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Naming Rights: Using Your Maiden Name After Divorce

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If you are one of the many women who took their spouse's last name when you married, you should know that you are entitled to make a change when you get divorced. For some, divorce signals a big change in many areas, and dropping that last name can be a powerful symbol of making a fresh start. In most states, taking back your maiden name is a snap when the provision is included in your divorce decree, so if you are in the midst of a divorce, now is time to consider making that move. While legally changing your last name during the divorce process is a relatively simple and easy undertaking, the ramifications on your life can be major. Read on to learn more about using your maiden name after a divorce.

1. No law compels you to change back to your maiden name; it is strictly your choice. If you want to just continue using your ex's last name, you don't need to take any action. You should consider the potential for confusion, however, when your spouse remarries and the new wife also begins using that same last name. This may be especially confusing and awkward if you live in a small town, attend the same places of worship or have children in the same school.

2. In most states, you must include a specific provision for taking back your maiden name in the divorce petition. If you have already filed your martial settlement agreement with the court, you may still be able to take back your maiden name by amending the petition before it is final. Don't give up if you have already been awarded a final divorce decree: some states allow you the privilege of reclaiming your maiden name if done so promptly after the divorce.

3. The burden of changing your name on your important documents can be considerable and time-consuming, so help ensure that nothing is missed by using this checklist. Don't delay in tackling this task, since a failure to update your paperwork could cause major problems. For example, if you fail to update your real estate deed with your maiden name, you may face delays when you are ready to close on a home sale. Consider changing your name on the following:

  • Driver's license
  • Real estate deeds and vehicle titles
  • Social Security card
  • Bank accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Passport
  • Utilities
  • Homeowner's insurance (or renter's insurance)
  • Auto insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Loans
  • Voter's Registration
  • Retirement & Investment Accounts

4. Men are afforded the same benefit when divorcing that women are. These days, it is not that uncommon for men to add their wife's last name to their own using hyphenation, and this provision allows them to go back to their original name if they desire.

5. It's important to note that there are some restrictions when it comes to changing your name with a divorce decree. You cannot choose a completely new name; you must use your maiden name or the name you had prior to marriage.

Consult with your divorce attorney like Leonard & Kershaw for more specific information azbout taking back your maiden name.