Do You Want To Resume Your Surname As Part Of Your New Jersey Divorce?
By Noreen Bratton, NJCP
You can legally change your name at the time of your divorce in New Jersey by resuming your surname without any additional fees pursuant to New Jersey Statute 2A:34-21. If there are no criminal charges, creditor/bankruptcy issues, or civil lawsuits pending under your current name, the request to resume your surname should be granted by the Family Court without incident. However, in the event that you decide not to legally resume your surname at the time of the divorce and you wait more than six (6) months from the date of the divorce, you may be required to file a separate lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey to legally change your name resulting in Court filing fees and attorney’s fees.
The following are some issues to consider with a legal name change as part of your divorce action:
How do I decide whether or not to legally change my name?
Many individuals feel that this is not an easy decision at the time of the divorce. You are already experiencing significant changes with regard to your residence, your finances, and even your social circle, which can feel overwhelming. Many women make the decision not to legally change their name to resume their surname at the time of their divorce when they share children with their former spouse. Some individuals feel this causes confusion for the children, in their tender years, as well as confusion in the children’s school system. This was the school of thought for many years. With changing times and approximately 50% of marriages in the U.S. ending in divorce, more individuals are choosing to legally change their names at the time of the divorce to develop their own identity post-divorce.
Will my spouse participate in the decision to legally change my name?
It is important to note that your spouse cannot prevent you from legally changing your name at the time of the divorce. Likewise, your spouse can also not force you to legally change your name. More importantly, just because you may legally change your name at the time of the divorce, you are not permitted to change your child’s name as part of the divorce unless there is an agreement with your spouse on that issue.
Where will I need to register my legal name change?
Should you choose to legally change your name as part of your divorce, you will be required to submit a certified copy of your Final Judgment of Divorce to specific governmental agencies to register your legal name change and process pertinent documentation. For example, the Division of Motor Vehicle will require you to update your driver’s license and automobile registration. The Social Security Administration will also require certified documents to update their records. Additionally, you will need to notify your banking institutions, credit card companies, utility companies and the like.
Legally changing your name at the time of your divorce is a personal decision. There is no right or wrong answer. Should you have any questions regarding the process of legal name change at the time of your divorce or wish to consult with an attorney to discuss this important decision, please contact our Mt. Laurel, New Jersey office at 856-795-3300
The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.
Noreen Bratton is a New Jersey Certified Paralegal (NJCP) in Obermayer’s Mt. Laurel office.