Name Change After Divorce

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There are many reasons that a divorced or soon-to-be divorced individual may wish to restore their maiden name, including for professional reasons, they love their maiden name or even empowerment following a divorce. The actual process of changing or restoring a name is simple if the divorce process is still ongoing.

Changing Last Names as an Adult

In most states, changing last names can be as simple as submitting a request to the divorce court judge. The judge can then enter a formal order that will restore the person’s last name to their maiden name. If the divorce decree includes a court order allowing the name change, there is nothing more that needs to be done once the divorce is finalized. The person can then pick up a certified copy of the court order, which will provide proof of the restoration and allow them to change their last name on important documents.

If the request to restore a maiden name is not included in the court order and the divorce becomes finalized, the requester can ask to have the court order be changed in order to include language that would allow them to restore their maiden name. If this cannot be done, some states simply require the requester to have a document with their maiden name on it and begin to use it again.

Name Changes for Children

Traditionally, the child kept the last name of their father as long as the father continued to remain a part of the child’s life. This is still usually the case today; however, there are certain circumstances where the other parent may successfully request that the child be given their maiden name.

Ultimately, the decision the court makes regarding whether or not they order a name change for a child is whether or not it is in the child’s best interest. For example, if the mother-child relationship is strong and the father-child relationship is weak or the father is not active in the child’s life, the court may determine that a last name change is appropriate. However, it should be noted that having a child’s last name changed does not change either parent’s legal responsibilities.

It may also be appropriate to change a child’s last name if the parent remarries and the stepparent wishes to legally adopt the child. This can be done as part of the stepparent adoption process.

The Cost of a Name Change

The cost of a name change following a divorce can depend upon the situation. For example, if the name change is part of the divorce decree, the newly divorced person may only need to pay for a certified copy of the document.

For those who chose to wait to change their last name until after the divorce is finalized or did not have the name change included in the decree, the process of restoring a maiden name can still be done without much expense. In some states, the only cost may be a filing fee, which varies by state. The court may also be able to provide those who need it with a fee waiver if they meet certain requirements.

Updating Important Documents and Insurance

Once a last name change has been finalized, it is highly recommended that the newly-divorced individual update important documents and insurance policies to reflect the change. These documents include legal and government documents, such as passports and social security cards, while insurance may include health, life or disability and auto insurance.

  • Passports: A new passport will need to be issued for those who changed their name. If the passport was issued within the year of the name change request, there is no cost. Otherwise, there will be a fee.
  • Social Security: The divorced individual will need to have the marriage document, divorce decree and a court-ordered name change in addition to other forms of identity. They then must simply complete the application for a new Social Security card.
  • Health Insurance: If the divorced individual intends to stay on their ex-spouse’s health insurance, this should be taken care of as soon as possible. They will need to deal with the federal law known as COBRA, which determines the amount of coverage they may be eligible for.
  • Life or Disability Insurance: If the ex-spouse was a beneficiary on the policy, the owner will need to fill out new forms regardless of whether or not they want the ex-spouse to remain the beneficiary. If the person is the beneficiary on their ex-spouse’s policy and they have the right to any updates or information via the divorce decree, they must send a letter to the insurance company informing them that they have the right to be notified regarding a change in premiums or if the policy changes.
  • Auto Insurance: The divorced individual should get a new copy of the policy showing that they are properly insured and that the insurance does not cover the ex-spouse.

Even though changing your name is a fairly “simple” process, planning ahead and being proactive will help ensure that everything is done properly.

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