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Changing Your Name After Divorce: FAQ

Two separate wedding rings next to the word "divorce". The concept of changing your name after divorce.

Many people who change their name when married want to change their name back to their maiden name (prior name) after a divorce. This article provides tips and insights for changing your legal name after a divorce. It also answers some common questions about name changes.

How Do I Change My Name After a Divorce?

  1. File a name change request with your divorce petition
  2. Double-check that the final divorce decree includes your name change
  3. Use the divorce decree (or divorce certificate) to change your name with government agencies or businesses, such as:
    • The Social Security Administration (SSA)
    • Your bank
    • Your credit card
    • Your children's schools
    • Your employer
    • The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
    • Anywhere else that has your name on file, such as other financial accounts

If you didn't change your name during your divorce proceeding, you must go back to court after finalizing your divorce. You can start a new court action by filling out a name change request form on your state's court website and pay the filing fee. You must show photo identification and your Social Security Number (SSN).

How Do I Change My Name With the SSA?

When you change your name, you must notify the SSA so you can get a new card. Be aware that you cannot apply for a new card online. You may want to get your new driver's license or state ID before requesting a new social security card.

Following are the steps to get a new Social Security card:

  1. Fill out an application for a new card
  2. Show a certified copy of your divorce decree or court order for a name change (available from your court clerk's office)
  3. Show proof of residency or U.S. citizenship
  4. Prove your age and identity

The SSA will then send you a new card with your changed name. Upon receipt, check to ensure your SSN and name are correct.

Common Name Change Questions

I took my spouse's last name. Now we are getting divorced, and I want to change it to my prior name. How do I do that?

The name change process varies by jurisdiction. In most states, you can request that the divorce court enter a formal order to change your name. A court order changing from your married name to your prior name is an official record of your name change.

You can use a certified copy of the court order to get your name changed in other places. For example, on your:

  • Identification cards
  • Bank accounts
  • Magazine subscriptions
  • Anywhere else you want to show your changed name

What if the divorce decree does not contain an order changing my name?

If your divorce decree doesn't include a court order to change your name, you have options. Some courts will let you request a change to its order to include language changing your name.

In California, for example, you can file an Ex Parte Application for Restoration of Former Name After Entry of Judgment of Order (form FL-395). You can use a certified copy of the approved order to change your name with agencies and businesses.

You still have options if the court won't change the order. But the process may be a little more work, especially if you want to take on an entirely new name.

You can change your name in some states by using your old name again. You also should change your name on your personal records. But this method may cause problems, such as when flying or getting a new passport.

Restoring a previous name is easier than taking on an entirely new name. The process is significantly easier when you have documentation with your prior name—for example, a birth certificate or passport. But you may still have to fill out some paperwork to complete your name change.

I changed my name to my prior name after my divorce. Can I also change my child's name?

Many courts say the child's father can insist that the child continue to use the father's last name. But the father must continue to fulfill his duties as a parent.

Some jurisdictions are changing the way they handle this issue due to changing social norms. For example, to address families with two mothers or two fathers.

The court may order a name change to the parent's prior name when it is clear that doing so is in the child's best interest. Courts will look at many factors when making this decision, such as:

  • The child's age
  • The strength of the parent-child relationship
  • How long has the child used the other parent's name
  • Any negative impacts that the child would suffer from a name change
  • Any benefits to changing the name, such as the parent re-marrying

Be aware that changing your child's name does not change the child's legal relationship with your former spouse. For example:

  • Visitation
  • Child support payments
  • Inheritance or intestacy rights

Only a court order can change these parental rights and responsibilities—for instance, a modified custody agreement or a stepparent adopting the child.

The process for a new spouse to adopt a stepchild includes the opportunity to change the child's name.

Does it cost anything to change my name?

It generally depends on your divorce decree. You may only need to pay for a certified copy of the order. Check with the clerk of the court that handled your divorce case.

Be aware that you may have to pay a fee at other agencies, such as the DMV. While changing your name after divorce may seem daunting, there may be an easy route for you.

Getting a Divorce? Consider Getting Professional Legal Advice

The emotional toll of splitting a family makes divorce proceedings an even more complex process. A family law attorney can help you overcome these challenges, including changing your last name.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified divorce attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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