How to Change Your Last Name After Divorce

At one time, it was obligatory for a woman to change her name to her husband’s name when she was married. In the past couple generations, however, attitudes toward name changes have evolved. Some women keep their birth names or hyphenate with their husband’s name. Other couples choose to both change their names to a shared last name.

Although name-changing practices have loosened, many people are still faced with the decision of whether to change their name again when they are divorced. If you are going through a divorce in California and would like to change your name, there are a few avenues depending on when and how you want to change your name.

Changing Your Name Back to Your Birth Name

If you are choosing to switch your name back to your birth name (also referred to as a maiden name) or a previous legal name, there are two processes depending on if you are requesting the change during your divorce or following the final divorce judgement.

During your divorce, you will request the name change as part of the final set of forms you are already submitting to the judge for review:

  • Check Item #12 of the Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation
  • Check Item #4(f) of the Judgement and write in the name to which you would like to return

You should communicate to your divorce lawyer that you want to change your name as part of your divorce proceeding. Once the judge signs the final judgement, you can use this document as legal proof of your name change.

If you are requesting a name change after your divorce is finalized, the process is somewhat different. You will need to find the case number for your divorce and submit an Ex Parte Application for Restoration of Former Name After Entry of Judgement and Order. Once your form is reviewed and signed by a judge, the court will mail back the signed form and you can use that as legal proof of your name change.

Changing Your Name to a New Name

If you would like to change your name to an entirely new name – one that was never your legal name, this process will be significantly more complicated and will be completely separate from your divorce proceeding. Here are the steps you will need to take:

  • Fill out several forms
  • Pay approximately $400-$450 to file those forms with the court
  • Make multiple copies of your forms, one of which you will submit to the court
  • Contact a newspaper and pay to have an Order to Show Cause published once a week for 4 weeks in a row before your court date
  • Retain proof of publication
  • In some cases, appear for a hearing before a judge
  • Ensure your new name is spelled correctly in the Decree
  • Pay $40 for at least one certified copy of the Decree

If you are changing your name in Orange County, there are also local forms that will need to be completed.

After Your Legal Name Change

After your name has been legally changed, you will need to apply your name change at several governmental and non-governmental entities, including:

  • Social Security
  • Your employer
  • DMV
  • Passport
  • Voter registration
  • Vehicle title
  • Insurance (auto, health, life, home)
  • Bank accounts
  • Creditors
  • Utilities
  • Medical records
  • Email
  • Memberships
  • Children’s schools

While this list may seem intimidating, there is no set timeline for making these changes. You can tackle them in one fell swoop or change them as the opportunity arises. The important thing is for you to feel like you have a name that is reflective of who you are and who you are becoming.

If you have questions about changing your name during or after divorce, the experienced divorce attorneys at Burch Shepard Family Law Group can provide the knowledge and guidance you need to navigate this difficult period in your life. We can help you handle the complex legal requirements that govern divorce and name changes in California so that you don’t have to.

Reach out to us online or call us at (949) 565-4158 to schedule a consultation.