Name Change and Divorce


Divorce includes many pressing issues like child custody and alimony, it is often easy to overlook some of the smaller long-term decisions you need to make. Changing your name is a decision you should consider carefully before finishing your request for a final judgment.

Some things to consider as you decide if you want to keep your married name or change it.

The Process.  The process of changing your legal name during a divorce in California is simple. You simply need to request that a name change order be included as part of the final judgment in your divorce. This is the easiest way to take care of changing your name if you are certain you want to. However, if you are unsure, there is also a provision in California law that will allow you to request an alteration of your final decree at a later time. You can also have your name changed to something other than your maiden name, but this requires you to follow the process for a standard Petition for Change of name, and is a separate process from your divorce proceeding.

Impact on Children.  There is often a strong emotional reaction to names for people. Wives and husbands often feel the need to have the outward sign of a name change to signify the end of their relationship. But, parents are often concerned that their children may suffer from having a different name from their mom. In most instances, the courts will not change the name of minor children as part of a divorce proceeding, even if their parent has a name change. The good news is that children having different names from their parents is not nearly as stigmatized as it once was in society, nor is it confusing for things like school records. If you desire to go back to your maiden name, be sure to talk with your kids about the situation and let them know the change in name does not change your relationship with them. Lay the groundwork for them to be able to come to you with any concerns that might come up about having a different name than yours.

Updating Your Information.  If you have no particular feeling toward your last name, and there is no overriding need to change it, the biggest factor in your decision may be whether or not you want the hassle of updating all of your accounts and documents to reflect a new name. Take time to make a list of all the various items and accounts you will need to update. The most important are:

  • Driver’s License
  • Social Security Card
  • Bank Accounts & Credit Cards
  • Passport
  • Loans or Mortgages
  • Investment Accounts

Most other items can be updated as you run across them, but having a list of everything does help make the process easier.

Impact on Your Business or Profession.  If you are a professional, or own your own business and it is associated with your name, it may serve you better to keep your current name. Often times after being married for many years, people will choose to keep their married name, or hyphenate back to their maiden name, to maintain the name recognition they have worked so hard to earn over the years.

If you have questions or aren’t sure about whether or not you want to change your name, your attorney can help you list out and weight the pros and cons.