If requested in a divorce, a spouse will be restored to his or her given birth name or any other former name the party wishes to use. This name restoration cannot be stopped by the ex-spouse, nor can an ex-spouse require it of the other. There are two conditions that must be met:
1) the current name was taken upon the marriage at issue and the party no long wishes to use it; and,
2) the request for restoration to a former name is not for any fraudulent, immoral, or illegal purpose.
The request can be made in a complaint or counterclaim, in an answer, or in person at the divorce hearing or trial. It is a formal name change, which will allows the party to update his or her driver’s license, social security card, and accounts with a copy of the judgment of absolute divorce stating the restored name. This does not, however, allow a party to take an entirely new name.
This process is streamlined when compared with going through a separate action to change one’s name. This streamlined process is only available when a divorce is granted and must occur at the time of the divorce. If not, a party will need to file a separate petition for name change in order to change his or her name afterward.
The decision to resume one’s former name – or not – at the time of the divorce is a personal one. It can be influenced by attachment to the married versus family names, children with the same last name, among other reasons. Fortunately, if one does not resume a former name at the divorce, one can do so after the fact, although more steps, time, and expense are involved.
Continue to Volume 2 of What's in a Name?
By: P. Lindsay Parvis