Following their divorce, many Long Island women consider changing their last, or surname, back to what it was prior to their marriage. For many women, this can be an important step to separating themselves from their former husband and enables them to feel completely able to move forward in their new life.
This, of course, is a personal decision and there are many factors you should consider before taking steps to change your last name back to your prior family name. If you and your partner did not part ways amicably, changing your name back to your maiden name can be liberating and empowering. It can be a step toward re-forming your identity as separate from your marriage.
On the other hand, if you and your partner have children together, you may consider how this may affect your children. Having a different last name than your child can create confusion for that child and you may opt to not change your name so you can have the same last name as your children. Remember again, that whichever you chose is a purely personal decision. If you do chose to use your maiden surname, the following will be a helpful guide on how to achieve this goal.
When Can I Change My Name?
First, it is important to recognize that your name cannot be legally changed until after the divorce has been finalized. Therefore, while you may wish to begin this process as soon as you begin the divorce proceeding, knowing ahead of time that you will have to wait will allow you to spend your time taking care of the more pressing matters of the divorce.
Before your divorce judgment is finalized, your divorce attorney should review the agreement to ensure that it states that you have the right to use your maiden name after the divorce. As long as the divorce judgment states this, and as long as you find all the other terms agreeable, a judge will sign it and you subsequently must file it with the county clerk’s office.
What Do I Do After My Divorce Judgment is Filed with the County Clerk’s Office?
Before you leave the county clerk’s office, be sure to request certified copies of the judgment of divorce. Without these certified copies, you will not be able to complete the name change process.
Step 1: Social Security Administration. After you have obtained the certified copies of your divorce judgment, your first stop should be to contact the Social Security Administration Office. As you likely know, everything you do is connected to your social security number. Therefore, changing the name attached to your social security number in the beginning will make the rest of the process flow more smoothly.
Step 2: Department of Motor Vehicles. Your second stop on the route to your name change should be the Department of Motor Vehicles. For most Long Islanders, your driver’s license is your main form of identification. So now the identification you use everyday would contain the name you wish to be referred.
Step 3: Bank Accounts, Credit Cards, Employer, Insurance, Insurance. After the Social Security Administration and the Department of Motor Vehicles, think of where else you have used the name you are in the process of changing. It is likely you have taken out credit cards, opened bank accounts, and your employer will have you on its payroll with this name. Consider your health insurance, life insurance, car insurance, etc. What about your passport? All of these things should be changed.
Step 4: Gym, Doctor, Hair Salon, etc. Additionally, think of more casual places you have used this name, such as for your gym membership, hair salon, and doctor’s offices. While these have no legal significance, changing them at these locations further separates you from the identity you held while you were married and minimizes any confusion with your other forms of identification. For example, if you pay for your gym membership with a credit card in your maiden name, but your account is listed in your married name, you may find yourself answering unnecessary questions.
What About My Children? Is It Possible to Change Their Names as Well?
Changing the name of a minor child after a divorce is not done in the same manner as changing your own name. To change the name of a minor child, a court petition must be filed. While you can make the decision on your own to legally change your name, a judge has discretion over whether or not to permit the name change of a minor child. In coming to his or her decision, a judge will consider what is in the best interests of the child. The judge will weigh the relationship the mother has with the child against the relationship the father has with the child and if a name change would greatly alter the child’s sense of self. While it may seem unfair that a judge has the power to make such an important decision, it is important to remember that the judge must consider that during a difficult divorce, a person’s judgment can become clouded by emotion. The court understands that in some cases a mother could desire to change a child’s name simply to hurt the father, or vice versa, but not realize that doing so may also hurt the child. Therefore, it is important to have a neutral third party make such a decision.
Have Questions About Changing Your Name?
Contact Us at 631-923-1910
Do you have questions about changing your name after your divorce? Give the compassionate attorneys at Robert E. Hornberger, Esq. P.C. a call at 631-923-1910 for a complimentary consultation. We will speak to you about any aspect of your divorce, including steps you can take to prepare you for your life post-divorce.