Last Updated on May 18, 2022 @ 4:52 pm

Changing Back to Your Former Name

As your divorce proceedings wrap up, one final thing to consider is whether you should change your name back to your maiden name (your name prior to marriage). If you wish to revert back to your maiden name, the judge can order the name change as part of your final divorce hearing. No state requires you to revert back to your former name, so you have the option to do so if you would like.

How Do I Resume My Former Name?

As far as the court proceedings are concerned, there isn’t too much that needs to be done. In order for the judge to order the name change, your divorce judgment must include a provision stating you would like the option to resume use of your former (maiden) name. This step often times is forgotten in the midst of lengthy divorce proceedings but entering the change at your final hearing can save you time and frustration in the future. If the name change is not in the final Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, the process for changing back to your former name means having to file a formal name change court case and spend hundreds of dollars in the process. When it is ordered in a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, there is no additional cost.

Some things to consider when determining whether to change your name

• Do you use your married or former name in your professional life (as a doctor, a lawyer, or business owner)?
• Will your kids have a different last name from you?
• Did you never actually change your name, legally, to your married name?

Name change check list

Does your divorce judgment contain a provision stating you will change your name back?
If YES:

  • You will need a certified copy of your divorce judgment (this can be obtained through the county circuit clerk of the state your divorce judgment was filed).
    If NO:
    -You will need to file a name change request which requires a formal case be opened which will cost additional money

Will you be changing your child’s name?
-If yes, this must be done separately from your divorce case by filing a name change request form. In some states, if both parents approve, an Order for an updated birth certificate and name change can be a part of the divorce case (or in an unmarried persons paternity case), but this is rarely done.

Documents Need to be Changed

Entering your name change at your final divorce hearing can help simplify the process, however, bear in mind the name change will need to be reflected in the following list of documents, most of which will need to see the certified copy of your divorce judgment:

• Updated social security card – filed with the Social Security Administration
• Updated driver’s license or state ID at the DMV
• Updated passport and Travelers Program (Global Entry)
• Updated voter registration information
• Update your name with the post office
• Update your name with your employer
• Update all important financial accounts
• Update all government issued ID’s/FOID card
• Update name on all government provided program cards
• Update name on all utilities

While this is not an exhaustive list, it is a start of things to consider when deciding whether or not to change your name at the completion of your divorce case. Some reasons people chose to keep their married name include: (i) convenience – if there are children involved, changing your name back to your maiden name would mean you would have a different name than your children; (ii) professional reasons-if your married name was used to build a business changing back to your maiden name could be costly to rebrand an already established business; and (iii) preference – they just like their married name.

Can My Spouse Make Me Change My Name?

Many times, when people get divorced, the husband does not want the wife to continue using his last name any longer. While this may seem by some men to be reasonable, it is now. The simple answer is no, you cannot be forced to resume use of your former name. This is a decision that only you can make. If a divorce judgment includes the proper wording, you can choose to resume your maiden name or not. This would mean that the divorce judgment should not say that you ‘shall’ resume your former name, but it should say something like this: “Respondent/Defendant shall be granted leave to resume her former/maiden name of (type maiden name) should she so choose.” This leaves the option open to either change back or not – but it does not require you to do so.

To Change or Not to Change, That is the Question

The majority of people that resume use of the former name do so because they want to have a fresh start and lose all attachment to their formerly married self. For some people, this is not an option because kids are involved and it may be easier to continue to keep the same last name as the kids (for purposes of school registration, doctors, etc.). At the end of the day, whatever you decide to do at the end of your divorce proceedings, to change or not to change, it’s a good idea to have an understanding of the steps and reasons for either option and to discuss it with your divorce lawyer. Just make sure you tell the judge!

2 thoughts on “What’s In a Name?”

  1. I wanted to change my name before the divorce is final. I use my name before i was married already, but my maiden name isnt on my driver’s license or anything. Is that ok to do?

    1. Nicholas Baker

      Good question. Many women begin using their maiden name before the divorce is completed, this isn’t out of the ordinary at all. However, because the divorce is not finalized, your legal last name is not your former name just yet.
      Without filing a separate case with the court to legally change your name, you will have to wait until the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage is entered by the judge.
      The Judgment will specifically state what the legal name change is (back to your former name) and by obtaining a certified copy of the judgment, the DMV and social security office will then be able to make that change. Best of luck, and if you have other questions, feel free to reach out to an experienced divorce lawyer here.

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