Changing your name after a divorce can be a significant step towards reclaiming your identity and embracing a fresh start. For many individuals, reverting to your original name symbolizes both a personal milestone and to the world that you are no longer tied to another. However, navigating the legal process and understanding the implications involved can be complex and vary depending on the jurisdiction. Whether driven by personal preference, cultural reasons, or simply the desire for a new beginning, the question remains: Can I change my name after divorce and how? Understanding the procedures and considerations involved is important in embarking on this transformative journey.
Can I Change My Name After Divorce?
Yes. It’s a person’s right to change their name after a divorce. Often this happens in the form of a reversion to their name before marriage, though this isn’t always the case. The process for changing your name post-divorce decree depends on the name change that you are seeking. So long as the name change isn’t an attempt to avoid creditors and the name chosen isn’t vulgar, the Court will generally allow an adult to change their legal name to whatever they desire.
Why Change My Name After Divorce?
It is a personal decision. It can signify the end of a marriage and the start of a new phase. Especially if your marriage was relatively short, you may no longer identify with your married name. If your marriage went sour, you may no longer want to be associated with your married name.
Considerations as to Whether to Decide to Change My Name after Divorce
Children: If you and your spouse had children together, you may decide to keep your married name if it means you and your children would continue to share the same last name.
Career: If you became known professionally under your married name, it may cause confusion with your reputation or branding if you change your name later in your career.
Hassle: There is some paperwork and hassle to changing your name. Some people find that they just don’t want the hassle of changing their name and are fine with just keeping the name they have.
Remarriage: If you believe you may remarry soon and take your new spouse’s name, then there isn’t much incentive to do name change paperwork now just to change it again after your remarry.
Identity: Some have grown to identify with their married name and want to keep it, especially if they disliked their original name for whatever reason.
Spelling/Pronunciation: Sometimes it is just down to the name itself. A person might choose to keep or revert to their original name depending on which is easier to spell or pronounce.
Uniqueness: Some names are more common than others. Some people wish they had a more common name and others prefer a more unique name. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. For some, choosing to keep or revert to their original name depends on the uniqueness of each name and their preference for uniqueness.
These are just some of the more common factors that a person might consider when deciding whether to keep or change their name. Although the decision may affect others, it is really a personal decision.
Do I Need to Revert to My Previous Name?
No. You can keep your married name. Also, you can change your name to other than your original name. However, you may have to file a separate name change action if you wish to change your name to other than your previous name. For example, in Nebraska, a wife who takes her husband’s last name can revert to her maiden name as part of the terms of the divorce decree. She can use the divorce decree itself as proof of her name change. However, if she wishes to start using a different name other than her maiden name or married name, then she would need to file a separate name change action.
What is the Court Process to Legally Change My Name?
The process varies by state and depending on the new name chosen. If we go back to the example above, the wife’s name change to her maiden name is relatively simple. The name change request is included within the divorce decree. When the divorce decree is entered, she now has a court order changing her name back to her maiden name.
If a person wishes to begin a new name post-divorce, they may need to file a separate name change action. This involves filing a request to change your name with the court. The rules vary by state. In Nebraska, once the name change request is filed (and court filing fee paid), you have to publish the request for name change in the newspaper. If no one disputes the name change, then the name change is granted at a short court hearing. The Court issues a court order stating the new name. Because of the time to publish the notice and time until the hearing date, this process usually takes a few months to complete and obtain an order of name change.
Although you are not required to have an attorney to complete the name change, a lawyer will be able to help you navigate the correct legal procedure and paperwork more easily.
Can Someone Dispute the Name Change?
Name change disputes are possible, but they are extremely rare for adults. Most name change requests are routinely granted. Unless there’s a valid reason, most name changes aren’t brought under the spotlight.
Do I Need Legal Help to Change My Name after Divorce?
If you would like a relatively quick name change process, it’s advised to get legal assistance! Lawyers are familiar with the legal paperwork and the court system and can help guide you through the process of the legal name change.
How do I Change My Documents after the Court Order is Entered?
Once you have a court order changing your name, you now need to change your documents to reflect this change. The process to change your name on your documents after the Court Order is entered varies by jurisdiction. At least in Nebraska, the process is basically the same whether your name change is part of a divorce decree or from a separate name change action. The process varies somewhat by jurisdiction, but the general process usually used to complete the name change in Nebraska is below.
It is often best to start with changing your name on your driver’s license. In Nebraska, you only have 60 days from the date of the divorce decree or court order to do so. It is very important that you update your driver’s license within 60 days of the Decree or Order being entered. Otherwise, you may have to file for a new name change order to proceed.
You will need a certified copy of the Decree or Order. Usually, you can obtain a certified copy from the Clerk of Court for a small fee (usually under $20 depending on the length of your Order or Decree).
You take the certified copy to the DMV. Instructions and forms for changing your name at the DMV are here.
Once you have your driver’s license changed, you can use the driver’s license as evidence along with the certified Decree or Order to change your social security card. Social Security often requires other identifying documents as well (usually also a certified copy of your birth certificate or passport). It is generally best to submit this request to Social Security within a month or so of your driver’s license being changed.
Often you can start the name change application process with Social Security online (https://www.ssa.gov/personal-record/change-name) and then bring your documents into the Social Security office.
Additional helpful info:
Once you have your social security card and driver’s license updated, the rest is usually relatively easy.
Where Else Should I Update Paperwork After My Divorce?
After a divorce or name change, there are several agencies and documents that you may need to update. You may want to update the following with your new marital status and/or with your name change.
In addition to the DMV and Social Security, these may include:
- Credit cards
- Investment accounts
- Insurance companies
- Voter Registration or other government agencies
- Doctor/Dentist and Medical Insurance Provider
- School Records of your Children
- United States Postal Service for address changes or mail forwarding.
Some changes may be able to wait until your next visit (such as your doctor or dentist). Others you will want to update promptly and also remove your ex-spouse’s name if you no longer want your ex-spouse listed as a beneficiary of the account (such as an investment account). Many of these changes can be made by sending an e-mail or letter and including a certified copy of your Decree or Order. Always keep a copy of your divorce decree or name change order just in case.
How Many Times Can I Change My Name?
You can revert to your prior name after a divorce, even if you have taken another name more than once. Unless there is a reasonable objection, you maintain the legal right to change your name upon the divorce being final. You also can file a name change action more than once.
How Long Does it Take to Change My Name after a Divorce?
A name change is meant to be relatively quick. If returning to your prior name, it is completed as part of the divorce decree in Nebraska. If it must be done through a separate name change action, a few months is a normal timeframe in Nebraska. The time could vary depending on your state, the court workload, and specific laws that govern name changes where you reside.
Additional Information: Adult Name Change in Nebraska
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