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How do you change your name after a divorce?

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If you’ve been married for a while and you assumed your spouse’s last name after marriage, you may wonder how you can change your name to reflect your divorce.

You do have options — but you should also consider all of the angles before you start. Here’s what you need to know:

1. It’s easiest to have the name change added to the divorce

There are essentially two ways to have your name changed after a divorce. You can ask the court to include the order allowing your name change in the final decree of your divorce. Alternately, you can file what’s known as an Original Petition for Change of Name to have your name changed at a later point.

Typically, when you change your name during a divorce, you can usually choose between the name you had prior to the marriage or your name at birth. You cannot usually change more than that unless you file a petition.

2. It can be a complicated process to completely change your name

You have to be very thorough when you change your name. Typically, each company or government agency has specific requirements you need to follow to prove your new name, but you’re likely to need multiple copies of the court order.

You’ll need to remember that no updates to your records are automatic. It can be a challenge to update your Social Security record, voter registration card, driver’s license, car registration, insurance, employment records, credit cards and bank accounts — among other things. If you forget anything, you may find yourself in an unexpected and frustrating bind at some point.

3. No one can make you change your name if you don’t want to do it

You are under no moral or legal obligation to change your last name just because you’re getting a divorce. Your name belongs to you. If you’ve been using your married name for a long time, you may have built a professional and personal reputation under that name. If you don’t want to rebuild your “name recognition,” you aren’t required to do so.

When you decide how you want to identify after yourself after divorce, talk to your attorney and make sure that you’re both on the same page.

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