If you have questions relating to a name change after divorce in New Jersey, this article will answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding a name change after divorce in New Jersey.
Am I allowed to change back to my maiden name as part of the divorce proceedings in family court?
Yes. During the final divorce hearing, you can legally ask the court to allow you to return to your maiden name. You are able to do so as part of the divorce proceedings and, therefore, you will not need to file a formal legal name change proceeding in civil court. Once the court grants your request for a name change, the name change will be ordered as part of the Final Judgment of Divorce. You can then use the Final Judgment of Divorce to change your name on legal documents such as your birth certificate, social security card, and driver’s license.
Should I change my name during or after a divorce?
Often times after a divorce, the wife or partner in a same sex marriage will decide to return to their maiden name. The reasons for changing names will vary from person to person. Often times, the spouse changing their name will do so out of desire to have a name of their own, or to start over. Other times it will be out of a desire to disassociate from the other spouse they no longer get along with. Sometimes, however, spouses decide to keep their married name. Often, this is done when the couple has children and the spouse does not want to have a different last name from their children. The decision to keep a married name after divorce might also be done after a long-term marriage as the married name has now become a part of the spouse’s identity. In short, deciding whether or not to change your last name or continue using your married name is a personal one to which there is no right or wrong answer.
What if I want to change my name to something besides my maiden name?
In the context of a name change during divorce, you are permitted to resume a maiden name, former name, or any other surname you desire. If this is your second or subsequent marriage, you can return to your prior married name if you desire. Moreover, although the law does not technically require that you return to a prior name, most people will choose to resume a prior name.
Am I required to return to my maiden name or some former name after divorce?
No. There is no requirement that you return to your maiden name or a former name after a divorce. Thus, you are free to continue to use your husband’s surname. This is true regardless of your husband’s wishes. Although some husbands attempt to demand that their spouses give up the use of their surnames, New Jersey law does not allow a husband to require that his spouse resume a maiden or form name. Instead, this decision belongs solely to the wife.
What is the procedure for a name change request made during divorce proceedings?
Your lawyer should make your name change request in either the Complaint for Divorce (or the Answer if you are the defendant spouse). Even if your lawyer fails to do so, however, you can always request that the court allow you to amend your pleadings to include a name change request.
Most New Jersey family courts will grant an informal motion to amend pleadings in order to request a name change pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-21. See also Cimiluca v. Cimiluca, 245 N.J. Super. 149, 152 (App. Div. 1990) (“The failure of a spouse to file a pleading seeking a name change authorized by N.J.S.A. 2A:34-21 should not bar a written or oral motion made with consent at the divorce hearing to amend or add pleadings to achieve that end. Such a motion should be granted unless some contrary reasons appear, other than the informality of the procedures.”). Thus, your attorney would simply make an oral motion to permit you to change your name at the time of the final hearing.
At the time of the final hearing, you will be required to testify as to the name you would like to use, whether or not you are changing your name in order to avoid creditors and whether you have filed for bankruptcy. Name change requests are routinely granted during divorce proceedings. If, however, a spouse is also in bankruptcy at the time of the request for a name change, the court may deny the application. An Order for Name Change would be entered at the same time as the Final Judgment of Divorce.
I am divorced but I forgot to request a name change at the time of my divorce or I have since changed my mind and I would like to change my name. What do I do now?
If you did not request a name change at the time of the divorce proceedings, whether because you forgot to do so or because you have since changed your mind, you can still request that the family court grant your name change. This is usually true regardless of how long ago your divorce proceedings were. There is no need to file a Complaint for Name Change complying with the requirements of N.J.S.A. 2A:52-1.
N.J.S.A. 2A:34-21 allows a court to grant a name change even after the divorce proceedings are over. What you need to do is file a post-judgment motion for a name change in the New Jersey family court where your divorce proceedings took place. Thus, you would still not have to file a formal complaint for a name change in civil court, a procedure that is more costly and time consuming. See Olevich v. Olevich, 258 N.J. Super. 344, 347-48 (Ch. Div. 1992) (where the court held that a divorced spouse, upon Motion to the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, could return to her maiden name 14 years after the Final Judgment of Divorce was entered.) A post-judgement motion to return to your maiden name must be filed with the family division and include a Notice of Motion, a Certification, a proposed form of Order, and Proof of Service to your ex-husband. The Certification will need to detail the reasons for your request and list your date of birth and social security number.
I would also like to change my child’s surname. How can I do that?
If you would like to change your child’s last name, you will not be able to do so as part of the divorce proceeding or as a post-judgment motion. Instead, you will need to file a formal name change in the civil part. As part of those proceedings, you are required to notify the biological father of the request for a name change. He or she will then have the opportunity to object to the name change application if they desire. If there is no objection on their end, then the name change will most likely be granted by the court. If, however, the biological parent does file an objection to the request, then the name change application will become a contested one. Your attorney will then want to prepare a legal brief to submit to the court summarizing why the judge should disregard the biological parent’s objection and grant the name change and attend oral argument. The standard that the court will utilize in deciding whether or not to grant the name change is what is in the “best interests of the child.”
Experienced New Jersey Name Change Lawyers
If you have questions about a name change after divorce in New Jersey, contact the New Jersey name change attorney at Katherine O’Brien Law today for a free consultation. Even if it has been several years since your divorce, the name change attorney at Katherine O’Brien law can discuss the family motion application process with you. You can reach us at 856-832-2482.