After a divorce, some partners opt to retain the last name of their former spouse when children are involved. Some people do not want to have a different last name from their children. Other times, children are not a determining factor.  Instead, a former partner will maintain the last name of a former spouse because the last name is significant in terms of identity. This is especially true after a long-term marriage.

On the other hand, many individuals decide they want to change their name after divorce. The desire for a fresh start, a name of their own, or to disassociate from the former spouse are reasons many individuals choose to change their name following a divorce.

New Jersey Statute Permits Name Change After Divorce

Laws regarding divorce and name change proceedings vary by state. The New Jersey Statute Annotated 2A:34-21 is the statute that governs legal name changes in New Jersey. Under the rule, divorcees are permitted to resume using the name they used before the marriage or civil union. This also applies when assuming any surname, or last name.

Typically, the divorce attorney of the spouse desiring the name change will make a formal name change request as part of the divorce proceedings. Alternatively, an individual can request that the court allow an amendment of pleadings to include a name change request. An informal motion to amend the pleading is typically granted by most New Jersey family courts following the amendment request. If the divorce proceedings have ended, the court can still grant a name change request. The individual must file a post-judgment motion for a name change in the New Jersey family court where the divorce proceedings took place.

Update All Identification Records Post Divorce

After the name change process is complete, individuals must retain proof of their former name via the marriage certificate, passport, or other legal identification. It is also important to update all identification and personal records. This includes the following:

  • Social Security card
  • Driver’s license
  • Banks and other financial accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Passport
  • Mortgages and deeds
  • Insurance policies
  • Phone and cable bills
  • Student loans
  • School and work documents, including payroll and retirement plans
  • Voter registration
  • Utility bills
  • State tax authority