If you took your husband’s surname when you were married, carrying it around with you for the rest of your life after your divorce can be uncomfortable. Fortunately, taking your maiden name back is usually a very simple matter, as long as you do it at the outset of your divorce. If you don’t decide you want your old name back until after your divorce, you can still make the change, but it usually requires another legal proceeding.
Include your name-change request in your petition or complaint for divorce. If you’re retained an attorney to handle your divorce for you, advise him that you want your maiden name back before he drafts your divorce petition so he can include this. If you’re representing yourself, many state courts have pre-printed divorce petitions that you can fill out and file. These usually include a box you can check, indicating that you would like to resume your maiden name.
File an amended divorce petition with the court if you decide to change your name after you file your initial petition. You can usually file the same document you did the first time, but mark the top of the document with the word ‘amended” and check the appropriate box the second time you file.
Appear in court for your final divorce hearing and reiterate to the judge that you want to resume use of your maiden name, if your state requires this. Some jurisdictions require that a judge orally question you about your reasons for wanting your name back, to make sure you’re not doing it for fraudulent purposes. Check with your attorney or the court clerk to find out if this is necessary in your state.
File a motion or petition with the court if you don’t decide to change your name until after your divorce is final. In some states, such as New Jersey, you can do this as part of your divorce action, even though your divorce is final, by filing a post-judgment motion. Other states, such as Massachusetts, require you to file a new petition or complaint in family court. This will also usually require an appearance in court so you can testify regarding your reasons. You might have to provide other documents if you make the request after your divorce is final, such as your original birth certificate, your marriage license and your divorce decree.
Begin the process of notifying government entities and your creditors that you’ve resumed your maiden name. Providing them with a copy of your divorce decree or name-change order is usually sufficient. Start with Social Security, because some agencies won’t change your name until it matches up with the name associated with your Social Security number.
Tips & Warnings
If your spouse files for divorce first, you’ll have to file answering pleadings with the court or risk a divorce judgment entered against you by default. When you file your answer, you can include your request to take your maiden name back in this document as well.
References & Resources
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