Whether you can use your maiden name when it is no longer your legal name depends on how you want to use it. In many areas of life, there is no requirement to use your legal name. For example, you could use virtually any name on social media sites without anyone even knowing it isn’t your legal name. However, this informal use will not work for every situation since most banks and government agencies require you to use your legal name. For these uses, you must legally change your name.
Legal Name Change While Married
Each state has some method of formal legal name change such as a court petition, but the process varies greatly from state to state. Some states provide name change forms and instructions to simplify the process for the applicant. Each state also has its own requirements for filing fees and publication of notices of your new name so you should be sure to follow the process for your state.
Legal Name Change Upon Divorce
If you are getting divorced, your name can also be formally changed as part of the divorce action. Again, this process may vary by state law, so you should consult your divorce attorney or divorce forms for guidance on how to change your name as part of the divorce. In some states, it may be as simple as noting your name change request in your divorce complaint so the judge will include it in your divorce decree.
Usage Method of Name Change
Some states, such as California, allow a person to change her name merely by beginning to use a new name, thereby avoiding the formal process of name change. This process is called the usage method or common law method of name change. Even though a state may allow this method of name change, most government agencies still require a court order as proof of the name change, so this may not be the best option for you, even if you live in a state that allows it.
Once you have changed your name back to your maiden name, you will need to notify all of the agencies and businesses that use your married name. This may be the same set of agencies and businesses you notified when you changed your maiden name to your married name. For example, you should notify your state’s department of motor vehicles, the Social Security office and your banks. Most agencies will require proof of the name change, such as a court order or divorce decree specifying your name is to be changed.
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