Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

Changing Your Last Name When You Get Divorced

When going through the New Jersey Divorce Process most women face the decision on whether or not they want to take back their maiden name or keep their married name. During the final New Jersey Judgment for Divorce, a woman is legally allowed to change her name. She may assume her maiden name, or any other last name she wishes to at that time. This is legislated by New Jersey Statutes 2A:34-21 “The court, upon or after granting a divorce from the bonds of matrimony to either spouse, may allow either spouse to resume any name used by the spouse before the marriage, or to assume any surname.”

The name change is formally written into your final judgement (the papers signed by the court). As part of the divorce proceedings in court, you will be asked to swear, under oath, that you are not in fact changing your name for any fraudulent reasons, if criminal charges are pending, and any crime convictions.

Many women struggle with the decision and ask for my guidance in the decision. I always explain the many factors to consider.

For clients with children I have found that women tend to keep their married name. They want to continue to keep the same last name as their children not only as a family connection, but also ease of dealing with schools, doctors, and in activities. It can be easier than always having to explain why there is a difference.

Many clients often choose to keep their married name if they are leaving a long-term marriage and have really established themselves in the community or at work. They feel that no one would know who they were in their profession or in their children’s lives if they went back to their maiden name. They also do not want the hassle of changing their identification (including social security and credit cards).

However, I have also had clients who cannot wait to get a fresh start in their post divorce life and look forward to going back to their maiden name.

There is another question in regards to name changes- can a soon-to-be ex-husband demand that a woman change her name back to her maiden name after a divorce? Here in New Jersey, that answer is no. In fact, over the summer the New Jersey court debated this very issue. It was ruled that the courts do not have the right to compel a name change. This case had an interesting twist in that the pre-nuptial agreement clearly stated that the wife would resume her maiden name if the parties divorce, the court ruled that prior agreement was in fact unenforceable.

Just like the myriad of other decisions to be made during the divorce process, the decision to change ones name is a sensitive one. Make sure you are represented by competent legal counsel who can guide you through the process of these types of decisions. You want to put together a plan that will propel you into a happy and successful post-divorce life.