If You Get Divorced, Can You Change Your Name to Something Different From Your Maiden Name?

by David Carnes
Most states require a hearing to obtain a court-ordered name change.

Most states require a hearing to obtain a court-ordered name change.

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Changing back to your maiden name after a divorce is a simple process in most states -- simply petition the court to modify the divorce decree. If you wish to change your name to another name, however, you may not rely on your divorce as legal grounds for your name change. Instead, you must commence a separate legal action. Although procedures vary by state, they include certain common features.

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The Name Change Petition

The first step in changing your name is to file a name change petition with the clerk of the state district court in the county of your residence. Although the contents of a name change petition vary by state, states typically require only basic information about you and your reason for wanting to change your name. After your petition is filed, the court will schedule a hearing and notify you of the place and time.

Publication

You will be required to publish a notice of your intent to change your name in a local newspaper prior to the hearing. The notice must include the place and time of the hearing, so that anyone who objects to your name change may appear and contest it. You will be required to submit proof of publication, such as a receipt from a newspaper, at the hearing.

Ruling on a Name Change Petition

If no one objects to your name change petition and there is no reason to deny it, your petition will be granted. A court may deny your name change petition under certain circumstances, however -- for example, you may not change your name to evade creditors or escape prosecution. A court will also deny your name change petition if changing your name would cause confusion or affect the rights of a celebrity. If the court approves your petition, it will issue a written name change order.

Identity Documents

After the court approves your name change petition, you must replace your identity documents. Replacing identity documents typically requires you to submit a copy of your name change order, complete a form and pay a filing fee. Certain restrictions apply, however -- your Social Security number will remain unchanged even after a name change, for example, and you cannot amend your birth certificate unless the name that appears on it was incorrect at the time it was issued.