Name change rules are different from state to state. Generally, they require that the person seeking the change be an adult and a resident of the court's state. He or she must also have a reasonable cause for requesting the name change and must not be doing it to defraud creditors. Many people change their names following a divorce.
If the desire for a name change results from a failed marriage, the judge who is handling the divorce usually has the power to restore a person's previous (unmarried) name, if requested to do so. A certified copy of the judge's order is generally all that's needed to change a name on personal records and IDs.
If the divorce is still being worked out, be sure to request that the judge include your name change in the decree. It will make record keeping and getting a new ID a snap. Common usage takes advantage of repetition and consistency to achieve a name change. If you call yourself something long enough, that is who you are!
Changing Your Name on Your Own
If your divorce decree does include a formal order that restores your birth name, all you have to do is get a certified copy and proceed to the official agencies that issue identification or hold your personal records. If the divorce decree does not contain such an order, then restoring your birth name, may be more difficult. You might still be able to modify it. Check with the court in your jurisdiction or confer with an experienced attorney.
Another way to achieve a name change is through common usage of your chosen name. Just start using the desired name wherever possible-on your checks, utility bills, any new paperwork. The change takes place organically as you are consistent over time requesting that businesses, medical and other record-keepers start using the old name.
When you make such a request, it is especially helpful to have a name trail. Bring any proof of the old moniker in the form of a passport, driver's license, birth certificate, your old marriage certificate, any subsequent IDs, and your divorce decree.
The following step-by-step, post-divorce, do-it-yourself, name-change checklist can also work for people who have remarried.
Once your decree is changed to your birth/chosen name, take a couple of minutes one day to complete the following tasks. If you have a new address, go to the post-office and fill out the card to forward your mail. Make a list of all of your known credit cards, charge cards, and IDs. Add your friend's addresses to the list. Get the contact information for your employer's personnel department, too. Keep the list going with the state agency that handles car registrations and licenses and voter's registrations. Finally, jot down all of the types of insurance you own.
Once you have completed step one, contact each person, business, and agency to have your name and address information updated. Depending on the number of calls you have to make and how diligent you are about making them, this process should take between 2 days and 2 weeks.
Your passport is an important piece of identification which many people forget to update. In a post-9/11 environment, it is particularly helpful to do so. Sometimes changes can be made by regular mail or over the Internet. Contact your local post office for directions on how to update passport info where you live.
Any number of issues can complicate a name change, such as taxes, credit reports, and business ownership. Be sure to review IRS and state tax laws, credit reporting agency web sites, and your business' by-laws for any legal ramifications (tax or otherwise) when changing your name.