Ugh! On top of getting divorced, changing names is just one more unpleasant task! Reflecting back on both my name changes, here’s three things I wish someone had told me! Not only could I have got days of my life back, I would have felt more ‘ME’ much earlier in the process.
1. Get your name restored as part of your divorce order, period!
My kids were still at school when my divorce was finalized so I wasn’t sure I really wanted to change names. Fast forward 4 years and my kids have moved out, the ex has remarried and now I just hate his surname. It was a real pain to get a name change order issued 6 years later!
As it wasn’t done as part of my divorce, I had to file a standard legal name change petition which cost several hundred dollars. (Yes, I admit that it sat on my ‘to do’ list for 2 years!) I declined the name change order when it was offered as part of my divorce proceedings!
My advice – take the name change order! This gives you the much-needed proof that you can go back to your former name. You can always just leave it safely filed away with the peace of mind it’s there should you ever need it.
2. Get someone else to do the paperwork
When I was married 20 years ago it took days off my life. I ran all over town filing forms, wasting hours on hold and figuring out what to send where. This time I used a name change service!
The good folks at Easy Name Change provided detailed instructions for each company along with pre-filled forms and letters. I still had to go to my bank and the DMV in person (there’s no getting around having a bad photo taken!) But having all the paperwork provided saved so much time!
It was just a matter of going through their instructions and sending everything off. I paid $69 for everything to be printed and mailed to me, but if you are on a budget and have a printer you only need to spend $29. It’s a bargain to get a day of your life back.
3. Reclaim yourself. Your name is a HUGE part of your identity!
I can’t tell you just how much happier I am now I have ditched his name!
The first time I signed my old name this tidal wave of relief came over me. After digging deep for some statistics, I found divorcees who change names are happier (89%), more confident (74%) and a whopping 90% of us feel an improved sense of identity after changing names! Compare this to newlyweds who feel no significant change in any of these metrics after they change names.
Don’t want your old name back either? There’s a huge number that don’t feel any connection to their former name. Not all of us have the world’s best family, so the thought of being ‘rebranded’ with dad’s name may be just as unappealing.
Why not take an entirely new name and get that fresh start?! I know several ladies that took the plunge with a new name. They really have this aura of confidence and satisfaction with their choice. And the best part…. You can do this any time! You don’t need to wait for the divorce to drag onto conclusion.
The process is the same for an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce proceeding.
Each state is a bit different….
Sadly, you really need to know what you intend to do with your last name early on in the process as most states make it difficult if you change your mind later. If you like your former name, then request a name change order even if you are not certain you will use it straight away.
If you know you want an entirely new name, chances are you will need to file a legal name change petition whenever you feel ready to take the plunge. Not many states will allow a legal name change to be granted as part of divorce proceedings.
If you live in New York…
When a name is changed in NY as part of traditional divorce proceedings or an online divorce, the applicant may only go back to a name they have formerly held. But if you don’t like that name, then there’s nothing stopping you from filing a legal name change petition with your country court ($210 NY, $65 NYC Civil Court)
If you live in California
If you didn’t request an order restoring your former name you can apply for this after your divorce is finalized. Complete FL-395 Ex Parte Application for Restoration of former name after entry of judgment and order. File in the same court where your divorce was granted.
Divorce applicants may only go back to a name they have formerly held. If you want to use a different surname then, you will need to file for a legal name change and part with $435.