Changing Your Name After Divorce

Changing Your Name After Divorce

In recent years American women have started keeping their maiden name more often, but the vast majority of women still take their husband’s name.  Some men change their name as well, for example to a hyphenated last name, but the last name change is still largely a female phenomenon. For many women, changing their name back after a divorce is not an easy choice.  There are several considerations that often come into play:

  • Professional Recognition – Many women who have worked for years to develop a reputation may not want to give up the business goodwill associated with their name.  Relatedly, many women want to avoid having awkward personal conversations at work.  People who see a name change often want to talk about it or assume that the name change is about a new marriage.  Much of this talk can be avoided by sticking with an ex-husband’s name.
  • Ties to the Kids – Many mothers want to keep their names the same as their children.  Kids rarely change their name as the result of a divorce, and in some cases it is close to impossible if the father is an active parent.  Some women even see their ex and children as a family unit that should have the same name despite the divorce.  
  • Moving On – Some women find changing their name is an important part of getting closure on a marriage and signals a clean break from their ex husband.  
  • Remarriage – Many women hope to remarry and do not like to continue to be associated with their previous husband in any way.

No matter what you decide to do, the process is not particularly complicated but it can be a bit frustrating if you do not deal with it up front.

It is Easiest to Change in the Divorce Decree

Many states require divorce decrees to specifically address whether anyone needs their name changed as a result of a divorce. If you wish to change your name, this is the easiest time to do it because you are already getting a court order and can tack on a name change with little additional cost.  This court order can then be shared with other entities like banks and the Department of Motor vehicles to get identification cards changed. Some states also allow you to do this long after the divorce decree as part of the same proceeding. You would simply file a form with the court to ask that your name be changed because of the finalized divorce.  

Filling the name change form

The name change form can be downloaded online, it is also available in the County clerk’s office. For filling the form all you need is your case number, that you must have received when you filed the petition for dissolution of your marriage and the when the judgment of dissolution was passed.

Fill your current name and address, along with your new name correctly in the form.

In the signature column of the form sign with your old married name. Your new name and signature is not valid unless all documentation and legal processes are completed.

The last step of filling the form is submission. Submit the form to County Clerk’s office with the filing fees.

Changing Your Name in a Stand-Alone Process

Each state has its own requirements for a name change.  In most states, you can just ask for any reasonable name and a court will give it to you.  Football player Chad Johnson famously changed his name to Chad Ochocinco (Spanish for his jersey number, 85) and then changed it back again a few years later. Asking for your maiden name back is generally just a matter of filling out some forms, paying a fee, and waiting awhile. In some states it actually requires an in-person hearing in front of the judge and public notice to published in a newspaper.  Because of that, it is often worthwhile to hire a lawyer even though this is a routine process.

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