Name Change After a Divorce in North Carolina

Posted by Josh Valentine | Jan 10, 2020

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: 

  1. Her maiden name; or 
  2. The surname of a prior deceased husband; or 
  3. 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.

About the Author

Josh Valentine

You could say Josh has a God-given ability for sustaining long-term relationships. He and his wife first met in elementary school and went to Gardner Webb University (GWU) together, where they tied for number 1 in their class. Then, they both started law school on the same day of their graduation and got married during their first semester. He has also known his law partner Blake Caulder since Kindergarten. Theirs is the perfect partnership. “He’s the brake; I am the accelerator,” Josh says. Both Josh and his wife attended an innovative program at Charlotte Law School that allowed them to complete law school in two years instead of the typical three. His wife graduated and passed the North Carolina bar at age 20, becoming one of the youngest attorneys in the state. He readily admits she’s smarter than him. Of course, Josh went on to pass the North Carolina State Bar himself and later the South Carolina State Bar. While in school, he was Associate Editor of the Law Review and received accolades like Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society membership, Order of the Crown, Pro Bono Honors, CALI Awards (highest grade). In his career as a lawyer, he has been admitted to the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is a member of the American Association of Premier DUI Attorneys, and completed training for DWI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. Josh has also been named to the Top 40 Under 40 for Criminal Defense by The National Trial Lawyers, the Business North Carolina 2019 Legal Elite for Criminal Defense, and the 10 Best Attorneys for Client Satisfaction by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys three years in a row (2016, 2017, and 2018). Community involvement has been important to Josh all his life. In high school, he participated in building a Holocaust museum that has become internationally regarded. He and his wife are actively engaged in animal rescue, which currently means seven cats and two kittens. He served in prison ministry and assisted with fundraiser banquets there, and he provides pro bono and reduced fee legal services to those in need. As if all of that weren’t enough, Josh also mentors high risk youth and helps with his church’s youth group. He participates in other community volunteer projects involving construction, remodeling, drywall, painting, and landscaping. He’s an active student of the Bible and has traveled to Israel, Brazil, and Europe for mission work. No one can say Josh isn’t a well-rounded individual. In his spare time, he likes to play softball, basketball, and tennis, and he can play the piano and trombone. Sometimes on weekends, believe it or not, he enjoys pouring and finishing concrete with friends who own a concrete and grading business. In his law practice, Josh has made it a point to develop positive relationships with officers, clerks, and district attorneys, which has proven invaluable in delivering positive results for his clients. It’s important to him to both listen to his clients and fight for them. Law enforcement officers have important responsibilities to keep our communities safe and uphold the law, but one of the responsibilities of attorneys is to make sure officers do their job correctly. Josh considers it his job to hold them accountable for their actions. Josh is a person of deep faith. He knows that the established order of our universe and strength of America’s Judeo-Christian influenced court system is built on God’s word. His passion to serve each client with innovation, excellence and integrity is a byproduct of his faith. When asked why he became a lawyer, Josh says, “All through my life, I have personally witnessed family members and very close friends endure divorce, child custody battles, bankruptcy, civil lawsuits, and even fraudulent criminal accusations. I both saw and experienced the stress such events can place on an individual, and I realized that everyone, at some point in their life, needs hope, comfort, and encouragement. In each one of those situations, the person who was best situated to provide that vital support was their lawyer. So that’s why I became an attorney. I understand what you are going through, and I’m here to help you. Our office is focused on meeting your needs and guiding you through what may be the most difficult time of your life.” Education: Charlotte School of Law J.D., Magna Cum Laude Class Rank – 21 of 328 Associate Editor of Charlotte School of Law Law Review Certification and Concentration in Employment Law Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society Order of the Crown Pro Bono Honors CALI Awards (Highest Grade)—Lawyering Process I and Contracts I Full Scholarship Gardner-Webb University B.S. in Accounting, Summa Cum Laude Distinguished Senior Student Award – Highest GPA Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honorary Society Bar Admissions: North Carolina State Bar