How to Legally Change Your Name after a Divorce

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There are so many painful issues and complicated decisions surrounding a divorce. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep up with the legalities. There are many reasons you might want to rid yourself of your ex-husband’s name and perhaps a few reasons to put it off. Changing your name after a divorce is a common process, so there are a few procedures in place to make the job easier. Each state has certain personal laws, but the basic method is the same.

When It’s Part of the Divorce

If you plan to change your name immediately, taking care of the formalities during the divorce is the easiest option. In most states, it’s simple to make your name change part of the divorce. You only have to put in a request to the divorce court judge to enter a formal order restoring your original name. When the divorce is finalized, you will need a copy of the judge’s order to change your name on your ID cards, bank accounts, and any other important documents you have.

If the Divorce Is Finalized without a Name Change Order

Don’t worry, if you didn’t make your name change part of the divorce decree, you still have options. Divorce is a complicated issue, and it’s not easy to be prepared for all the technicalities. You don’t have to be saddled with your ex-husband’s name forever just because you missed some paperwork.

Some states have an option to adjust the case to include the name-change order even after the divorce is final. You will need to contact the clerk-of-court in the county where the case was filed. Once you give the court clerk the case information (case number, names, and name of the judge), you will complete a request to modify the order. You might need to leave a self-addressed, stamped envelope to receive your paperwork within a few weeks.

If you can’t have the decree changed, you still have options. In fact, if you have documents like a birth certificate or passport with your old name on it, you shouldn’t have to worry. In some states, it’s as easy as starting to use your original name again and request the change on your personal records. In other states, you will have to file some extra paperwork and get a court order for proof of your name change.

When You Don’t Want to Use Your Maiden Name

Changing to a completely new name is a slightly more difficult process. While technically not a lawsuit, the procedure can be tedious. You need to file a petition, which might require a series of other documents. Your name and address are necessary as well as your past name and its history. Then you’ll have to submit an explanation of why you want to change your name and certify that the reason isn’t fraudulent or illegal. A copy of your birth certificate is also required.

After you get through the process, the court will publish a Notice of the Petition. If no one objects and there are no more questions from the judge, the name change will be granted. However, if the name change is contested or the judge has more questions, a hearing may be scheduled. The entire process can take over two months. Then you’ll be able to enjoy your new name!

legally change name

How Soon Can I Start Using My Changed Name?

Technically, you can call yourself any name you want at any time. It’s fine for your friends, family, and even your workplace to use the name you choose. However, if you need to provide legal documentation, you’ll have to continue using the name on your identification.

After You Obtain Documentation

The first place to visit is your local branch of the Social Security Administration. Be sure to bring certified copies of whatever form you have obtained to prove your name change. Your new card will arrive within two weeks. Visit the driver’s license office with your new card as soon as possible. Some states require you to make the change within a certain number of days. After changing these two important forms of identification, you can change the rest of your accounts.

There are several things to remember to change:

  • Social Security card
  • Driver’s license
  • Passport
  • Bank and other financial accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Mortgages/deeds
  • Insurance policies
  • Utility bills
  • Phone/cable bills
  • Student loans
  • Work – payroll and retirement plans
  • Voter registration
  • State tax authority (IRS is notified automatically through the SSA

Changing the Kids’ Names to Match

Divorce is a big change for children. It’s important to be sure they are as comfortable with the situation as possible. You might be worried about having a different name than your children. In the past, children were generally expected to keep their father’s name as long as he was still involved. Today, the rules aren’t as clear-cut. The court might consider a name change if it is in the best interest of the children.

Many important factors go into this decision:

  • The child’s age
  • Relationship with their mother
  • Negative aspects the change would bring
  • Benefits of the name change
  • The name change will not affect any obligations of either parent. All visitation rights, child support payments, and other rights will remain the same.

Divorce has many difficult circumstances, and no case is exactly the same. A name change can be a way to move on from the past. Or you might have a reason to postpone the decision. The divorce proceedings can be so overwhelming alone, you might not be ready to tackle the red tape associated with changing your name. Some mothers prefer to wait until children are grown in order to maintain the same names in the family. The courts understand the complications involved and work to cover procedures for each case. If you’re not sure which situation you fall under, contacting your clerk-of-court is a good place to start.

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