Many married couples keep with the tradition of changing the wife's last name to take the husband's last name after marriage. Other couples may keep their individual last names or add a hyphenated name. When a couple gets divorced, changing the last name can be more complicated.
After a divorce, one spouse (generally the wife) may not want to keep the other spouse's last name. There may be ill will towards the other spouse or, even if the couple still gets along, the other spouse may feel no connection to the other person's name and want to change their name back to their birth name.
If you have any questions about name changes after a divorce or want to make sure your name reverts back to your maiden name after a separation, talk to your North Carolina divorce attorney about your rights and options in a divorce or separation.
Name Change as Part of a Divorce
An individual's last name does not change automatically upon divorce. It can seem easier to take on someone's last name at marriage but more of a struggle to change your name back after a divorce. There are a number of factors why it may seem more complicated to change your name back after a divorce.
A major factor in not changing your name may be because of your children. For the sake of continuity or because of concerns about perception when the children have a different name, many spouses keep their married last name to match the child's last name.
It may also seem easier to change a name when getting married because the individual is younger. Over time, property ownership and professional recognition may be more tied to the new name. It can be a process to change your last name and all the documentation that goes along with it, including Social Security updates, taxes, titles and deeds, insurance, utilities, etc.
Name Change Process in a Divorce
An individual can change their name at any point, as long as it is not for the purpose of fraud. However, most name changes occur either at the time of marriage or divorce. Under North Carolina General Statutes § 50-12:
“Any woman whose marriage is dissolved by a decree of absolute divorce may, upon application to the clerk of court of the county in which she resides or where the divorce was granted setting forth her intention to do so, change her name to any of the following:
- Her maiden name; or
- The surname of a prior deceased husband; or
- The surname of a prior living husband if she has children who have that husband's surname.”
The simplest way to change your name after a divorce is to make sure it is part of the divorce petition. As part of the divorce complaint, a spouse can request a name change, which the judge can grant when finalizing the divorce. In the complaint or counterclaim for divorce, a spouse may petition the court to adopt any surname as provided by law, and the court is authorized to incorporate in the divorce decree an order authorizing the person to adopt that surname.
Many people do not think about their name change when filing for divorce and deal with the process after the divorce is finalized. This will require requesting a name change with the Office of the Clerk in the county where you reside. There is a form for the Application/Notice of Resumption of Former Name.
Upon divorce, an individual may apply to resume her maiden name, premarriage surname, the surname of a prior living husband, or surname of a prior deceased husband after receiving an absolute divorce.
Filing for a Divorce
At Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC, we have helped spouses protect their rights and interests in a North Carolina divorce, including changing their name back to their maiden name. Contact us today in Shelby for a consultation.