Changing Your Name After Divorce

Changing Your Name After Divorce

by Michelle Kaminsky, Esq., September 2014

If you are getting or have gotten divorced and no longer want to use your ex-spouse’s last name, there are a few ways you can effect a name change after divorce.

As with everything regarding divorce, state laws vary on this subject, but below you’ll find general information on how to change your name after a divorce.

Within the Divorce Decree

If your divorce is not yet final, one of the easiest ways to reclaim your maiden name is to ask the judge presiding over your divorce to restore your former name within the divorce decree. The judge will then include an order in the decree changing your name, and you can go back to using your former name immediately without any further court intervention.

Amend the Divorce Decree

If your divorce is already final, some states allow you to ask the court to amend the decree to include language changing your last name.

If your name has been changed in a divorce decree, either originally or amended, be sure to keep a copy of the order as proof of your name change.

File Petition to Change Last Name

In some states, a legal name change after divorce may be effectuated by filing a name change petition, just the same as anyone who wants to change his or her name for other reasons would file.

Note that this may be unnecessary paperwork, however, as explained more fully below, so be sure your state requires this before going down this road.

Simply Begin Using Your Former Name

Some states don’t require any paperwork at all when changing your name after divorce. Instead, they permit you to simply go back to using your former name. In these jurisdictions, so long as you use your former name consistently, you do not need to file anything further with the state.

As with all name change situations, however, you should be sure to update all of your identification and personal records, including the following:

  • 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
  • School/work, including payroll and retirement plans
  • Voter registration
  • State tax authority (IRS is notified automatically through the SSA)

Also, be sure to retain proof of your former name such as your birth certificate or old passport in case you need it.

Change Your Name Online

Changing your name after divorce may also be accomplished through online forms if your state requires a petition filed with the court. In that instance, simply download and print the forms, fill them out, file them in your local courthouse, and follow the rest of your state’s procedure for name changes.

Final Thoughts on Changing Your Name After Divorce

All of the above assumes that you would like to revert to using your former name after divorce. If you want to change to an entirely new last name or to a new name altogether, different provisions are likely to apply to your situation; you may have to file a formal name change petition with the court, for instance.