Divorce: How soon can I start using my maiden name?

Q:

Divorce: How soon can I start using my maiden name?

A:

After divorce or separation, some women may want to immediately revert to using their maiden name to reclaim a sense of identity. Others may decide revert to their maiden name so that they are not reminded of their former spouse.

For a variety of other reasons, however, some women may choose to keep their married name. For example, they may want to have the same name as their children, they do not want to go through the effort to revert to their maiden name, or they like the consistency of having all of their family and friends know them by the same name.

Regardless of whether you choose to continue to use your married name or revert to your maiden name, the good news is that you do have choices. You also have some choice about when you want to make the change. For example, you can request the change during the divorce process, request the change after the divorce, or never make a change.

Requesting a Name Change During the Divorce

Legally reverting to your maiden name following the divorce is a simple matter. First, you will need to include the name change request in the divorce petition or complaint for divorce. If you have hired a lawyer to help complete the divorce forms, they can include this request. If you are filing for divorce on your own, there is generally a place to request the resumption of your maiden name. If you are the respondent and you did not file the divorce petition, you can request the name change when you file your answer.

If the divorce petition has already been filed and you failed to make a name change request, you can file an amended divorce petition and include the name change request. It is also recommended that you discuss this request with the judge and remind them of this request at the final divorce hearing.

Requesting a Name Change After the Divorce is Finalized

The steps to request a name change after the divorce is finalized vary by state. In some states, you will have to file a motion or petition with the court requesting the name change, and make a court appearance to provide information about the reasons for the request. In other states, however, you may be able to file a post-judgment motion.

In other states, such as California, you may be able to avoid legally changing your name through a court order by using a process called the “usage method.” Under this method, individuals can simply start using their preferred name in all areas of their life. While this is simple, certain governmental agencies and other states will require a court order to recognize a legal name change. For this reason, it’s recommended that individuals avoid the informal usage method and make the legal change through a court order.

Can I use my maiden name while I am separated?

Some women want to use their name right away after the separation. They may not want to have to wait until the divorce is finalized. Whether you can use your maiden name while you are separated, before the divorce has become finalized, and before your name has been legally changed depends on how you want to use it.

For example, if you are asked your legal name by a governmental institution, or are required to provide your legal name for any type of financial account or legal document, you will need to provide your married name if the divorce is not finalized and your name has not legally been changed.

If, however, you are informally introducing yourself to friends or posting information on a social networking site, you are free to use any name that you want to use.

Considerations Before You Revert to Your Maiden Name

If you decide to change your name back to your maiden name following a divorce, you will need to notify all the necessary agencies including your financial institutions, the IRS, the Social Security Administration, banking institutions, credit card companies and the Department of Motor Vehicles. As mentioned above, even if your state allows an informal name change through the usage method, you may still have to provide a court order or divorce decree as proof of the change.

Bottom line: Can you use your maiden name any time you want? Yes, but to legally change your name and use it on legal documents, such as your driver’s license or passport, you will generally need a court order. Considerations, however, should be made prior to a name change. Consider the steps that you will need to take, the fees that may be incurred, and whether it is important to you to retain the same name as your children.

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Whether you're facing a legal issue or just seeking information, Justipedia aims to be your most trusted resource for legal information on the Web. With the help of legal professionals across the country, we put the law in plain language to help answer your top legal questions.

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