Name Change in a Divorce Decree

A Name Change is a simple yet often overlooked addition to a Divorce Decree.

When a Name Change is Allowed

Not so many years ago you would be hard pressed to hear the question “are you taking his name” posed to a bride entering marriage. Recently though, the decision to keep a maiden name, or to hyphenate is all the buzz. While initially changing your name through a marriage license application is quite simple, When the marriage ends, for some people the issue of name change resurfaces. Many women (and now men too!) include a request to be restored to their maiden name in their divorce action.  Interestingly, the Court can only restore your name back to the name you went by before the marriage.  So if this is a second or third marriage, you may not be able to go back to your maiden name if you never restored back to the maiden name in between marriages.  Additionally, a person seeking to restore a former name must prove that they are not doing so for purposes of avoiding creditors, judgments or felonies.

Sometimes, people wish to change their name to something entirely different than their maiden or former name.  We have heard all kinds of reasons why from, just because to, I like the number Ochocinco to I found out later my dad wasn’t my mom’s husband!  A name change can still be accomplished, but it must be filed as a separate count, or even as a separate proceeding in the circuit court.

What To Do After Name Change Is Issued

Our representation of divorcing parties often includes the request to restore a maiden or former name, and we understand the desire to make a fresh start by returning to the familiarity of a family name. However, including a finding in your divorce decree that restoration to your maiden name is part of the divorce is just the first step in once again being formally recognized and known by a prior last name.

After the dust settles and a determination by a judge that you may go back to use of a former name, it is important to take the administrative steps necessary to change your name. These steps include:

● Gathering documents: you will need a certified copy of your divorce decree, proof of identification (such as a driver’s license or other photo ID), and proof of your age (such as a copy of your birth certificate)

● Provide these documents to the appropriate governmental agency: for issuance of a new social security card, the documents listed above should be presented to the social security administration with the request for name change. For a new driver’s license, a visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles is necessary. It is important to note that you will first need certification from the social security office that the change has been approved prior to attempting to obtain a new driver’s license. This does not mean you must wait for a new social security card to arrive, just that you have made the request and have documents in hand showing the change is approved and the new card is in transit.

If your divorce decree does not include a provision for name change, you will be required to seek court amendment of your decree. Our office is skilled in seeking amendments of this type, and also in making the request in the initial filing if your case is not yet filed or final.  Still, if it is too late to include a name change in your divorce decree, we can help by filing a separate action in the circuit court.  There is an additional filing fee, so it is always best to consolidate with a divorce action if relevant, to avoid paying more filing fees than you have to.

Call a family law attorney in Stuart and the Treasure Coast with the legal know-how to make sure you have the necessary documents to change your name after divorce. Contact us to schedule an appointment to discuss all the issues of your divorce. We offer advice that is tailor made for your specific case, with the goal of helping you achieve your objectives. Your first visit is at a flat rate of $300.00.