A Divorce By Any Other Name

Posted on: 8 November 2021

Separating spouses will face several decisions with divorce and one of them is the name choice. You can revert back to the name you used prior to the marriage or you can continue to use your married last name. Both options are perfectly legal and acceptable but you should consider the issues below before you decide.

The Default Choice: In most states, your name will remain unchanged unless you specifically ask your divorce lawyer to add the change to the divorce paperwork. Even if your lawyer doesn't mention this issue, be sure to ask about it — especially if you plan to make a change. Doing a name change at the time of the divorce is far easier than taking action later after the divorce is final. Then, you may have to petition the court, attend a hearing, and give a reason why you want your name changed.

Hyphenated Names: It has become more common for couples to take on the last name of their spouse using a hyphenated combination of both last names. That must be changed at the time of the divorce too if you don't want to continue using your former partner's last name along with your former name.

No New Names: You cannot use a divorce decree to take on an entirely new name. You can only revert back to the name you had before you married. That would apply to the so-called maiden name for females but it also applies to males or same-sex couples who are using a hyphenated name. If you want something else, you must take action by filing a name change petition with the court.

Confusion is Possible: It's undoubtedly easier to keep using the same name particularly if you have been married for a long time and are used to it. However, if you keep using your married name you should be ready for issues of mistaken identity such as when there are two Mrs. Jones connected to the same spouse or children. Those with children, on the other hand, should consider how having a parent with a different last name from the child could affect things. With divorce being prevalent and many using hyphenated names, this may not be the issue it used to be, however.

Be Ready for Some Tasks: If you do decide to revert back to your previous name, be ready to have a lot of documents changed and updated. To name just a few, your driver's license, passport, and Social Security card will need to be updated.

To learn more about issues surrounding name changes, contact a divorce lawyer.