Changing Your Name After Divorce

QuestionChanging Your NameWhen I was divorced, I didn’t change my name, but now I want to resume my former name and drop my ex-husband’s name. Is it too late to do this without an expensive attorney?

 

AnswerDivorce is very unsettling, to say the least. It is difficult to think about changing one’s name when there are so many other more pressing issues, and many women decide to continue using their married names, at least for the time being

Resuming your former name is a significant step. It marks a return to a former SELF, and for many women, this represents a positive step towards recovery and acceptance of the divorce.

If you were not ready to make a name change at the time of divorce, and now you are, it is neither too late nor too difficult or expensive. Here is the procedure.

(Note: the procedure outlined below is targeted at California residents. The general outline should be applicable to your state.)

  1. Download the form online (search “Name Change in (your state)”, or go to the County Clerk’s Office. You’ll need the case number designated when petition for dissolution was made, and the date when judgment of dissolution was filed with the Court. Both of these will be found on papers you received when the divorce was final. (The case number and date are also public record and can be found with the clerk’s help if necessary).
  2. In California, the form to use is FL-395, Ex Parte Application for Restoration of Former Name after Entry of Judgment and Order.
  3. In the section at the top that says “Attorney or Party Without Attorney,” give your current name and address.
  4. In the section called “Marriage of,” be legally accurate about who was Petitioner and who was Respondent. Check how this section reads on your dissolution.
  5. In the section called “Application” be very specific about what you want your “former” (NEW) name to be. Print neatly.
  6. Where it says “Signature of applicant” you sign with your present or married name
  7. On Item #3, again print the new name you are requesting.
  8. Submit it to the County Clerk’s office with the small specified filing fee.  Your court’s self-help centerfamily law facilitator, or small claims legal advisor can provide you more help if you need a fee waiver.

Depending upon how busy they are that day, they may process the form for you on the spot, giving you a copy as your evidence of name change. If not, be prepared to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope so they can mail your copy to you when it is processed.

When you have your copy of the form in hand, you can begin changing your name with other entities.. The best place to start is with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Take your approved form with you and get a new driver’s license. When your new license is sent to you, use that license as evidence of your new name to gradually make the changes with banks, credit card companies, Social Security, employers, etc.

During the period when the change is not complete, you can use both signatures: your new name followed by “AKA (your old name)” AKA stands for “Also Known As”.
When telling your children you are changing your name, make a simple explanation appropriate to their age and understanding. Just tell them the facts, and don’t elaborate too much, so that they can retain pride in their birth name.

Your children will probably adapt to your new name faster than family and friends. People who know you by your married name may take a while to accept the change. And many people and institutions will assume that your name change indicates a new marriage for you. Consider in advance how you will handle their comments and inquiries.

A name change should not be an impulsive decision, nor is it alone the measure of your recovery from divorce. Before you change your name, make sure you have thought your decision through and it is best for you.

Comments

  1. It is very useful. I really need an info about name changes after divorce. But I still need one more question, my divorce was done in Los Angeles but now I am residing in San Diego. Can I go to superior court , county of San Diego? Your answer will be helpful. Thank you in advance.
    Alisa

  2. Sheila Mae Davis says:

    I would like to change my last name back to my maiden name. My girls are grown and out of school and has their own last name now. I would like to go back to my maiden name now

  3. I divorced in 1987 and the lawyer had told me I couldn’t have my maiden name back because I had two minor children. Which is BS! Now I have to pay for it???

  4. In most states, you can request that the judge handling your divorce make a formal order restoring your former or birth name. If your divorce decree contains such an order, that’s all the paperwork you’ll need. You’ll want to get certified copies of the order as proof of the name change. I hope this helps.

  5. I’ve been married and divorced twice. I’ve changed my name during both marriages. Between the first divorce and second, I never changed my name back to my maiden name. Can I use this simple process above to change it back to my maiden name now?

    • Each jurisdiction has somewhat different rules, but this or some variation on it should work.

      • My divorce was final 4/2012 in Riverside County California, my children are now adults and I am contemplating restoring my maiden name but I am conflicted, my relationship of 27 years and marriage of 21 years I was a victim of DV and long history of abuse I suffered, my x told me several times during the divorce that I am not worth of being a Halliburton and I don’t deserve to continue using his name so half of me wants to keep it just to piss him off and the other half of me wants to restore it just to piss him off. I know this bothers him because he’d seen I had used my maiden name and was sure to mention it as if he was insulted.

        If I do decide to request the restoration of my maiden name and file the appropriate paperwork with the court being that it’s in reference to the divorce case will my x be notified or receive notice of my request??

  6. My divorce has been finalized. I’m keeping my married name, but who do I have to notify of my surname change (from married to single)? Tax filing is coming up, so is this something that I have to do? Do I have to let IRS, DMV, and Social Security know? If so, in what order?

  7. The divorce settlement gives me back my former name but how soon do you need to change your name after the divorce? I have several cars that I would eventually like to sell and would like to avoid all the title change charges. Also the house may not sell for a couple of years.

  8. My divorce decree allowed me to change back to my maiden name, but I was lazy and never did. Now Im in a new relationship and we are talking marriage. Do I have to go back to my maiden name before I can remarry?

  9. It’s been well over 30 years since being divorced and leaving the person I was married to for many years. Now, I’m living in a facility for people who need help (my memory is terrible so they help me take my meds as now, as a result of the marriage have epilepsy). There is not any money and I have no way of paying anyone anything. (I get $140 a month from the govn’t). I was divorced in CA and am living in Oregon. I’m finally well enough to go out and be with friends (still have severe panic attacks when new to a place). The people in charge here will, I’m sure, take care of any legal matters. I am just wondering, will I be able to finally get my maiden name back again??? Being abused for 12 1/2 yrs certainly took its’ toll on me!

  10. Having that man’s last name hanging on me constantly reminds me of the terrible situation I somehow
    survived and regaining my maiden name (which I like far better anyway) will help me more as becoming better able to handle situations arises. I feel it really is very important for me to get rid of that last name I took on when marrying that person. The biggest problem for me is not having the money to pay for things. No bank account, no “cards” … just the amount of cash I’m allotted monthly. We don’t get taken out very often but I read a lot and am a writer so I keep busy … also love to study the Bible. So far, I’ve been living in this facility for a little over 2 yrs. Most of the people are quite a bit older than I am and love playing bingo and such and those kinds of games are just not my idea of fun! If you could help me get my maiden name back, I would certainly be sooooooooo g l a d ! Thank you for caring enough to allow people to voice their concerns. You are very kind in doing this.

  11. Can I still change my last name if I have been divorced in 1986 and have been with him as common law since then on and off

  12. I would like to change my name back to my maiden name. I have been divorced 29 years, I know a long time. For different reasons, I never changed it before. I am now in a common-law relationship, but everyone thinks I am married. No one knows about my previous marriage. It was a bad marriage, he was abusive. I really don’t want his name anymore. I don’t want everyone at work to know my past and I don’t want to explain it. This is really bothering me of what to tell people. What do I tell people at work of why I am now changing myname? A counselor suggested to say, that I am going back to my birth name. Please help if you have any ideas or suggestions as to what I should say or do.

  13. Jennifer Cumstay says:

    Hi there,
    I have been divorced for 10 years and never changed back to my maiden name. I was thinking about filing a form FL-395, but wanted to know if I could choose another surname (which was not a previous name), rather than my maiden name. Is this allowed or do I have to go through a complete name change process? Thank you for your help.

  14. Brandy Nisownger says:

    I was married in Missouri and soon after we got transferred to VA. When we got divorced it was filed and completed in VA. I am now back in Missouri and I want to go back to my maiden name (it is not in the decree). I need to know what state I file the request in, MO or VA?

    • Since your VA divorce decree didn’t give you your name back, you’ll need to either (a) amend your VA divorce decree, or (b) request a name change in MO, the state in which you reside. I’m guessing that the least expensive option would be (b), but I don’t know for sure.

  15. Jana Windels says:

    Hi. I got married in Indiana and divorced in Missouri where I currently reside. In the decree it does state that I can take my maiden name back which I’m ready to do. However I just don’t know where or how to make that happen. Do you just take the final divorce decree to the county clerks office? Thanks.

    • The best place to start is with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Take your divorce decree with you and get a new driver’s license. When your new license is sent to you, use that license as evidence of your new name to gradually make the changes with banks, credit card companies, Social Security, employers, etc.

  16. Anderson says:

    Can i keep my married name and pick my maiden name back up. My decree allows me to have my maiden name back.

  17. Colleen Rhinehart says:

    I paid to have my last name change but haven’t sent in my license? how do I know I still can do this?
    I live in MN…Thaks,
    kelly.rhinehart@gmail.com

  18. I have a question to ask…. i got divorced in January and in the divorce papers it says i shall be restored to my maiden name. my question is do i have to change it and will i get in trouble if i dont??? i have not had time to go to the social security office to get a new card and all that stuff. this was the only way my ex would sign the divorce papers. can i use either my married name or maiden name ???

  19. I divorced in Ventura county California and was unsure off restoring my maiden name due to my kids. I now live in Wayne county Michigan and have decided I want my maiden name back. Can I just send a form in to either Michigan or California? Going downtown to Detroit is a pain in the butt. I just want my name back. It shouldn’t be this complicated to have back what is mine anyways.

    • If your divorce decree gives you the right to restore your maiden name, then you can take that decree to the DMV and Social Security Administration to do so. Otherwise, you can petition the court in the state where you are a resident to change your last name. You will have to file a new complaint for a name change, have your fingerprints taken and have the state police check your criminal record, and you will have to publish a document in the legal news and go before the judge to have it approved.

  20. Hi
    My divorce decree States that i am restoring my maiden name will it automatically change after my divorce is finalized? And, do they send me the divorce decree in the mail to revised it first before they file it with the courts?

  21. My ex-husband and I lived in California. When he got stationed in North Carolina, he divorced me there while I still lived in California. I didn’t want a name change then because the children were very small. Now that they are all grown, I would like my maiden name back. Do I petition the court where the divorce took place to regain my maiden name?

  22. While changing last name, SimpleNameChange service is useful. It will allow to print all forms already filled out, for various institutions more easily. http://www.simplenamechange.com/ ?

  23. I am getting remarried soon. I kept my ex-husband’s last name after the divorce and I am considering hyphenating it with my new married name due to the fact I have children with that last name that I am raising still. Can you discuss the pros and cons of doing this? I have read that some people feel hyphenating is a hassle. Also, is it a bad idea to keep your previously married name with a new married name?

  24. I will be getting divorced soon in NJ and I intend to have the option of returning to my maiden name in my final divorce decree. I am wondering if I can still use the title “Mrs” with my maiden name as I am not a big fan of “Ms?”

  25. When I married my first husband, I never legally changed my last name to his name. When I petitioned the court for a divorce, however, I used my married name. The divorce was granted. This was over 17 years ago. Since my last name was never legally changed after I married the first time, is my divorce legal? I remarried 5 years ago. Is my marriage to my current spouse legal given the fact that my divorce was granted under a name that had not been legally changed?

  26. While reading the marriage settlement agreement, I requested my former maiden name to be restored, but now I have changed my mind. Do I need to now go by the restored former name, or can I just continue to use my married last name?

  27. While reading the marriage settlement agreement into the court record, I requested my former maiden name to be restored, but now I have changed my mind. Do I need to now go by the restored former name, or can I just continue to use my married last name?

  28. Julie Gresham says:

    This question seems to be asked over and over, but I still need clarification. I am divorced from my second husband. It was not put in our divorce papers to change my name and now he is insisting that I change it either to my previous married name (the same as my children) which I prefer or go back to my maiden name which I do not want to do. Will the court force me to change my last name? Or if I decide to do this, I would like to go back to my previous married name instead of my maiden name. My first husband is now remarried, is there any reason that I can not use my previous married name? Many people still know me by that name. Thanks you.

    • Your name is your name — you can take whatever name you choose, including keeping the name you have now. The court won’t force you to change your name — you will have to get it done legally, but whatever name you choose will be yours.

  29. Hello, maybe you can shed some light on the situation I am in. In 2008 my first divorce was finalized, and I had the decree stating that my maiden name be restored. I never went back to my maiden name, and continued to use my first husband’s last name. I even got married for the second time in 2010, and on that marriage license I used my first husband’s last name when signing it. I never took or used my second husband’s last name because I didn’t want his last name. Then in the same year 2010 my driver’s license was suspended because my insurance lapsed. I had to go to the DMV to change my last name over to my maiden name on my driver’s license, and down to the Social Security office to change my last name to my maiden name on my social security card. With that being said I am trying to get hired as a correctional officer in the state of Florida, and they are telling me that since I didn’t use my maiden name on the second marriage license that they cannot further process my application. Their reasoning is that I should have documentation that I went back to my maiden name instead of using my first husband’s last name on the second marriage license……….I am so lost, because I know I can’t go back and change my second marriage license because of us being divorced already. Any advice is greatly appreciated!

    • Are you sure they understand the chronology of what happened? From your description, at the time you married your second husband you had not yet changed your name back to your maiden name. So you used your married name to sign the license. Subsequent to that you changed your name to your maiden name, and henceforth will use that name. But changing your name doesn’t mean that things in your past (such as your marriage license) are changed. It sounds as though the corrections dept thinks that you changed your name before you remarried, and doesn’t understand that though you had permission to change your name, you had not yet taken the necessary steps to do so.

  30. How long can I wait to change my name after my divorce is final without going thru the steps outlined at the beginning of this article? I would like to take my divorce decree to the DMV and begin the name change process as described but would like to delay for a bit–up to one year. Is this reasonable? What is an acceptable time frame to delay in Washington State without going thru the more complicated process?

  31. Marcy Mason says:

    I just turned in the FL-395 here in California and it was free. In 2 weeks I go get my official name change paperwork reclaiming my maiden name. I was divorced 15 years ago and I still had copies of my divorce decree and added my birth cert for good measure!

  32. I am going through my 2nd divorce and have a daughter from each marriage. I kept my 1st husbands name until I was married the 2nd time. Because I don’t want to have one or the other child’s last name and don’t want to go back to my maiden name and have neither can I have my name change to a hyphenated name with both. I am getting divorced in Mo and want to know if this is legal and can be done with my divorce. Thank you

    • As far as I know, your name can be whatever name you choose. Check with your divorce attorney and/or a divorce clerk at the courthouse to be sure it can be done with your divorce. There should be a place on the paperwork to indicate the new name that you want to take.

  33. Cynthia Prather says:

    I’ve been married for over 20 years and changing my name back to my maiden name is daunting even though there’s no kids involved. My maiden name although shorter, is just as difficult to spell or say as my married name. I have all my public items with my married name i.e. domain/web site, email addresses, LinkedIn, Facebook. Updating my credit and social security is a pain, but what a hassle telling everyone I’m divorced publicly is scary. I was thinking why not create a new last name that’s easy to say and spell, or just keep the married name? Anyway, a friend at the time of marriage changed her first name, along with her last and that’s where the idea came from to have the freedom to do that. The only issue I see is the people who have known me forever would interpret the new name as I’ve remarried. I saw that you mentioned on a post if the judge updates my new name or maiden that it doesn’t require me to do so right away but the paperwork would be done for the future.

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