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How to Change Your Name After Divorce

Want to reclaim your maiden name after divorce? The legal process of changing your surname is fairly simple – but it's even simpler if you put those wheels in motion during the divorce process. In this article, we explore the pros and cons of changing your name, how to go about changing your name, and how that process differs depending on where you are on your divorce journey. We also address frequently asked questions.

The benefits and drawbacks of changing your last name after divorce

Maybe you're still on the fence about changing your name back to what it used to be. When making a tough decision like this, some people find it helpful to list the pros and cons. Of course, your personal situation is unique, but here are some general benefits and drawbacks to changing your name after divorce:

Benefits

A name change symbolizes a clean break. In a fundamental way, you are no longer connected to your former spouse. Changing your name will remind you on a daily basis – and announce to all with whom you interact – that you are no longer connected to your ex legally, financially, and emotionally. Thus, the change can help you "regain" your identity and start again.

Drawbacks

If you have children with your ex, you will no longer share their last name. If you've established yourself professionally with your married name, a sudden change may confuse colleagues or prompt you to do more personal "explaining" than you'd like. And, it can be a hassle to change your name – technically and emotionally.

How to change your name after divorce

The steps required to change your name vary depending on where you're at in your divorce journey.

Before the divorce is final

It's easiest to restore your maiden name during divorce proceedings before your divorce is final. Most states have a box you can check on the final divorce documents to state you want your name officially changed back – and then you simply enter your full maiden name. Or, fill out the proper form to submit to the judge with your other paperwork. Depending on where you live, the form may be titled something like "Request to Restore Maiden Name" or "Request for Name Change." Make sure you get a copy of the divorce decree specifying your name change.

Follow up by changing your name with the Social Security Administration. Notify other major organizations of your name change, too: your bank, the DMV, and others. Note: After visiting the Social Security Administration Office, wait at least 48 hours for records to be updated. You can then request an updated license at your local DMV.

After the divorce is final

It's not too late to change your name if you're already divorced. It's slightly more complicated, but it's definitely doable. There’s usually a separate family court form you can still use.

Note that the following is a general guideline. You should consult your state's Health and Human Services webpage for details specific to your area.

First, gather the following paperwork: your divorce decree or a court order for your name change, proof of your U.S. residency or citizenship, proof of your identity and age (photo ID), and proof of your Social Security number.

Next, fill out the name change request form found on your state's court website, and pay a fee. Finally, submit your request to your county clerk. Remember that with the restoration of your name, you will need to request an updated Social Security card. Expect to receive this in the mail two to three weeks after you request it.

Frequently asked questions about name changes and divorce

Do I have to change my last name after divorce?

No. Although this article focuses on how to change your name after divorce, it's certainly not required. You're free to do as you please. Some people want to keep their married name after divorce. Maybe they like the name, or they want to preserve an aspect of their identity that would feel "lost" with a name change. That's okay. This decision is yours to make, and there is no right answer.

How long do I have to change my name after my divorce?

You can change your name at any point in time after your divorce: one year later, five years later, 20 years later. It's up to you. As explained above, you'll face less paperwork and hassle if the name change is part of your divorce decree. But some people just aren't ready for that when they're in the midst of a divorce. if you're uncomfortable making a quick decision, don't. Take as much time as you need. If you're already divorced and want to change your name, check with your county clerk for specific instructions. We provide generalized instructions here, but the specifics vary slightly from county to county.

What should I do after I change my name?

You will need to update accounts and legal records that contain your name. To update accounts such as utilities, homeowner's insurance, your smartphone, and loyalties programs, contact the companies directly. If you have a Roth IRA or brokerage account, you will be required to submit documentation that confirms the name change. Banks require you to visit a branch location with your updated photo ID and divorce decree or court order. Credit cards and mortgages will ask for you to contact customer service directly.

The process is usually more direct with employers. Typically, a copy of your updated photo ID is needed for Human Resources to update payroll information and similar employer-sponsored benefits. As for your mail, the United States Postal Service allows you to update your name (and possible address change) online. Visit the website moversguide.usps.com. As for voter registration, you can download the National Voter Registration Application online and mail it in or update your name online through vote.gov.

How do I change a child's last name?

A court may order a child's name to be changed to a mother's former name if it's in the child's best interest. The court looks at certain factors when deciding whether to approve a name change request for a child, including the following:

  • Age of child
  • Mother-child relationship
  • Time using spouse's name
  • Negative impacts of name change
  • Benefits of name change

These factors are used to evaluate the child's relationship with their mother as well as their other parent. Keep in mind that a child's name change does not alter the rights or responsibilities of either parent in terms of visitation, inheritance, intestacy rights, or child support payments. These changes would only come if changes were adopted by a court order. For example, if you were to remarry in the future, the adoption process could include a new name for your child.