Changing Your Name After Divorce

Question

When I was divorced, I didn’t change my name, but now I want to resume my former name and drop my ex-husband’s name. Is it too late to do this without an expensive attorney?

Answer

Janet Bateman, M.S., is the developer and facilitator for END MENDERS, a divorce recovery program for both men and women. We asked Janet to share with you some of the advice she gives her groups about name changes.

Divorce is very unsettling, to say the least. It is difficult to think about changing one’s name when there are so many other more pressing issues, and many women decide to continue using their married names, at least for the time being

Resuming your former name is a significant step. It marks a return to a former SELF, and for many women, this represents a positive step towards recovery and acceptance of the divorce.

If you were not ready to make a name change at the time of divorce, and now you are, it is neither too late nor too difficult or expensive. Here is the procedure.

  1. Go to the County Clerk’s Office. Bring with you:–A black pen (forms must be typed or filled out in black ink).
    –The case number designated when petition for dissolution was made.
    –The date when judgment of dissolution was filed with the Court (b and c will be found on papers sent to you by your attorney when the divorce was final. The case number and date are also public record and can be found with the clerk’s help if necessary).
    –A self-addressed stamped envelope.
  2. Request from the forms clerk two D-20 forms, also called “Ex-Parte Application for Restoration to Former Name After Entry of Judgment and Order.” (You need two because you will likely, under the stress of the moment, make a mistake and need to start over.)
  3. In the section at the top that says “Attorney or Party Without Attorney,” give your current name and address.
  4. In the section called “Marriage of,” be legally accurate about who was Petitioner and who was Respondent. Check how this section reads on your dissolution.
  5. On Item #2, be very specific about what you want your “former” (NEW) name to be. Print neatly.
  6. Where it says “Signature of applicant” you sign with your present or married name.

  7. On Item #3, again print the new name you are requesting.
  8. The fee for this process is zero. That’s right, it’s FREE.
  9. Be prepared for a lack of enthusiasm by the clerks. Remember, this may be an emotionally laden issue for you, but they are overworked, understaffed and have processed thousands of these. Don’t take their attitude personally.

Depending upon how busy they are that day, they may process the form for you on the spot, giving you a copy as your evidence of name change. Or they may use the self-addressed stamped envelope you brought and mail your copy to you. Be flexible.

When you have your copy of the form in hand, you can begin the process of changing your name with other entities.

Perhaps the best place to start is with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Take your D-20 form with you and get a new license. When your new license is sent to you, gradually make the changes with banks, credit card companies, Social Security, employers, etc.

During the period when the change is not complete, you can use both signatures: your new name preceded by “AKA” (Also Known As).

When telling your children you are changing your name, make a simple explanation appropriate to their age and understanding. Just tell them the facts, and don’t elaborate too much, so that they can retain pride in their birth name.

Your children will probably adapt to your new name faster than family and friends. People who know you by your married name may take a while to accept the change. And many people and institutions will assume that your name change indicates a new marriage for you. Consider in advance how you will handle their comments and inquiries.

A name change should not be an impulsive decision, nor is it alone the measure of your recovery from divorce. Before you change your name, make sure you have thought your decision through and it is best for you.

If you would like more information about END MENDERS’ divorce recovery program, you may call Janet Bateman at (760) 727-9711.

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