A divorce results in many uncontrollable changes, but you do have complete control over your last name. Whether a name change is in your best interest depends on many circumstances, which you may want to discuss with an attorney. If, for example, you share children with your spouse, you may want to keep the same name to show your children that you are still a family, even if mom and dad no longer live together. It could also save you lots of time that you would need to spend in court and various governmental agencies, as well as submitting name change requests to your bank, creditors and insurance providers.
On the other hand, changing your name may be essential to your well-being, especially if you've been through an acrimonious marriage and/or divorce. You may also want to disassociate yourself from your former spouse if he or she has is involved in a civil or criminal action. This latter point is extremely important to discuss with an attorney, because the courts will not allow a name in order to avoid pending legal actions such as criminal complaints, bankruptcies and lawsuits from creditors. Even if you have no intention to defraud anyone, any pending legal action would need to be examined by the court prior to granting you a final judgment.
At this point, you may be asking yourself: Why would I need to bother with a court order? Isn't a final judgment of divorce sufficient proof for requesting a name change on all my documents? Unfortunately, this is not always the case with government agencies such as the DMV and the Social Security Administration. Even if you have a divorce judgment, these agencies may request a certified copy of your name change order. Hence, it's in your best interest to request a name change with the family court, which involves several components.
First, you will need to file a verified complaint, which includes your personal information and the reason for requesting the name change. In addition, you will need to complete the Order Fixing a Date form, the Final Judgment form and the Case Information Statement. Second, you will be issued a hearing date, and a newspaper in which you must publish that date. Third, you must submit proof of publication to the court clerk, showing that your hearing date was published at least 20 days prior to the hearing date. Once your name change is granted at the hearing, you will need to publish the name change within 20 days of the hearing. Once you submit proof of publication to the court, you will be able to request a certified copy of your name change.
Keep in mind that missing or erroneous information will cause your application to be rejected, so it's highly recommended that you work with an experienced family law attorney. If you are considering a name change due to divorce, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.