Can a Woman Take Back Her First Husband's Name After Divorcing a Second Husband?

by Marcy Brinkley

    Name change laws vary from state to state but, typically, any adult aged 18 or older may ask the court for a name change as long as the purpose is not to defraud creditors or flee from criminal charges. If a woman wants to use her first husband's name after divorcing her second husband, the procedure will depend on whether she has used the name before and whether the divorce has been finalized.

    Name Change in Divorce Decree

    Typically, state laws allow a woman to include a name change in the final decree of divorce if she wishes, but the choice is limited to surnames she has used in the past. In Texas, for example, a wife divorcing her second husband could choose to resume the use of her maiden surname or that of her first husband. If she did not use her first husband's surname during that marriage, however, she may not adopt that name in the divorce decree.

    Modifying the Divorce Decree

    If you did not ask for a name change at the time of your divorce, your state may allow you to ask for a modification of the final decree. In California, for example, you may file an Ex Parte Application for Restoration of Former Name After Entry of Judgment and Order to request a name change after your divorce has been finalized and you want to resume using your maiden name or another former name. The form is available on your county's website and at the county clerk's office. However, you may not use this form if you were divorced in another state.

    Petition to Change Name

    If you have never used your first husband's name, your state may require you to file a petition to change your name and attend a hearing unrelated to the divorce. In Texas, for example, you may download a name change petition from the county website, sign it before a notary, attach a completed fingerprint card, and file the documents at the courthouse. In the petition, you must state your current name, reason for the change and your criminal history. At the hearing, the judge will sign the name change order you present to her unless she finds there is a reason to deny the change.

    Considerations

    If you have children from your second marriage who use their father's surname, you cannot change their names to a previous husband's name unless their other parent agrees. You do not need permission from your previous husband to use his name. Changing your name, however, does not absolve you from paying debts accumulated under another name, allow you to change your Social Security number or erase any criminal record you might have under another name. You must make arrangements to change your name on your driver's license, Social Security card, passport, and other official documents.

    About the Author

    Marcy Brinkley's articles about health care and legal issues have appeared in "Texas Health Law Reporter" and the "State Bar of Texas Health Law Section Report." She holds a bachelor's degree in nursing, a master's degree in business administration and a Doctor of Jurisprudence.