When 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?
Divorce 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, after their divorce.
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 to do so now. Here is the procedure.
(Note: the procedure outlined below is targeted at California residents. The general outline should be applicable to your state.)
Filling Out the Change of Name Form
- Download the name change form online (search “Name Change in <your state>”), or go to the County Clerk’s Office and ask for the form. You’ll need to know the case number designated when your petition for dissolution was made, and the date when the judgment of dissolution was filed with the Court. You can find both of these numbers on the 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).
- In California, the form to use is FL-395, Ex Parte Application for Restoration of Former Name after Entry of Judgment and Order.
- In the section at the top of the name change form that says “Attorney or Party Without Attorney,” give your current name and address.
- In the section on the form called “Marriage of,” make sure you are legally accurate about who was Petitioner and who was Respondent. If you’re not sure, check how this section reads on your dissolution.
- In the section on the form called “Application,” be accurate about what you want your NEW name to be. It seems silly if you are switching back to your maiden name, but if it’s been a long time since you’ve used your maiden name, it can be easy to misspell it. Print neatly.
- Where the form says “Signature of applicant,” you sign with your present or married name.
- On Item #3, again print the new name you are requesting.
- Submit it to the County Clerk’s office with the small specified filing fee. Your court’s self-help center, family law facilitator, or small claims legal advisor can provide you more help if you need a fee waiver.
Changing Your Name
Depending upon how busy they are that day, the County Clerk’s office 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”.
Telling Your Children and Family
When telling your children you are changing your name, use a simple explanation that is appropriate to their age and understanding. Just tell them the facts and be willing to answer their questions. This can be a difficult change for your children, and you don’t want them to lose their sense of their own past and family heritage.
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.
Want more useful advice on life after a divorce? Check out our free divorce article archive.