Changing your last name after a divorce can help begin the clean start you’ve been waiting for throughout the legal challenges and distress of the divorce process. Though you don’t have to change your last name after divorcing, and some women who share children with an ex-spouse keep their married name in order to have the same last name as their children, many others choose to return to their maiden names. Today, some women even decide to choose an entirely new last name to reflect their new lives.
Changing your name doesn’t have to be difficult, but it helps to know the process and what options you have for this important post-divorce milestone.
The easiest way to change your name is to do it as part of the divorce process rather than as a separate legal matter. Most courts now include the option for changing your last name back to your previous family name in a name-change order that’s part of the divorce decree. The option is in the paperwork that the judge signs at the end of your hearing. Then you only need a copy of the divorce decree including the name change in order to change your name on important documents including:
Be sure to update your name on your mailing address and on school forms if you have school-aged children.
Some women choose to wait until after the divorce to change their last names. You could choose to wait for a variety of reasons including:
If you decide at any time after a finalized divorce that you want to change your last name, you can file for a name change at the courthouse in your jurisdiction or file through the online form for your county. When you file for a name change separately from your divorce decree you will have to pay a filing fee. Most jurisdictions require that you show proof of your former name, such as your original birth certificate or old passport, so the courts know that you aren’t attempting to commit fraud or identity theft.
Because courts typically prioritize the best interests of children and hold that the least amount of disruption to their lives after a divorce is in their best interests, historically the courts prefer for children to retain their father’s last name as long as the father continues to meet obligations and remains in close frequent contact with the child. However, today’s courts are more open to allowing a mother to change her child’s last name after a divorce if she can show why it’s in the child’s best interests to do so. Speak to a Chandler family law attorney if you feel that changing your child’s name might be best for them.