After the grieving process is complete, a widow may decide to re-quire her maiden name. This may be especially true if she married late in life and lost her husband a few years after marriage. Unlike a divorce, where the divorce decree may state that a wife returns to her maiden name, a death certificate for a spouse does no more than briefly mention the name of the surviving spouse, leaving the widow to take further action, if desired, to resume her maiden name.
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Search online for your state or county court website. Depending on the state, name change actions may be filed in superior, family or probate courts. If forms are not available online, contact an attorney or the court clerk for forms and/or assistance.
Complete and print the fillable petition online or print the blank forms for completion by hand or typewriter later. Most state petitions will require that you declare your full current name, the full name that you wish to acquire and that you are not changing your name to avoid creditors. Some state petitions will further require statements that you have not been convicted of a crime, do not have pending criminal charges and you are not a registered sex offender. If any of these apply, additional steps, or even a different process, may be required, and your petition could be denied.
File the name change petition along with completed civil action cover sheets, proposed orders and the final decree, available on the site. Although you may be required to fill in limited information on the orders and the decree, these forms will be finalized by the court. Pay any filing fees due, which, depending on the state, may include publication charges if the clerk of your court is responsible for mailing the order or notice to the local newspaper.
Obtain an order to show cause or a publication order from the court that should set a hearing date and require that any parties objecting to the change appear at the hearing. This may either be mailed to you or be available while you wait after filing your petition. The time period required between the publication notice and the date of hearing may be different from state to state. Not all states require publication, and some may exempt certain people from publication, depending on the circumstances. Read online instructions or inquire of the court clerk to see if publication is necessary.
Attend any required hearing. Often hearings are merely a formality or may even be waived in some jurisdictions if, upon a review of the petition and accompanying paperwork, the judge determines it unnecessary.
Obtain certified copies of your signed decree to present to the Social Security Administration, financial institutions, department of motor vehicles drivers license division and other entities with which you are in contact or transact business. Courts may also require that a certified copy be sent to the department of vital statistics.
Tips & Warnings
In states that require that the name change petitioner arrange for publication of the order, you should take a copy of the order to show cause or publication notice to the local paper and pay publication charges.
Obtain the services of an attorney if you are unsure of what is required or uncomfortable with handling the process on your own.
References & Resources
- New Jersey Courts: Civil-Law Name Change - Adult
- Indiana Courts: Court Forms Packet: Verified Petition for Name Change for an Adult
- California Courts: Browse All Forms
- Arizona Judicial Branch: Name Change Forms
- California Courts: Petition for Change of Name
- North Carolina General Assembly: North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 101, Names of Persons.
- Maryland Judiciary: Instructions for Change of Name of an Adult
- Social Security Online: What Every Woman Should Know
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