A Guide to Returning to Your Maiden Name After a Divorce

When going through a divorce, it’s not uncommon for individuals to seek a fresh start. One powerful way to reclaim your identity is by reverting to your maiden name. Returning to your maiden name can be a symbolic and empowering step towards embracing your true self.

The simplest way to change your name back to your maiden name is to request a name change during your divorce proceedings. 

You can ask the judge to restore your maiden name in your divorce petition. The official court order known as the Judgment/Decree of Dissolution of Marriage will order your name to be restored to your maiden name.

In this article, we’ll explore how to restore your maiden name, why some women choose to do so, and the process involved.

Changing The Last Name Through The Divorce Decree

In most cases, the easiest way to return to your maiden name is to request it during the divorce process. Every state has a procedure for the judge to include a name change order in the final divorce decree.

What To Do If Your Divorce Is Final But It Did Not Include a Name Change? 

What if your divorce is finalized and doesn’t include a name change order? Don’t fret. You can petition the court for a name change. 

While it involves some paperwork and a small fee, it’s typically a straightforward process.

The process can vary based on your state, but generally, it involves the following steps:

1. Petition for Name Change

The first step is to complete a petition for name change form, which can usually be found on your local county or state court’s website. 

This petition will ask for information such as your current name, the name you wish to use, and your reasons for wanting to change your name.

2. Filing the Petition

Once the petition is completed, it must be filed with the court. A filing fee may be involved, which can also vary based on the jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions may waive the fee if it presents a financial hardship.

3. Publish Notice of The Requested Name Change In The Local Newspaper

Depending on the laws in your state, you will likely be required to publish a notice of your intended name change in a local newspaper. This allows the public to object to the name change if they have a valid reason to do so.

4. Attend a Short Court Hearing

A court hearing will be scheduled. During the hearing, the judge will ask you questions about your reasons for the name change. If there are no objections and the judge agrees, the court will issue an order to change your name.

Steps To Make Your Name Change Office – How to Change Your Name on Your Official Documents

Once the court order is received, you must change your name on all official documents. This includes your driver’s license, passport, social security card, and other identification forms. 

Here are the steps to take to make your name change official: 

Step 1 – Update your name with the Social Security Administration (SSA)

To begin, you must first update your name with the SSA. This requires completing Form SS-5 and submitting it by mail or in person at your local SSA office.

The necessary documents include the following:

  • Proof of Name Change: A certified copy or the original copy of your divorce decree or court order documenting the change.
  • Proof of Identity: This should be a valid photo ID issued by a government agency, such as a driver’s license, state-issued ID card, passport, or U.S. Military ID.
  • Proof of Citizenship: A certified copy of your birth certificate or passport.
  • Social Security card: Bring your original Social Security card. (Note, your Social Security number will not change).

For non-U.S. citizens, visit this link to help determine the necessary documents you’ll need.

You can expect to receive a Social Security card featuring your new name within approximately two weeks of application. 

The IRS will also be notified automatically when your name change is registered with the SSA.

Although sending your application via mail might be convenient, we suggest personally visiting the SSA office. This eliminates any risk of losing crucial personal documents in the mail. 

Step 2 – Obtain Your New Driver’s License or State Identification Card

It’s essential to wait at least 48 hours after your SSA office visit before going to the DMV to get a new driver’s license or state ID card. 

If you submitted Form SS-5 via mail, hold off until you receive your new Social Security card.

Before you visit the DMV, check out your state DMV’s website to see if appointments are available. This could help you bypass the long wait in line. 

We also recommend opting for a REAL ID as it will become necessary for domestic, commercial flights starting May 7, 2025.

The following documents are typically required to get a new driver’s license: 

1. Proof of State Residency

You must provide two (2) documents showing your residency, such as a utility bill, bank statement, credit card statement, or mortgage/lease statement. Ensure these documents contain your full name and address.

2. Proof of Social Security Number

This can be done by presenting your newly issued Social Security card. If you have yet to receive your new Social Security card, you may bring your old Social Security card along with the receipt that SSA issued to you when your name was changed.

3. Proof of Identity

Present your driver’s license or State Issued Identification card for identity proof.

4. Proof of Citizenship

To prove your citizenship, bring a valid passport or birth certificate. If you aren’t a U.S. citizen, you must provide your foreign passport with a valid U.S. Visa and approved I-94 form or a Certificate of Naturalization.

5. Proof of Name Change

Lastly, you must bring an original or certified copy of your divorce decree or court order for proof of name change.

Step 3 – Update Your Passport

Next, you must update your passport to reflect your new name.

Note: If you have any travel reservations (flights, hotels, car rentals, vacations, etc.) under your old name, delay the update until you return from your trip. Discrepancies between your reservation name and photo ID can prevent you from boarding your plane or checking into your hotel.

You can submit all the required items by mail since updating your passport is technically a correction. 

  • If you possess a valid passport issued more than 12 months ago, you must use Form DS-82.
  • If your valid passport was issued less than 12 months ago, you should use Form DS-5504.
  • If your passport expired more than five (5) years ago or you’re applying for your first passport, you must fill out Form DS-11.

Your updated passport should arrive in 6-8 weeks. For quicker processing, an additional $60 expedition fee can reduce this to 2-3 weeks.

Your old passport, with a hole punched through it, and your submitted documentation will be returned to you. 

Step 4 – Update your TSA PreCheck and Global Entry Memberships

With an updated passport, ensure your Global Entry and TSA PreCheck memberships match your new passport details.

Remember to update Global Entry first if you have both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. The databases are shared, so your name change will automatically pass through to TSA PreCheck.

Global Entry

For Global Entry, you should call your nearest Global Entry Enrollment Center. 

Ask if you can update your name over the phone. If not, a visit in person will be necessary. You must bring your Global Entry card, new passport, and divorce decree or court order.

TSA PreCheck

For TSA PreCheck, call the TSA Help Center at 855-347-8371 to request a name change. You must email or fax your legal name change document (divorce decree or court order), passport, Known Traveler Number, and a unique code provided by the TSA agent over the phone. 

Due to high demand, TSA typically takes 30-90 days to process name changes.

Step 5 – Update your voter registration information

Your new name must be registered correctly to vote. You can update your name online in most states by visiting vote.gov or downloading a National Voter Registration Application and mailing it in.

Step 6 – Update your name with the United States Postal Service (USPS)

As divorces often result in an address change, keeping your name updated with the USPS is vital. You can update your address for free by visiting moversguide.usps.com.

Step 7 – Update your name with your employer

Once you have an updated photo ID (driver’s license or passport), inform your HR department of your legal name change. This ensures that all your payroll information and employer-sponsored benefits (401k, health/dental/vision/disability/life insurance, etc.) reflect your new name.

Step 8 – Update all your financial accounts

Next, update your financial accounts. You must visit your bank with your updated photo ID and divorce decree or court order. 

Other accounts, such as credit cards, mortgages, investments, and life insurance policies, may be updated online, over the phone, or by mailing in supporting documentation.

Step 9 – Finish up with your remaining accounts

Next, consider accounts that you automatically pay each month. This includes utilities, monthly subscriptions, cell phones, TV/internet providers, loyalty programs, and email accounts. These, too, will need to be updated with your new name.

Check your checking account and credit card statements for recurring expenses when updating. These might be for:

  • Monthly subscriptions (Netflix, Apple +, Spotify, Hulu, HBO, YouTube, etc.)
  • Utilities (electric, gas, water, garbage, etc.)
  • Cell phone
  • TV/Internet/Wi-Fi
  • Loyalty programs (airlines, hotels, retail stores, etc.)
  • Social Media – Personal & Business (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit, YouTube, TikTok, Google My Business, Yelp, etc.
  • Email accounts 

Not only should you update all of these accounts, but you should also change ALL of your passwords. 

Step 10 – Lastly, don’t forget your legal documents

In the final step, remember to update any other legal documents or records that still carry your old name. These might include:

  • Will and Testament
  • Living will
  • Power of attorney
  • Property deeds
  • Trusts
  • Legal contracts
  • Medical records

While it might seem like an extensive process, updating your name across all these areas will ensure that all aspects of your personal and financial life are consistent with your new legal name, helping to avoid confusion or issues down the line. 

It is also the final step in ensuring your new identity is reflected in all areas of your life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Do I need a court order to change my name back to my maiden name? 

In most cases, yes, a court order is required. However, your divorce decree may already have a provision for this.

Q. Is there a time limit to change a name after a divorce?

In general, there’s no specific time limit to change a name after a divorce. You can change your name back to your maiden name or a prior surname at any point before, during, or after the divorce.

It’s often simplest to request the name change as part of the divorce proceedings to include it in the divorce decree. 

If you don’t do it as part of the divorce and decide to change your name later, you will need to go through a separate legal process, which involves filing a petition for a name change with the court, publishing a notice in a local newspaper, and attending a hearing.

How much does changing your name back to your maiden name cost?

If you are changing your name as part of a divorce proceeding, there may be minimal or no additional cost, as it will be included as part of the divorce decree.

Costs can be more significant if you do it separately from a divorce. Generally, it can cost between $1500 and $3,500, which should include court filing fees, a reasonable attorney fee, and the cost of publishing the name change in a local newspaper, a requirement in most jurisdictions.

It’s important to note that after the legal name change, there will also be costs associated with updating your identification documents, such as your driver’s license and passport, as well as other records like bank accounts, credit cards, utilities, etc. 

Q. Can I keep my married name and maiden name after a divorce? 

Yes, it is typically possible to keep both your married and maiden names after a divorce if you choose to do so. 

Here are a few ways people sometimes handle this:

  • Use both names without hyphenation: You could use both your maiden and married names without a hyphen. In this case, both names could be part of your legal name, but this might lead to confusion in paperwork or records where only one last name is expected.
  • Hyphenate the names: This is a standard solution. You could legally change your name to include both your maiden name and married name, which is hyphenated. For instance, if your maiden name was Smith and your married name was Johnson, you could change your name to Smith-Johnson.
  • Use maiden name as a middle name: Some people choose to make their maiden name into a middle name while keeping their married name as their surname. For example, if your first name is Jane, your maiden name is Smith, and your married name is Johnson, you could change your name to Jane Smith Johnson.
  • Keep the married name legally, use maiden name socially: Some people choose to legally keep their married name (often for reasons related to their children) but use their maiden name socially and professionally. In this scenario, your legal documents would have your married name, but you might introduce yourself and conduct business using your maiden name.

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Tim McDuffey is a practicing attorney in the State of Missouri. Tim is a licensed member of the Missouri Bar and Missouri Bar Association.

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