The decision to change your name after a marriage or divorce is an intensely personal one. Though it is usually women who change their legal names, any person who adopted a new legal name after a marriage may wonder what their rights are to that name in case of a divorce. If you get divorced, can you decide to keep your married name anyway? What if you are the spouse who no longer wants your former partner to keep his or her married name?
Deciding Which Name To Use
During a divorce, there are several considerations which will affect a woman’s (or man’s) decision to change her name. Some people may not want to deal with the hassle of changing their legal names on their driver’s licenses or social security cards. Others may have built a personal or professional reputation with their married name, and have no desire to revert back. Still others may want to change their married name in order to make a fresh start after a divorce. Regardless of the reasons, every person is free to live their life using whatever name they desire.
Keeping Your Married Name
When a couple gets divorced, each spouse has the right to keep his or her married name. No spouse can force the other to change back to his or her previous name, and there is little anyone can do to prevent an ex-spouse from continuing to use the married name after divorce.
In very few instances, a prenuptial agreement may specify that one or both parties will change their name in the event of a divorce. However, these provisions can be difficult to uphold, especially if the marriage was especially lengthy.
Changing Your Married Name
Most divorce attorneys will include a provision in the final divorce decree which will legally change the name of one of the divorcing parties. When a name is changed during a divorce, the process is relatively quick and easy.
If you wait until after your divorce is finalized to change your name, you will have to start a separate, legal name change proceeding. This will require you to file the appropriate paperwork and appear at a hearing before a judge. When the name change is made during the divorce itself, these steps are unnecessary.
There is also no requirement which states that a woman (or man) must revert back to her same maiden name after a divorce. If you never liked your maiden name, and want to change to something simple like Smith or Jones, an attorney can make accommodations for this situation in the divorce as well.
Your Options In Divorce
Whether you want to change your name or not, a skilled divorce attorney can help you through the process. In Washington State, the attorneys at Pacific Northwest Family Law are here to help you resolve all of your family law issues and concerns. To schedule your appointment and learn more about your options, contact us today by calling 509-572-3700.