How to Change Your Name after Divorce

After a divorce, changing your name isn’t just a practical way of reestablishing your own identity,  but it can also be a powerful symbolic move. You are reasserting yourself as an independent person and marking a new beginning for yourself, free from your former marital ties. 

While the process can vary depending on your local laws, it is usually a very simple one, involving some legal documentation and filing at the local court level. But taking back your pre-marriage name isn’t for everyone. There are some pros and cons to consider. Let’s take a look. 

Benefits and drawbacks of changing your last name after divorce

Maybe you're still on the fence about changing your name back to what it used to be. When making a tough decision like this, some people find it helpful to list the pros and cons. Of course, your personal situation is unique, but here are some general benefits and drawbacks to changing your name after divorce:


A name change symbolizes a clean break. Fundamentally, you are no longer connected to your former spouse. Changing your name will remind you daily – and announce to all with whom you interact – that you are no longer connected to your ex legally, financially, and emotionally. Thus, the change can help you "regain" your identity and start again.


If you have children with your ex, you will no longer share their last name. If you've established yourself professionally with your married name, a sudden change may confuse colleagues or prompt you to do more personal "explaining" than you'd like. And, it can be a hassle to change your name, both technically and emotionally.

Changing your name before the divorce is final

The steps required to change your name vary depending on where you're at in your divorce journey.

It's easiest to restore your maiden name during divorce proceedings before your divorce is final. Most states have a box you can check on the final divorce documents to state you want your name officially changed back – and then you simply enter your full maiden name. Or, you can fill out the proper form to submit to the judge with your other paperwork. Depending on where you live, the form may be titled something like "Request to Restore Maiden Name" or "Request for Name Change." Make sure you get a copy of the divorce decree specifying your name change.

Follow up by changing your name with the Social Security Administration. Notify other major organizations of your name change, too: your bank, the DMV, and others. 

Note: After visiting the Social Security Administration Office, wait at least 48 hours for records to be updated. You can then request an updated license at your local DMV.

Changing your name after the divorce is final

If you didn’t provide for a name change during your divorce process, it's not too late. You can change your name after your divorce through a fairly straightforward legal process, but it does require court involvement. While the exact process will vary by state, it generally follows these steps.

  • Gather documents that prove your former name. These can be a birth certificate, your marriage certificate, an old passport, or another legal document providing legal evidence of your identity before you got married. 
  • File a petition with the court for a name change. This is your formal request to the court to change your name back to your former name. You will file this with evidence of your former name and a copy of your divorce decree. 
  • Some states will also require you to publish your intention to change your name in a local paper.
  • After your petition is filed, there will be a court hearing. At this hearing, the judge will go over your request, reviewing your evidence and making sure you have a legitimate reason for the name change request. 
  • Upon court approval, you’ll receive an order for the name change. This is the formal approval you will use to change all of your personal documents. Make sure you get several certified copies from the court. 

Steps to take after you change your name

After you change your name, you will need to update accounts and legal records that reflect your former married name. This will involve a few key steps depending on what accounts and records you are changing.

Update your Social Security card

To update your Social Security card, you will need to complete Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, and take this or mail your documents to your local Social Security office with your order of name change, a copy of your divorce decree, other proof of identity, and proof of U.S. citizenship if you weren’t born in the U.S.

Update your driver’s license or state ID

After you receive your new Social Security card, visit your local DMV office. Bring your new Social Security card, divorce decree, and current driver’s license or state ID. Fill out the necessary paperwork to change your name. Some states may require other documentation, so check with your local office first. 

Updating other records and documents

To update accounts such as utilities, homeowner's insurance, your phone, and loyalty programs, contact the companies directly. If you have a Roth IRA or brokerage account, you will be required to submit documentation that confirms the name change. 

Banks require you to visit a branch location with your updated photo ID and divorce decree or court order. Credit cards and mortgage companies will ask for you to contact customer service directly.

The process is usually more direct with employers. Typically, a copy of your updated photo ID is needed for Human Resources to update payroll information and similar employer-sponsored benefits. As for your mail, the United States Postal Service allows you to update your name (and possible address change) online. Visit the website

As for voter registration, you can download the National Voter Registration Application online and mail it in or update your name online through

Keep in mind that these may vary somewhat depending on where you live, so be sure to check the specific requirements in your state or for each account. 

Changing a child’s last name

You may consider changing your child’s last name to your former name after divorce, or it may be court-ordered.

If you seek a name change for your child, the court will look at certain factors to determine whether the name change is in your child’s best interest. Key factors the court will consider will include:

  • How the name change might affect your child’s emotional and psychological well-being
  • Whether it might impact their sense of identity and stability
  • What level of parental involvement there is from each parent
  • Whether there is any objection to a name change by your ex-spouse
  • Depending on the age and maturity of the child, whether the child has a preference
  • Practical implications such as the potential for confusion in their social life or their educational and medical records
  • The motivation for the name change – The court will consider why you are requesting the name change and if it appears to be vindictive or spiteful toward the other parent

When considering a name change, the court will try to balance your child’s relationship with both parents with their welfare and sense of identity.  Keep in mind that a child's name change does not alter the rights or responsibilities of either parent in terms of visitation, inheritance, intestacy rights, or child support payments. These changes would only come if changes were adopted by a court order. For example, if you were to remarry in the future, the adoption process could include a new name for your child.

FAQ about name changes and divorce

Do I have to change my last name after divorce?

No. Although this article focuses on how to change your name after divorce, it's certainly not required. You're free to do as you please. 

Some people want to keep their married name after divorce. Maybe they like the name, or they want to preserve an aspect of their identity that would feel "lost" with a name change. That's okay. This decision is yours to make, and there is no right answer.

How long do I have to change my name after my divorce?

You can change your name at any point in time after your divorce: one year later, five years later, or 20 years later. It's up to you. As explained above, you'll face less paperwork and hassle if the name change is part of your divorce decree. But some people just aren't ready for that when they're in the midst of a divorce. 

If you're uncomfortable making a quick decision, don't. Take as much time as you need. If you're already divorced and want to change your name, check with your county clerk for specific instructions. We provide generalized instructions here, but the specifics vary slightly from county to county.

How might a name change impact my credit?

While changing your name after a divorce doesn’t directly impact your credit score or history, you’ll want to take care in how you manage the transition to minimize any potential negative effects on your credit. 

Your credit report and credit history are tied to your Social Security number instead of your name, so changing your name doesn’t erase your credit history. You’ll want to update your name with all your credit card companies, financial institutions, and lenders to ensure your activities are accurately reported going forward. 

You’ll also want to check that your personal information is correct on your credit report and report your name change with all the credit reporting bureaus. Keep an eye on your credit score periodically after a name change to ensure there are no problems.

The history of any joint accounts or debts you had with your ex will remain on your credit history. But because you can be held responsible for any joint debt, make sure that any debts in both your names are paid off and closed or changed to or refinanced in one name after your divorce. 

What if it’s been years since my divorce? Can I still change my name?

Yes, you can change your name at any time after your divorce. The process will be the same as if you changed it soon after your divorce and will have the same basic requirements. 

Changing your name years after your divorce will no doubt feel different than if you had done it immediately post-divorce. Without the baggage of a recent divorce, the process may feel lighter and less emotionally charged. In fact, your decision to do it at this stage may be driven by practical reasons as much as self-redefinition. 

But in the meantime, you’ve established personal and professional ties under your married name. A name change now could feel like a significant identity shift, for better or worse.  Friends, family, and colleagues often understand a name change immediately following a divorce, whereas one initiated years later may prompt questions or require explanations that you will have to consider. 

Changing your name after a divorce can be a powerful statement of your new identity and role in the world, paving the way for a new beginning and brighter future. At Hello Divorce, we are committed to providing you with the most comprehensive divorce-related professional resources and information possible. Want more information? Schedule a free call to learn more.


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Head of Content
Communication, Relationships, Personal Growth, Mental Health
As Hello Divorce's Head of Content, Katie is dedicated to breaking down the stress and mess of divorce into clear, helpful content that delivers hope rather than fear. Katie most often writes about the emotional toll of divorce, self-care and mindfulness, and effective communication. Katie has 20+ years of experience in content development and management, specializing in compelling consumer-facing content that helps people live better lives. She has a Master's in Media Studies from the University of Wisconsin. Katie lives in Texas with her husband and two adorable cats, and you can find her hiking and bird watching in her free time.