Changing a Name in a Divorce

Divorce feels like everything turned upside down. But one thing a woman can control is her name. Reclaiming a former name – a birth name – can help reestablish her identity. Reclaiming a name may seem daunting, but it’s a very manageable.

In most states, the petitioner requests that the judge handling the action make a formal order restoring a former or birth name. When the divorce decree contains such an order, that’s all the paperwork required. The court clerk provides certified copies of the order as proof of the name change. This official documentation can then be used to change a name on identification and personal records.

Even if the divorce papers don’t show your name change, the petitioner may still be able to resume a former name without much fuss, especially if she still have some proof of that name, such as a birth certificate or old passport.

If the divorce decree doesn’t contain an order restoring a desired former name, it can be modified to include language restoring the desired name. In some states, this is possible even after the divorce is final.

In many states, a party simply begins using a former name consistently, and requests that it be changed on all personal records. Someone reclaiming a name used before marriage is far less likely to be hassled about it than if she takes a new name; however, she may still face some bureaucratic barriers about using a previous name especially if she is a recent immigrant or does not have reliable documentation of a former name.

When the proper documentation is in hand, the party can change the name on her driver’s license, passport, Social Security card, banks accounts, utilities and credit cards.

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