulations pertaining to a specific jurisdiction is a must. Also, complete knowledge about the prevalent divorce laws will facilitate the legal name change process after divorce once the decree is passed.  In case, you are going through hard times with your name change, you may want to seek professional help in the form of a lawyer to hasten the process in the desired direction. Your lawyer, if chosen after all due research and care, would prove to be a key asset in the entire legal name changing process. While a family law attorney may look over your case for free, you may have to dish out the charges to other lawyers as per the prevailing rates in your town or city. But then, with the right levels of experience and expertise in place, you may look forward to getting the best possible help for your legal name change after divorce.

What if the divorce is NOT final yet?

Say, you are planning to get a divorce in California, and the case is not resolved yet, you can still request the court for legal restoration of your former name. This request can be placed when you are filing your proposed Divorce Judgment (Form FL-180). It is a good idea to consult your law facilitator for finding out how to do the needful.

All in all, everything does not end for Jenny Matthew after her divorce. With the right steps and procedures in place, she can continue her life as Jenny Swift, all within a few days. How would you like to file for your name change after divorce? Would it be through a lawyer or on your own? Use the information on how to change name after divorce in this article and you will be able to you choose the right way forward.


HitchSwitch has served as a divorce lawyer at the NY court for 10 years now. He is an authority on legal name changes after divorce and has written several knowledge-based articles on this topic.

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