A woman often resumes the use of her maiden name after a divorce. However, you may choose to reacquire your maiden name while still married. For example, if you were to inherit a business in your family surname or start a career separate and distinct from your husband’s, you might want to reacquire your former name. Alternatively, you may have become widowed after a brief marriage and would prefer to resume the name you acquired at birth. The process for resuming your maiden name varies by state.
If you are still married and residing with your husband, you can change your name with a name change decree. The name change process begins with filing a petition for name change with the appropriate court in your state. In many states, name changes are within the jurisdiction of the probate court. In some states, however, petitions are filed in the circuit or superior courts. Some state laws require a court hearing and public notice of your petition in a local newspaper. Other states may award the name change decree based strictly on the facts contained in the petition, background checks, affidavit or other required documentation. State law may prohibit your request if you have felony charges pending or are changing your name in an attempt to avoid creditors or for other fraudulent purposes.
After Husband’s Death
If you wish to reacquire your maiden name after the death of your husband, many states require you to follow the typical name change procedure. In North Carolina, however, state statute provides for a widow to resume her maiden name by simply filing an application with the court stating the full name of her deceased spouse and attaching a copy of his death certificate.
Some states allow name change by usage. With this method, you would begin using a desired name and continuously identify yourself by that name so that, in time, you become known to all those surrounding you and those with whom you transact business by your new name. As identity theft increases, this name change method has become more difficult to achieve as government and other business entities require identification to complete certain transactions. If you are recently married and have not yet formally changed your legal records, such as identification, from your maiden name, you should have little problem resuming its use without further documentation.
Provide certified copies of the court decree or document changing your name to the Social Security Administration, Department of Motor Vehicles, voting registrar, financial institutions and others with whom you transact business. Be aware, however, that these entities may refuse to change your name in their records if you are unable to provide documentary proof as to your current identity, as would be the case with the usage method of name change.
References & Resources
- California Courts, the Judicial Branch of California: Changing an Adult's Name
- Maryland Judiciary: Instructions for Change of Name of an Adult
- Ohio Legal Services: Family Law, Name Changes
- New Hampshire Judicial Branch: Rules of the Circuit Court of the State of New Hampshire – Family Division, Section 9 – Name Change Actions
- Onecle: North Carolina General Statutes § 101-8 Resumption of Name by Widow or Widower
- Womans Divorce: Reverting to Maiden Name
- Social Security Administration: What Every Woman Should Know
- U.S. Passport Service Guide: U.S. Passports - Acceptable Forms of Name Changes
- Vermont Commission on Women: The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont, Name Changes
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