If want to reclaim your maiden name after divorce, be sure to tell your attorney. That way, your lawyer can request this as part of your divorce petition. It’s the simplest way to change back to your birth name and how I’ve helped many clients who want to do this. Your legal name change will go into effect at the same time your divorce is finalized by the family law judge.
But what if you wait until after a divorce? Not so simple! Legally returning to your maiden name will require more steps. You’ll have to file a petition for a change of name with the court. You’ll be asked for information such as whether you’ve ever declared bankruptcy, for your children’s names, including those over 18, any criminal history, your past five years of employment, and whether your civil rights have ever been suspended or have been fully restored. Because you’re restoring a former name, you won’t have to be fingerprinted, but you will need to request a hearing.
Once your name is the one you were born with, you’ll have to reverse all those name changes you made as a newlywed. In other words, lots of document updates. Driver’s license, passport, Social Security card, voter’s registration, bank accounts, and possibly more. I recommend keeping your paperwork organized, such a certified copy of your marriage certificate and divorce decree, because you’ll have to show proof. In some instances, it may seem complicated, but knowing what’s needed ahead of time helps. For instance, to get a new driver’s license for a name change is more complex. You are required to first change your Social Security card name and must appear in person.
As you go through this, you may wonder why you ever took your now ex-husband’s name in the first place. Changing your name upon marriage, though, made you part of a long tradition dating back to 9th century England. It’s not legally required, but most women in the United States still take their husband’s name after the wedding. A New York Times survey estimated that 80 percent of newly married women change their names.
And if you want to keep your married name after a divorce, however, that is more than okay. Many women want to retain the same name as their children’s. Or they are professionally known by their married name and a new name would affect an established career.
Know that retaining a married name or shedding it is entirely your decision. A disgruntled ex-spouse doesn’t get to decide. He may consider your married name to be “his” and insist you “give it back.” But legally your married name still belongs to you after a divorce, if you choose to keep it.
Just remember – if your idea of a fresh start post-divorce includes reclaiming your maiden name, tell your attorney to include this in the divorce petition. Keep it simple.
Jeanne Coleman and her staff believe in helping their clients achieve a positive new future after divorce. For a free, 20-minute consultation, call 813-253-2820. Please note that a free consultation does not establish an attorney-client relationship.