Adults and emancipated individuals in New Jersey can change their name at any point by filing a complaint with their superior court. While there are numerous circumstances for changing one's name, the most common reason is divorce. It's usually the woman who typically changes her name incident to divorce, but there are cases where men have taken on their wife's surname upon marriage. Thus, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-21 allows “either spouse to resume any name used by the spouse before the marriage or to assume any surname.”
Along with giving both husbands and wives the right to change their names, the law allows divorced spouses the right to resume “any surname”. This means that spouses are not limited to a maiden name or to a name that was previously used before the marriage. Furthermore, both spouses are allowed to retain usage of their married name without agreement from the other spouse. While most spouses want to do everything they can to move on with their lives, there are legitimate reasons for keeping one's married name. Individuals who have been married for many years may find it disruptive to change their name, when everything from their college degree to their professional documents are listed under the married name. Maintaining consistency for the children is another common reason for keeping one's married name. It may sound silly to some people, but most parents understand the psychological longing to have the same last name as one's children.
The most efficient way to change one's name incident to divorce is to include the name change request in the divorce complaint. You can also ask to change your name during the divorce proceedings by making an oral or written request during the hearing. Many spouses, however, may need to think long and hard about whether a name change is in their best interest. Mothers, for example, may want to keep their married name until their children become emancipated, or reach the age of majority. In that case, you would need to file a Verified Name Change Complaint and Certification at their superior court, along with a filing fee of $250. You will also need to fill out a Civil Case Information Statement and Order Fixing Date Date of Hearing. The latter form will be returned to you with a hearing date, and instructions for publishing that date in a local newspaper.
As mentioned before, you are allowed to change your name at any point during your life, so there's no need to stress over what you should say in court. The judge's main concern is that you are not changing your name in order to commit acts of fraud, or to avoid pending legal action. However, you are still required to explain the reason for changing your name on your name change application. For assistance with these forms, or any other issues concerning the name change process in New Jersey, please consult the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.