Can I change my last name as part of my divorce?

What's my name?

What’s my name?


As part of a divorce, one thing women may request is permission to change their last name.  In those cases where the one spouse has assumed the surname of their now ex-spouse, dropping his last name can be a cathartic move.  This post will outline the process of seeking a name change in a New Jersey Divorce.

Can I change my last name after my divorce?

The simple answer is “Yes”.  Asking the court to authorize a change in your surname is one form of relief a litigant in a NJ divorce case can request.  It is important to note that you cannot force or require the other party to change their name as they are not required to do so.  The choice lies with the individual who changed his or her name.

Procedurally, this request should be contained in the Complaint for Divorce.  Most importantly, it should be contained in the Final Judgment of Divorce and the Settlement Agreement.  Having the name change established in a court order will streamline the process of changing your name with DMV, Social Security, and any other agency you may need to work with in order to effectuate the change.


Do I have to go back to my birth name?

While most people choose to go back to their birth name, doing so is not the only option.  I have seen situations where the party wanted to re-assume the name from a prior marriage.  Interestingly, when seeking a name change you ar NOT required to assume any of your former names.  You can choose any last name you want! Start your post-divorce life with a brand new name!


What are the legal requirements to change my name?

The requirements are straightforward and make sense.  Whether testimony on the following points is offered in person at the final hearing or contained in a certification, the court will want to know:

  1. Your current surname
  2. The surname you wish to adopt
  3. Your social security number (generally just the last 4 digits)
  4. The reasons you want to change your name

As for the reasons, the focus is that you are seeking the name change for personal reasons and not in an effort to avoid creditors or criminal charges.  Assuming the request is being made in good faith and for personal reasons, the court will grant the request.  Remember, that the name change request typically only pertains to the spouse.  If a parent decides to change his or her last name as part of the divorce, it does not automatically allow for the last names of any children of the marriage to be changed.  There is a process by which the last names of children can be changed, it is much more involved and by no means automatic.


About Sandy Durst

Sandy Durst, Esq., is the founding partner of The Durst Firm where he heads the Family Law Department. Individuals facing a divorce benefit from the combination of legal skill, common sense and compassion that Sandy brings to each and every matter. Each case is given the personalized attention it deserves.
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