Changing to Your Maiden Name Following Divorce: What You Need to Know

40% to 50% of marriages end in divorce. Despite this, 90% of people enter into at least one marriage by the time they are 50.

While divorce is a common occurrence, it is still inherently stressful and heartbreaking. Divorce itself can be an emotional rollercoaster and a divorce name change may seem like one extra thing to take care of.

For many women (and men), changing their name following a divorce is one of the first things they want to do. In most states, reverting to a man’s original name is similar for a woman deciding to use her maiden name again.

So, how exactly does a woman (or a man) get her maiden name back after a divorce? Thankfully, the process is a bit easier than for other name changes. This is because reverting to a maiden name is one of the most common types of name changes.

While the exact steps will depend upon your state, the general steps are the same almost everywhere. However, remember that the time it takes for name change actions to be ordered/decreed varies from state to state.  For example, to legally change your name in California, you will have to undergo a 3 part process, and each part has its own amount of time to complete.

Divorce Name Change: Once the Divorce is Final

In most states, changing your name after divorce will require you to have a divorce decree. This will typically state that the divorce is final or has gone through.

Most states will allow you to revert back to your maiden name once the divorce is final. You’ll want to hold onto the divorce decree, as you’ll need it in order to change your name on legal documents.

If you’re changing your social security card, driver’s license and other bills, most often you’ll just need to show your divorce decree. You will then be authorized to change your name back to your maiden name on all official documents.

If you’re a man who has changed his name upon your marriage and would like to revert back to a previous name, the divorce decree is typically all you’ll need for this. You’ll also be able to change your name legally on all forms with your decree.

Changing Your Name Before the Divorce is Final

To change your name after divorce without any additional paperwork, your divorce will need to be final. But, most states allow you to change your name before the finalization of the divorce. As divorce proceedings can take months, or sometimes even years, most people are ready to move on with their lives and shed their identity tied to their failed relationship. This is why courts do allow you to change your name prior to finalization.

If you wish to change your name before your divorce is final, you’ll need to check with your attorney or courts. Most states have a similar process for name change reversion before the finalization of the divorce, but you’ll want to know for sure.

The process typically requires that you include a name change request to revert to your original name when you file a petition for divorce. Unless there are outstanding circumstances, a judge will almost always grant this request.

Once the judge gives you an order to allow you to revert to your maiden name, you can take the document to have your social security card, driver’s license and other official documentation changed.

Can I Use My Maiden Name If My Divorce Isn’t Final?

If you’re waiting on the finalization of your divorce to use your maiden name, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t necessarily need to do this. While your name will be your ex’s on legal papers until your divorce is finalized (or the judge grants you permission to use your maiden name), this doesn’t mean you have to continue to use it.

You can begin to use your maiden name whenever you see fit, just not on legal documents. For instance, if you’re a teacher and your students call you by your surname, it is fine to ask them to address you by your maiden name moving forward. You may also use your maiden name when introducing yourself or online.

Your name will not, however, be legally changed on all of your documents until the court allows you to do so.

What If I Want to Change My Name to Something Besides My Maiden Name?

In some cases, you may wish to change your surname to something other than your maiden name upon divorce. This is legal, but you may have to go through other steps to do this. A judge will not grant you the ability to change your name to another name during the divorce process, nor will you be able to change your name to anything you please once your divorce is final.

Instead, you’ll need to go through the process of changing your name independently of your divorce proceedings. You may wish to ask your lawyer to help you navigate this. Depending on the state you’re in, this will likely include a petition for a name change, and may include you putting your name change in the paper for an appointed amount of time.

It may also include a court hearing to ensure your name change isn’t for reasons such as evading the law or debt.

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