How to Change Back to Your Maiden Name After a Divorce

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

How to Change Back to Your Maiden Name After a Divorce

By Cindy DeRuyter, J.D.

Many women take their spouse's last names when getting married. After a divorce, however, it is natural to want to use your maiden name again. In most cases, it is fairly simple to change your name back to your birth name. The process you follow and the complexity of that process depend on whether you request the name change as part of the divorce proceeding or opt to change your name later.

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Note that divorce law differs somewhat depending on the state where you file for divorce. This article provides general steps applicable in most jurisdictions. When in doubt, consider seeking legal advice.

1. Decide at the outset of your divorce that you want to use your maiden name again.

When the name change request is part of your initial divorce pleadings, there is no need for a separate court order or a separate court proceeding. So, if you know at the outset of your divorce that you want to reclaim your maiden name, let your attorney know so he or she can draft the pleading appropriately. If you are not using an attorney, there should be a place on the petition forms to indicate your desire to return to your maiden name after the divorce.

If you are not sure what name you want to use at the outset of your divorce but decide you want to revert to your maiden name while the matter is still pending, you and your attorney can amend the pleadings to include the name change request.

If you include the name change request during your divorce proceeding, you should receive a court order at the end of your divorce officially authorizing the change.

2. Obtain a court order after your divorce is final.

Sometimes, women in the middle of a divorce are not sure what name they want to use, so they do not include name change requests in their filings. If you decide sometime later that you want to use your birth name again, you need to follow your state's procedures for a name change.

Those procedures vary by state but may involve filing a legal motion with the clerk of courts in your county, publishing your intention to change your name in a legal newspaper, and a court hearing. In some states, the process of obtaining a court-ordered name change is more streamlined.

3. Update your last name on legal and personal records.

Whether you include your name change as part of your divorce or obtain a separate court order after getting divorced, you need to take additional action to use your maiden name again.

The divorce decree or separate court order is legal proof that you can change your last name on your driver's license, Social Security records, passport, bank and investment accounts, insurance policies, and other places. Provide the decree or court order to government agencies and financial account holders so they can update your records. You may need to complete additional provider-specific paperwork to make these changes official.

You have the right to use your maiden name again after getting a divorce. To avoid potential problems, be sure to use official legal channels as described above to change your name rather than simply signing your maiden name again after your divorce.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.