What You Should Know About a Name Change After Divorce

Sad woman wearing jeans sitting on front porch.

Getting a divorce means separating your ex-spouse from every part of your life: your home, your finances, and your future. But if you changed your name after the wedding, you could be carrying a part of them with you every time you pull out your ID or put your signature on a document. You don’t have to keep your married name after the marriage is over. Here is what you should know about a name change after divorce.

Who Can Change Their Name After Divorce

In Maryland, any person may change their name after they get married, men and women alike. A woman can take her husband’s name, the couple can hyphenate their names, or they can agree on a combined name and both change their names to the new one. The only limitation is that it must be done consistently and not for an illegal or fraudulent purpose.

Maryland divorce law allows any name changes done as a result of the marriage to be undone as part of the couple’s divorce. The parties can request a name change as part of their initial pleadings. Once the entire divorce process is complete, the Absolute Judgment of Divorce will include an order allowing one or both parties to change their names back to:

  • A woman’s maiden name
  • Any previously-used last name

This can allow parents to take the last names of their children, or even an earlier spouse. However, the request must not be done for illegal or immoral purposes, and cannot be used to evade creditors (more on that later).

Reasons to Change Your Name After Divorce (Or Not)

There are many reasons why a person may choose to change their name, or not change their name as part of their divorce proceedings. You may want to change your name if:

  • You are not on good terms with your ex-spouse
  • You want to restore a family name that is important to you
  • You have children from a prior relationship with a different last name
  • Your married name is hard to spell or pronounce

On the other hand, you may want to maintain your married name if:

  • You are on good terms with your ex-spouse
  • You want to have the same name as your children from the marriage
  • You don’t want to go through the trouble of changing your name after divorce (more on that later)
  • You have developed a professional reputation under your married name
  • Your maiden name is hard to spell or pronounce

Can You Keep Your Spouse from Changing Their Name After Divorce?

Sometimes one party wants to make the decision about a name change for their ex-spouse. They may want to “take back” their name and force a change. In other cases they will want to keep their spouse from changing their name after divorce. Most often this is out of concern that children or teachers will be confused if a parent has a different last name than their children. However, you cannot force another person to change their name. Each person gets to choose whether to restore their former name, or keep their current name after the divorce is complete.

Can You Change Your Kids’ Names After Divorce?

Your children are not parties in your divorce action, so you cannot change their names as part of the divorce proceedings. In addition, a legal name change does not affect a parent’s legal rights or obligations to the child. However, your divorce attorney can help you negotiate a child’s name change while the divorce is pending, and schedule any hearings to coincide with a hearing in your divorce case.

For children under 12 months old, if both parents agree, you can make a name change simply by sending a request to the Department of Health. For older children, you will need to go through the formal name change process using the Petition for Change of Name (Minor) (CC-DR-062) (discussed below). Both parents will also need to sign a Consent to Change of Name form (CC-DR-063). If you can’t agree, the child’s other parent must be served with a summons and given an opportunity to object to the name change. Then it will be up to the judge to determine whether or not the child’s name change should be granted.

Changing Your Name Without a Divorce

A broken down marriage isn’t the only reason why someone might want to change their legal name. Immigrants, transgender individuals, adult children of abusive parents, and many others may want to choose a new name that represents who they are in a new phase of their lives. To change your name without a divorce, you will need to file a Petition for Change of Name (Adult) (CC-DR-60) with the family court and submit a form including:

  • Your current name
  • Your current address
  • Any past names or aliases
  • Your desired new name
  • The reason for the name change
  • Certification that the request is not being made for a fraudulent or illegal purpose
  • A copy of your birth certificate

Once your petition is filed and the filing fee paid, you will receive a notice from the court clerk. This notice will set the deadline for anyone to object to the name change, and set a date for a hearing if required in your case. You will then have to publish that notice in a local newspaper, giving creditors and others a chance to object to any fraudulent name change attempts. If there are no objections filed by the deadline, the Court will rule on the petition and issue a name change order.

How Long After Divorce Can You Change Your Name

As mentioned above, you can include your request for a name change right in your initial divorce paperwork. However, if you decide to change your name in the divorce process, you can file a motion to amend your Judgment of Absolute Divorce within 30 days prior to the entry of the order.

Even if you miss that opportunity, you can still file a separate petition within 18 months after your Judgment of Absolute Divorce is entered. This will require a new filing fee and a possibly new court hearing, but it does not require the same publication requirements as a name change separate from a divorce action.

Divorce Name Change Checklist

Once you have an Absolute Judgment of Divorce including name change or a separate order allowing you to change your name, you can start the process of changing your identification. You will need to obtain at least one “certified copy” of the order in question, possibly more if different agencies require it. There is a small cost for each certified copy, so be sure you know how many you need before going to the court clerk.

Who to Notify

    • Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA): Maryland law requires you to obtain a new driver’s license or State ID carrying your new name within 30 days after the order for name change is entered. There is a cost to update your name with the MVA.
    • Internal revenue Service (IRS) and Maryland Taxing Authority: Your taxes must be filed under your legal name. You should send copies of your name change order to each taxing authority (including city taxes, if any) so that your Social Security Number gets associated with your new name.
    • Social Security Administration (SSA): You must inform the SSA and obtain a corrected Social Security Card. You will need to provide a certified copy of the order, two other forms of identification, and the correct name change form. You cannot do this online. Instead, you will need to mail your application to your local office or schedule an appointment to attend in person.
  • Department of Vital Statistics: If you are changing a last name on a birth certificate, are concerned about paternity, or are going through a gender transition, you may need to send a copy of the order to the Department of Vital Statistics.
  • Department of Social Services: If you receive state aid of any kind, you may need to go to your local DSS office and provide them a copy of your name change order.
  • Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services: If you are on probation, parole, or on the Maryland sex offender registry, you will need to report your name change to DPSCS and your probation or parole officer.
  • Registrar of Voters: While you do not need to provide ID when you vote, updating your name with your local voting office can make sure there’s no confusion at the polling location.
  • Creditors and Lenders: Remember that name changes cannot be done to evade creditors. This means you must send a copy of your name change order to each person or company you owe money to.
  • Banks, Financial Institutions, and Financial Management Companies: Because these companies issue tax documents, they need to receive notice of your legal name change. Be sure to request a new debit card and checks (if you use them) in your new name.
    • Employers: Your employer will need to issue a new W-4 and other employment documents under your new name.
    • Schools, Libraries, and Childcare Providers: If you are a parent, you should notify your child’s school, library, childcare, and other organizations of your new name.
  • Doctors, Dentists, Pharmacists, Health Care Providers and Insurers: If a medical provider or your insurance company are still using your old name it may create problems with billing and payment of insurance benefits. Make sure they all have updated records.
  • U.S. Postal Service (USPS): Don’t forget to update your name with the mail service to avoid having mail returned to sender.
  • Utility Companies: Telephone, gas, electric, and television providers need to be notified of your new name for their records in case there are collections issues in the future.
  • Family, Friends, and Professional contacts: Remember that name changes must be used consistently. This means you should update your personal contacts as well as formal business entities.
  • Estate Planning Attorney: You will need to update any existing estate planning documents to use your new name. It is a good idea to review your estate plan after a divorce anyway, so you can use this opportunity to make sure everything is correct now that your spouse has been removed from the estate.

Start the Process to Change Your Name

If you are ready to start a new chapter under a new name, we are here to help. At the Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram, our divorce attorneys know how to change our clients’ names during and after finishing the Maryland divorce process. We’ll guide you through who to notify and where to send copies of your order from start to finish, making sure all the right people know your new name going forward. We will help you negotiate to change any children’s names, and make sure your name is restored as part of the Absolute Judgment of Divorce, or a separate name change order. Contact us today or call (301) 658-7354 to schedule a consultation with an attorney.

Categories: Divorce