Family Law

Changing Your Name After Divorce

Divorce is a time of personal upheaval.  It often prompts the parties to think about who they are and who they want to be.  Some decide to take back their own identities by reclaiming their former name.  When we think about going back to a “maiden name,” we usually think of women.  These days, however, it may be a man who used a hyphenated combination of last names during his marriage.  (John Smith and Susan Jones become Mr. and Mrs. Smith-Jones.)  On rare occasions, it may be a husband who took his wife’s last name.  Regardless, divorce provides the opportunity to shed the married name.

Changing Your Name During the Divorce Proceeding.

The legal term for divorce is dissolution of marriage.  When someone files for dissolution, the court form called “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” contains a section for the petitioner (person asking for the divorce) to ask the judge to restore his or her former name.  If you are the person responding to the Petition for Dissolution (respondent), you will find forms on the court’s website with the instructions and documents you need to file your response.  One of those documents will be a “Request to Restore Maiden Name.”

If you are using the services of a lawyer, you will need to tell your attorney that you want your former name restored.   The final Decree of Dissolution should include a section that orders your requested name change.  The Decree will then become the document you will use to change your name with the Social Security Administration, the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department, banks, schools, and other institutions listing you by your married name.

Can You Decide to Change Your Name After the Divorce is Final?

You can.  It simply requires an additional court order.  You do not need a lawyer.  The process is fairly simple.  On the website for the Arizona Superior Court, https://azcourthelp.org/faq/name-change, you will find the forms and instructions you need to file a request for a name change.  You will select “Application for Change of Name for an Adult,” follow the instructions, and file your application with the required fee.  You will need to provide the court with the following:  a photo ID, your Social Security Number, the history and case numbers of any pending or previous criminal convictions you may have (only if applicable). 

As you’ve probably surmised, the criminal record information is required to prevent people from changing their names for criminal or fraudulent purposes. Can a pedophile change his name to avoid being listed on the sex offender registry?  Probably not.   A past criminal conviction is unlikely to prevent a divorcing spouse from restoring a maiden name.

After the Name Change Order is Signed, You Must Change Your Name with SSA.

Whether your name was changed in a divorce decree or a name change order, you must immediately contact the Social Security Administration and change your name with the federal government.  You can contact SSA either by mail or by going in person to your local Social Security Office.  You will need to submit the following documents:

  • A completed application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5)
  • Proof of your name change: divorce decree or court order changing your name. (you will need a certified copy).
  • Proof of your lawful U.S. presence, such as: S. birth certificate, U.S. citizenship certificate, valid visa and 1-94 printout.
  • Proof of your identity and age: S. passport, Driver’s license, Arizona non-operating ID card.

You can find a complete list of acceptable documents for proving your identity on the SSA website.  All documents must be originals or certified copies.  The SSA will send you a new Social Security card in about 14 business days.  The new card will have your changed name but the same Social Security Number.

Changing Your Name with the Arizona MVD.

The Arizona Motor Vehicle Department requires that you change your name with the MVD within 10 days of the name change.  You cannot apply for a new vehicle registration or driver’s license until you have completed the process with the SSA.  You must visit a local MVD office in person to submit your name change and bring the following documents with you:  your decree of dissolution of marriage containing the name change, the court order changing your name, and citizenship papers (birth certificate or naturalization papers).  All documents must be either originals or certified copies. 

Once you have successfully updated your MVD records, you can request a duplicate driver’s license with your new name and new vehicle registration documents.  A duplicate driver’s license will cost you $12.00.

These are the steps to reclaim your former name.  Once you have your new Social Security Card and new driver’s license, it will be easy to change your name on bank and investment accounts and with other agencies.  Make sure you always have a certified copy of your court order or divorce decree as evidence of the name change.

Resources:

www.azcourts.gov/selfservicecenter/Forms/Name-Change

www.dmv.org/az-arizona/changing-your-name.php

www.blog.ssa.gov/need-to-change-your-name-on-your-social-security-card/

 

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This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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