Resuming Use of Maiden Name Without Divorce

By Christine Funk, J.D.

Resuming Use of Maiden Name Without Divorce

By Christine Funk, J.D.

When a woman gets divorced, there is a procedure contained within the divorce process that allows her to change her name back to her maiden name. However, there are certain circumstances wherein a woman wishes to return to her maiden name even though she hasn't gotten a divorce. Perhaps she inherits her dad's business, Danielson and Daughters Doughnut Shoppe, and wishes to return to the Danielson name. Perhaps she discovers by using her married name, she is now the third Christine Olson in the family. Maybe she was widowed and wishes to return to her maiden name. In any event, she can accomplish this legally, but the method varies by state.

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Using a Maiden Name While Still Married

If a woman changed her last name to her husband's last name at the time of the marriage and wishes to change it back, she can file for a legal name change. Depending on the jurisdiction, this occurs in one of the following courts:

  • Circuit court
  • District court
  • Probate court
  • Superior court

Each state has its own requirements for legal name changes. For example, some states require publication of your intent to change your name in a local newspaper, or, in states such as North Carolina, on a bulletin board in the courthouse. Other states require a background check. Still, other states have other requirements. Similarly, the fee for a name change can vary dramatically depending on the jurisdiction. The one constant from state to state when dealing with name change requests is that you cannot change your name in an attempt to perpetrate a fraud or in order to escape debts.

Using a Maiden Name When Widowed

When a woman is widowed, her name does not automatically change back to her maiden name. Rather, most states require a woman to go through the name change procedure just as anyone else would.

However, this is not true in every state. For example, in North Carolina, a widow may simply fill out an application to the clerk of court in the county where she resides, detailing her intention to resume using her maiden name. She must attach her spouse's death certificate to the application.

Using a Maiden Name Without Legal Documentation

In a concept called name change by usage, a person simply begins using a new name or resumes using their maiden name. Over time, those around the person begin to associate the new name with this person's identity.

Name change by usage is less recognized now than it was in the last century. With the implementation of computer systems, combined with very real threats of identity theft, changing one's name simply by responding to a new name is far less common, and the courts, the government, and businesses are far less likely to accept it.

Securing Documentation of a Name Change

When someone gets a name change, it usually accompanies court documentation. The person who changed their name should provide documents to the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Motor Vehicles, voter registration, banking institutions, stock brokers, and other businesses where financial transactions or business transactions occur.

It is rare that a business or government entity simply accepts a name change by usage alone. Instead, to confirm there's no attempt at fraud or financial evasion, the government generally wants a name change to go through the state's legal process.

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.