Should You Change Your Name After Divorce?

When you go through a divorce there are many changes that are going to occur in the coming months. One of the decisions you will need to make is if you revert back to your maiden name or not. There is no right or wrong here it is totally a personal preference and entirely up to you which way you go.

Some women cannot wait to change their name back and get rid of any remnants of being married to their ex-partner. For others it is a bit more of a difficult choice, particularly if they have children, have been married a long time or a personal profile in their married name.

I have a friend who got divorced 25 years ago and she still has her married name, but it is her name and it suits her, I can’t imagine her any other way. I have another friend who has two last names and they are both from ex-husbands, her name also suits her and is very unique. I know other people that change their name back for before the dust settles and that is fine too.

caralee fontenele - change name after divorce

For me personally, I just thought of my name as my name rather than that of my ex-husbands name. Since I have had the name, I have done a lot. I became a lawyer, author, ran a business and created a profile for myself, all in that name. My daughter has the same name and also my business Caldwell Family Lawyers is after my last name.

I just sat with the name for some time after separation and divorce. When I recently got re-married I decided to change to my new husband’s name rather than keep the old or hyphenate it as my friend had done.

I considered going back to my maiden name, which is Smith, but I haven’t been ‘Smith’ for so long that it didn’t feel like me anymore. So in the spirit of moving forward and looking to the future with my new husband, I decided to change my name to his name which is Fontenele (said Fontenelly). It is a Brazilian name that originated from France, I think much nicer than Smith!

I am currently in the process of changing all of my legal documents, which is quite the task and the reason that I have put together a checklist for you.

So, how do you go about changing your name after divorce legally, if that is what you want to do?

After Separation or Divorce

Initially after separation, but before divorce, you can revert your name back to your maiden name with little fuss. The chances are that you didn’t legally change your name when you go married by lodging name change documents and it was likely that all you did is show your marriage certificate as evidence of your new name.  What this means is that you assumed your husband’s surname, therefore you are still entitled to be known by your prior name regardless of your marital status.

All organisations accept a divorce certificate and will adjust your records accordingly. However if your divorce is not finalised yet you are still entitled to be known by your maiden name. You only need to prove the link between your married and prior name which you can do by providing your birth certificate and marriage certificate.

If you have a more complicated name history, like I do when you have been married and divorced more than once or possibly changed your name by deed poll, you will need to demonstrate the link between all of your previous names. You can do this by showing your birth certificate, then you first marriage certificate, divorce certificate and so on.

What documents will I need to change my name?

You will need either your official Marriage Certificate or your Divorce Order that is issues by the Court. It is a good idea to change your passport or your driver’s licence in the first instance, then it is easier to change your name with all the other institutions. To change your name on your driver’s licence you will need to contact your State’s transport department and follow through with their procedure. It is also fairly straight forward to change your name on your passport by making an application to the passport office. You can find more information and the correct forms here.

Name Change Checklist

If reverting back to your maiden name is what you want to do, there are many places that you will need to update information. We have put together a helpful checklist to guide you as to what institutions you will need to change your name when you are reverting back to your maiden name. Download the FREE checklist here.

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