Divorce is a painful situation for all involved. From filing the paperwork to the physical separation, all the way through changing your last name. None of it is a glamorous process. In most cases, the individual that goes through the name change process is the wife in the relationship. Some women chose to keep their married name and bypass the process of going back to their maiden name. However, many choose to take back their name, and that leaves many asking how to change your last name following a divorce.
Changing your name can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. The best place to begin is by consulting a legal professional. Not only are all states different, but the laws can even vary by counties. So, having a legal team on your side will only benefit you through this process.
If this name change is something that simply needs to be done, do your research. Yes, having that legal team will be helpful in getting you through the process, but you don’t want to go into it blind. By doing some research on your own either before or after retaining counsel, you’ll find that your anxiety going into the process will be much less considering you’ll know more of what is going on around you.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure that this name change is necessary. The reason behind this is because sometimes people go through more negative emotions following a name change than they do the actual divorce. Ask yourself, is it going to do you and your kids (if applicable) the most good in the end? Will you be able to handle it emotionally? Will it bring you peace of mind? If so, move forward and take care of business.
How to Change Your Last Name Following Their Divorce?
Amongst all the different things that go on during divorce proceedings, the name change process can be considered one of the simpler pieces in most states. As with many legal matters, you will want to check with your local Clerk to see what the process may include and if any documents need to be filed in.
So, in order to answer the question of how to change your last name in this situation, there are a number of different factors that need to be considered. Below, we have listed a few different ways that allow women to change their names either during or after the divorce proceedings.
Restore Your Maiden Name Within the Divorce Decree
One of the simplest ways to restore your maiden name is during the divorce process. In most states, it is a rather simple process to request that the divorce court judge enter a formal order to restore your name to your maiden name.
In most cases, the judge will grant the request and include an order in the divorce decree. Something that is important to note is that you’ll want a certified copy of the court order to serve as proof of the name restoration. This will provide proof when you go to change your bank account information and other relevant documents such as identification cards.
Amend the Divorce Decree
What happens if your divorce is finalized and it doesn’t include a court order that changes your last name back to your maiden name? This isn’t worth panicking over, because, in many states, the courts will allow an amendment to the divorce decree to include name restoration.
Take, for example, the state of California. If a name restoration clause wasn’t included in the divorce decree, then the party wishing to change their name need to file an “Ex Parte Application for Restoration of Former Name After Entry of Judgement of Order.” This is also known as FL-396. Again, each state is different in this area of the law, so it is essential to check with your local courts to make sure that you are following proper procedures. It is also helpful to have an attorney on your side because they can help walk you through all of the legal jargon and help you with not only getting but filling out and submitting the proper paperwork.
Filing a Name Change Petition
If a name restoration isn’t included in your divorce decree, and if you weren’t able to change your name during the process, or are not able to have an amendment to the divorce decree done, then you will likely have to file a petition to change your last name.
If this is the case, again, it can be very beneficial to have an attorney or legal team behind you. As mentioned, the paperwork can get very overwhelming for some, and have that team behind you will ensure that you take the proper steps in order to get your name change done and done right.
When filing a name change petition, the court is likely to ask for additional information from you, such as having your fingerprints taken and a background check is done. Why is this done? Because the state will want to make sure that you are not trying to change your name for wrongful purposes or in an effort to hide from any legal responsibilities.
Once the name restoration has been completed, it is essential to know that the paperwork isn’t necessarily done. While some states don’t require a court to help legally change your last name, it is still vital to report your name change to essential entities such as the IRS and your employer. Other entities that will need to be notified include:
- Bank/Financial Accounts
- Credit Cards
- Voter Registration
- School/Work, including payroll and retirement plans
- Driver’s License
- Insurance Policies
- Utility Bills
- Student Loans/Other Loans
- Social Security
Again, even if your state doesn’t require a legal name change to go through the courts and simply allow you to revert to using your maiden name, these businesses need to be duly notified, and that may require paperwork of its own. For instance, you’ll need an updated Social Security card and an updated driver’s license or state id.
Changing Your Last Name Can Be Emotional
Asking how to change your last name following a divorce is a lot simpler than actually doing it. For many, changing their last name during the marriage process symbolizes a union that is supposed to last a lifetime. So, having to go through the process of changing it back can leave an individual feeling shattered.
What can be even more difficult is changing back to your maiden name while your children retain the name of their father. Many women feel as if there is a distinct separation between herself and her children in these cases.
"If a woman changes her last name after a divorce, and her kids see that there are now two homes, one parent in each, less to go around, and mom’s got a different name than we do, there’s more upset, more confusion and more transition, as well as an unearned feeling of loss from the name change,"
Author of four relationship advice books and the ‘AskApril’ advice column.
This only shows that it is hard not only for the one changing their name’s but for those surrounding the individual as well.
Some women do choose to keep their married name, so it is essential that they remember to use that name in their day to day life. Some individuals chose to keep their married name, but then use their maiden name without legally changing it back, and that will only cause unnecessary confusion and frustrations. So, if you are going to keep your married name, remember to embrace it, don’t hide from it.
Whether this name change is liberating or heartbreaking, it is sometimes unavoidable. In those cases, one must only walk through all the motions and remember to get themselves back on track in their daily lives. Divorce is heartbreaking and can often crumble all parties involved. So, take the time to heal and adjust.
Something that should be remembered, though, is that a name is merely a bunch of random letters strung together. They do not necessarily define you as an individual, and if that is kept in mind, many find it much simpler to move on.
This is the time to focus on you, your family and getting back into a regular, healthy pattern of life. Don’t let changing your name completely derail you.