Although there are certainly fewer women taking their husband’s name these days, the reality is that it’s still a societal norm for married people in the U.S. Most people choose to share a name when they get married. And so logically, when they decide to end their marriages, many women choose to revert back to their unmarried names, or even to select an entirely new name to symbolize the fresh start they’re undertaking in life.
If you are considering divorce, or have already started the process, you may have thought about what to do with your name. Are you going to keep the name you’ve used during your marriage, go back to your unmarried name, or start over with a new name? If your decision is to change your name, then here’s a look at what that would entail.
The name change can be included in your divorce judgement
If your divorce isn’t final yet, you still have time to ask the Judge to change your name as part of the divorce process. A name change isn’t automatic when you get divorced, you have to specifically request it of the court. It’s important to remember that there are some limitations when you do it this way. When changes as part of the divorce process, a name change can be:
- Restored to a birth name;
- Restored to the last name you have before your marriage ended; or
- Another last name, so long as the change isn’t for ‘fraudulent or evil intent. (This means changing it to hide a criminal past, or to be able to elude the IRS)
If you’re already divorced, you can change it later
If you’re divorce judgement is already completed, and a name change wasn’t included in it, you still have options. You can petition the Family Court to allow you to change your name. Bear in mind, that this can be a somewhat lengthy process, but if this is the route you choose to go, this is what you need to do:
- Fill out and file a petition with the Family Court in your county;
- Give sufficient reasons for why you want to change your name;
- Submit fingerprints for a state and federal criminal records search;
- Publish notice of a name change as directed by the court (some exceptions apply); and
- Attend a court hearing.
As with changing your name as part of your divorce, you can’t request a name change for any reason considered ‘evil or fraudulent’. This means you cannot change your name to avoid creditors, to escape paying back taxes, to get away from your criminal record, to deceive people into believing you’re someone else, or to allow you to commit criminal acts.
Once you’ve changed your name, there’s more to do
Changing your name might mean that on the court records you have a different name, but you are in charge of making sure that ALL relevant parties know about it. The court isn’t responsible for letting the world know that you’ve changed your name, and if you don’t, it can make a lot of trouble for you down the road. So you would need to:
- Your employer
- The Social Security Administration office
- The Secretary of State (to update your driver’s license, vehicle title(s), and voter registration)
- The Post Office
- Any banks where you hold accounts
- Credit Card companies
- Insurance companies
- Utility providers
If you are considering a divorce, and want to change your name by the time it’s over, come and talk to our skilled family law attorneys. We can help you with every part of the divorce process, from child custody and asset division, to name changes and alimony. Given our expertise and sensitivity, you can feel confident that our legal team will give you the respect and representation you deserve! Call 866 766 5245 to discuss your needs with someone today. There is always someone standing by to help.