Changing Your Name After Divorce

Changing Your Name After Divorce

Do you dream of returning to you — who you really are, and changing your name after divorce? The journey through and beyond a divorce involves a series of pivotal decisions, among which is the choice to change your name. Far from being a mere formality, this decision can embody a profound expression of self-renewal and autonomy. For many women, the act of changing their name after divorce serves as a powerful emblem of a new chapter in life. It’s a step towards embracing an identity that resonates more closely with their own narrative.

Making the transition to your chosen name after a divorce involves a blend of emotional introspection and practical steps. These initial stages, critical in laying the foundation for your new identity, range from leveraging the legal provisions in your divorce decree. They also involve updating key documents such as your social security card and driver’s license. This process, while straightforward, is imbued with significant meaning as it marks the commencement of a new, self-empowered journey.

Understanding the Importance

For many women, the desire to change their name after divorce goes beyond legal formalities. It’s an urgent step toward emotional healing and personal autonomy. This urgency often stems from the need to disassociate from a past relationship and begin crafting a new independent identity. We understand that for some, this change can’t come soon enough, symbolizing a powerful break from the past and a bold step into a future that they define.

If you find yourself anxious to change your name, it’s important to approach this transition with a blend of patience and determination. While the legal process has its pace, your readiness to embrace this change is a positive step towards reclaiming your sense of self.

Whether you’re reverting to your maiden name or choosing a new one, this change is a significant emotional milestone.

Symbol of Independence

For some women, a name change represents breaking free from an unhappy chapter of their lives. It’s about shedding a part of their identity that no longer serves them and stepping into a new role that they define for themselves. This act of independence can be incredibly empowering, symbolizing control over one’s identity and life path.

Check out “How Long Does it Take to Get Over a Divorce? And 4 Signs You are on Your Way.”

Consideration for Children

If children are involved, the decision becomes more complex. Sharing a last name can foster a sense of unity and belonging in a family. However, each family’s situation is unique, and for some, having a different last name from their children does not diminish the strength of their bond. It’s important to weigh this decision thoughtfully, considering both personal feelings and the well-being of the children.

Professional Identity

For women who have built a professional identity under their married name, deciding whether to change it post-divorce involves careful consideration. It’s about balancing the emotional desire for a name that reflects their true self with the practical implications of a name change in their professional world.

While changing your name is often a symbol of a new beginning, it also means working through legal systems and updating numerous records.

The Legal Process

Legally changing your name can be initiated as part of the divorce process, but it’s not limited to it. For those whose divorce decree includes the name change, this document simplifies the legal journey ahead, serving as the authoritative proof of your new identity. However, if you decide to change your name independently of divorce, or if the decree doesn’t mention it, the process is still accessible, albeit with a few additional steps.

Independent Name Change Process

If you’re seeking a name change separate from divorce proceedings, you’ll need to file a petition at your local court. This involves completing a name change application, possibly attending a court hearing, and paying a fee. This process stands alone from any marital status changes and is based on individual choice.

Filing for a Name Change Post-Divorce

For those who didn’t have their name change included in the divorce decree, don’t worry. The door is still open to legally change your name by filing a petition with the court. This route, similar to the independent name change process, requires legal documentation, a possible court appearance, and a filing fee.

SAS Tip:  Make sure to have a few copies of your divorce decree certified for legal reasons. You will likely have to show a copy or send in a copy of your certified divorce decree if you apply to change your name.

Court Order: Your Legal Foundation

Once the court grants your name change, whether post-divorce or independent of it, you will receive a court order. This document is crucial as it officially recognizes your new name. Obtaining several certified copies is advisable, as they will be required by various government agencies and institutions for updating your records.

Updating Government Records

With the court order in hand, your next steps include notifying and updating your name with government bodies like the SSA, the DMV, and your passport. Each institution has its procedures and forms, which need to be completed along with submitting your legal name change documents.

For additional things you can do to support your rebuilding … and healing,
consider reading46 Steps to Ensure Your Divorce Recovery: A Definition and a Guide.”

Consider State-Specific Procedures

Bear in mind that legal procedures for name changes can vary from state to state. Some states may have unique requirements or steps. For example, several states require a public notice of your name change in a local paper, some, like Florida, even require a background check and fingerprinting unless a former name is being restored. So, it’s always a good practice to check with your state’s government website or consult a legal professional for specific guidance tailored to your jurisdiction.

Practical Steps to Take After the Name Change is Final

The following steps provide guidelines for working with each of the entities you will want to notify of your new name. However, we have attempted to provide them in a prioritized fashion so the very first thing you will want to do is update your social security card.

  1. Updating Your Social Security Card
    Start with the Social Security Administration (SSA). This update is crucial as your Social Security number links to various personal and financial records. The process is fairly simple. You will just need to complete the application for a new card (Form SS-5) and submit it along with the required documents (your divorce decree and proof of identity) to your local SSA office. This change is free of charge.

  2. Driver’s License and DMV Records
    Next, is a visit to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) because your driver’s license or state ID is a primary form of identification. You will need to bring your new Social Security card, a certified copy of your divorce decree, and current identification. The DMV will issue a new license with your changed name. Note that fees and specific documentation requirements can vary by state.

  3. Bank Accounts and Financial Institutions
    For your financial integrity, you will want to make sure you update your name with all financial institutions where you hold accounts. This includes banks, credit unions, credit card companies, and investment firms. They will likely require your new identification and a copy of your divorce decree. Keep in mind that each institution may have its own forms for you to complete.

  4. Updating Your Passport
    If you have a passport, you’ll need to update it to reflect your new name. The process depends on how long ago your passport was issued. You’ll typically need to fill out a form (either DS-5504 or DS-82), provide a certified copy of your divorce decree, and submit a new passport photo.

  5. Others to Notify
    There are several other entities you may need to notify about your name change. These include voter registration, insurance providers (health, auto, life, home, etc.), official records (property deeds, rental agreements, etc.), subscriptions (utilities, HOA, etc.), and your employer.

Grab hold of your power and read  “100 Must Do’s for the Newly Divorced Independent Woman,”

As you can see, changing your name after divorce is more than a legal alteration followed by notifying the appropriate entities. It’s a significant step in your journey of self-discovery and redefinition. This process, while marked by paperwork and formalities, is often deeply intertwined with your emotional and personal transformation. It can symbolize a new beginning, an opportunity to redefine yourself on your own terms, and a declaration of your independence.


Whether you are thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional, financial, and oftentimes complicated experience of breaking up and reinventing. 

SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you — and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.


*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

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