How to Change Your Name After a Divorce
Divorce is a traumatic life event that comes with a wide range of changes and obligations, like figuring out custody issues, dividing assets, and deciding living arrangements. Changing your name might be at the bottom of your to-do list, but it’s certainly something many people want to do.
Times are changing and up to 30 percent of today’s brides choose not to take their partner’s name after marriage. However, that leaves a large chunk of the population—mostly women—who change their name after marriage. For many, taking their partner’s name further cements their union and plays a large role in their identity as married persons.
Conversely, when a marriage ends, changing one’s name is one way people uncouple their shared identity with their partner. Retaking a maiden name symbolizes the end of an era, but for many, it also restores their sense of self and allows them to move on with their life in a healthy way.
It’s best to consult with your divorce attorney about your name change. Until you have a chance to meet with a lawyer, this guide offers some preliminary information to help. Below we provide a broad overview of how to change your name after a divorce.
How to File for a Name Change in Orange County
The exact process someone must follow to change their name after a divorce depends on where they are in the divorce process. People need to take different steps and file different paperwork based on whether the court has finalized their divorce. Here are steps for the three most common situations someone who wants to change their name might face:
No Action Taken Prior to Court Finalizing the Divorce
With all the hoopla surrounding a divorce, some don’t even think about changing their name until the court has finalized the divorce. Once a divorce is final, someone must complete a form to ask the judge who granted the divorce to restore their former name. This form (FL-395) is formally referred to as the Ex Parte Application for Restoration of Former Name After Entry of Judgment and Order.
You must give your completed and notarized FL-395 with the date your divorce was filed and your case number to the Clerk of Courts at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana for a name change in Orange County, assuming your divorce occurred in Orange County. If you were divorced elsewhere in California, you must send the information to the appropriate county, even if you currently live in Orange County.
Your divorce lawyer can help you gather the necessary data if you are uncertain about how to fill out the form. Expect the court to take up to four weeks to process your request. If the judge signs off on the petition, the court will issue an order that restores your previous or maiden name.
Divorce Is Not Yet Finalized
Spouses who haven’t finalized their divorce can ask to restore their former name before their divorce is final. On the Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation (form FL-170), item #12 asks about name changes. Additionally, petitioners must fill out the final document for their divorce, called the judgment (form FL-180). When you submit your judgment, you can also submit a request to restore your former last name or maiden name. Item #4(f) on the form prompts people to write in the first, middle, and last name they want to restore.
If you are already working with an Orange County divorce lawyer, it’s best to let them handle the name change before your divorce is final. Once an Orange County court finalizes a divorce, the final decree should contain an official order restoring the name requested, often a maiden name.
Finalized Divorce, But Courts Did Not Restore Previous Name
Even after requesting a name change before the finalizing of their divorce, some people receive their final divorce decree without a formal order that restores their maiden name or previous name. In these cases, especially if the court made an error, the judge might modify a divorce decree to include a name change order. However, even if someone does not receive a formal order they can return to their name through other channels. As long as they have proof of their name on a birth certificate or social security card, they can request an Orange County court to change their personal records.
What Will It Cost to Change My Name After a Divorce?
The amount someone needs to pay to change their name after a divorce in Orange County depends on the situation. If one is going through the divorce process, but the court hasn’t finalized it, there might not be an additional fee. As mentioned above, the name change can be addressed when someone fills out a judgment form, so the fee for changing a name is included with the cost of filing for divorce.
If you haven’t filed any other paperwork for your divorce or your divorce is finalized, you should expect a fee that ranges between $435 and $450 when you turn in your forms to the Clerk of Courts. Those who cannot afford the fee can ask for a fee waiver to file their forms for free. According to the Judicial Branch of California, a fee waiver means people will not have to pay for certified copies, sheriff’s service of process fees, court reporter fees, and many other expenses that emerge from starting a case in Orange County.
Using Your Restored Name
Once the court issues an order that successfully restores a former name, people can take steps to change their name on financial accounts and official documents. Basically, people need to get through the actions they did when they got married, but in reverse. This includes filling out paperwork to change the name on a driver’s license, social security card, and with an employer. A divorce decree or an official copy of the order will serve as proof of the name change.