How to Change Your Name After a Divorce
Going through a divorce is emotionally draining, but it can also be a time of reclaiming your identity. Part of that might include changing your last name back to what it was before you married.
The path to changing your name depends on whether or not the divorce is final. You can easily change your name as part of the divorce process, or you can change it after the divorce is finalized.
Should I Change My Name After a Divorce?
Deciding whether or not to change your name after a divorce is a very personal decision. Some people want to go back to the name they had prior to their marriage because they feel more connected to that name, or they want to remove reminders of their former spouse. Some people choose to keep their married name if they have kids, so they can have the same last name. If you're not certain about a name change, know that you have time to decide; you don't have to complete the process during the divorce. You can go through the legal name change process after the divorce is finalized if you decide months or years down the road that you prefer to shed your married name.
What Does the Name-Change Process Look Like?
The laws and processes for changing your name as part of your divorce proceedings might vary slightly based on the state where you're getting divorced. It's always best to check with your divorce attorney on how to change your name after divorce. If the divorce isn’t final, you can request to have the judge restore your former name as part of the divorce. The name change will be included in the divorce decree once everything is finalized.
If the divorce is already final, you can still change your name, but the exact process might vary by state. In some states, you can have your divorce decree amended with the change in your last name included in the amended version.
Some states require you to file a name change petition. This is a process that anyone can use to change their name — not just in the case of divorce. You typically need to file the petition with the court clerk. A judge then reviews the petition and approves it to officially change your name.
You'll need to update all forms of identification with your name change, including your driver's license, state-issued IDs, passport and work IDs. You'll also need to apply for a new Social Security card with your updated name. Other places to update your name include:
- Your employer
- Bank accounts
- Credit cards
- Insurance providers
- Mortgage company
- Utility companies
- State tax authority
- Voter registration
- Post office
- Legal documents, such as your will or power of attorney
- Property deeds
- Car titles
- Car registration
- Subscriptions and memberships
To change your name on these documents or with these organizations, you'll likely need your divorce decree or the court order that approves your name change. You might also need other forms or documents to prove your identity, residence or citizenship. The process for changing your name can vary from one organization to another, so it's best to check first to ensure you bring all of the proper documentation.
If you complete the name change as part of the divorce process, it won't cost extra for the name change process. It's part of the paperwork you're already paying for to get the divorce. This typically includes your lawyer fees and any court costs you're responsible for paying.
If you file a separate petition to change your name, you'll pay the fee established by your state or county. In some states, you'll pay less than $100 for a name change. In other states, the fee can cost you $500 or more. You might have additional fees for things like background checks or fingerprint cards if your state requires extra documentation. If you hire a lawyer instead of filing the petition yourself, you'll have extra legal fees.
Research the Process
Since the process and requirements for a name change can vary by state — and even by county within the state — you should do your research to understand how the process works. If you already have a divorce attorney, they should be able to tell you how it works in your state.
Make Sure You’re Comfortable With the Name Change
Since the process legally changes your name, be sure you want to change it. If you decide later that you want to change your name again, you'll have to go through the legal name change process a second time.
If you have kids, you might want to change their names along with yours. States traditionally don't grant name changes for kids as part of the divorce process, although some states are more receptive to this idea if there is a good reason. Keep in mind that even if you change your kids' names, your former spouse's legal relationship with them and custody rights don't change.
Check the Decree
If you request that your name be restored as part of the divorce process, check the decree as soon as you receive it to verify that the name change is included in the verbiage. If it doesn't appear in the decree, you might need to request a modification.
Use Your Name Consistently
Once you have your name legally changed, start using it consistently. It might take time for people who've known you by your married name to start using your previous name, but be consistent with reminding them.
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