Changing your surname after divorce

Changing Your Surname After Divorce

Often wives take on their husband’s family name once they are married, though it’s not always the case. Gone are the days where wives were socially expected to take their husband’s last name and drop their own. Today, some women may choose to take both names and simply hyphenate her last name with that of her husband. And, depending on the situation, the wife may choose to change their last name once again in the case of a divorce.

If you and your partner have decided to divorce, you may be wondering how the process will work for changing your surname. Laws that affect this process will vary by state, and we urge you to do your own research to determine what will be applicable for your specific situation. We will discuss general information about changing your surname after divorce below, to help guide you through what the likely process will be.

Changing Your Surname After Divorce | Before the Decree

If you’re doing your research now before the divorce has been finalized, then we have some good news. An easy way to take care of your surname is to request an addition to your divorce decree. In this addition, it will clearly state that you plan to reclaim your maiden name once the divorce is final. This request can be made with the judge overseeing your divorce, and once everything is finalized, you won’t need any additional court intervention in taking back your last name. Nice and simple!

Changing Your Surname After Divorce | After the Decree

Quick tip: Even if your divorce is finalized, it may be possible for you to have the request for a name change entered into the court record. Whether or not this is possible will depend on the state you live in, so make sure to do a little digging before looking for other options.

Be sure to get a copy of the decree specifying the request for a name change after everything is finalized. This will serve as your legal proof that will allow you to change back to your maiden name on bank accounts, IDs, online subscriptions, etc.

Looking for more information on what a divorce decree is? LegalZoom covers all the details on when the divorce decree is issued and what the differences are between the decree and the divorce certificate. You can find more information about obtaining a divorce certificate here.

Changing Your Surname After Divorce | Alternative Options

The divorce is final, and you aren’t able to amend the decree to include a name change request. Now what? Luckily there are still options that don’t involve sticking with a surname you no longer want.

In some states, you can start the process of changing your surname by filing a name change petition. Your state court’s website should have more information on what you’ll need to bring with you in order to file. For example, NYCourts.Gov explains their process for filing the petition, and also outlines where to go and what to bring. You will likely need the following documents to file for the petition:

  • A Name Change Petition and Proposed Order
  • A certified copy of your birth certificate
  • Court fee
  • A self-addressed, stamped envelope for the court to mail your documents back to you

Another option to consider is keeping your married last name, if it makes sense for you. There are many reasons why a divorcee may choose to keep a married last name: maintaining a consistent identity if friends and family have come to know you by the married name, children, and business relationships are all valid reasons why someone may choose to pass on the legal name change process.

A final alternative is to simply change your last name by usage only, and leave your married name on all formal or legal documents. This is a personal choice, and you want to feel 100% comfortable with your decision. Think about what makes the most sense for your situation, and then go from there.

We hope this helped guide you through the process of changing your last name. If you’re in need of certified copies of your birth, marriage, or divorce certificates, VitalChek is happy to assist. As the ONLY external authorized online ordering agent for vital records agencies, we pride ourselves on offering a safe and secure process for getting the documents you need online.

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