How to Resume a Former Name At or After the Time of Divorce

One topic new clients ask about is how they can resume a former name at the time they get divorced.  Others were divorced but did not resume a former name at that time and ask is it too late to do so now?  Still others did resume a former name but have questions about what to do next.

In New Jersey, Courts permit a Party to formally resume the use of a former name (or other surname) upon the entry of a judgment of divorce.  If this is something you wish to do, it is best to advise your attorney at the outset of your case.  It can then be included in your first filing with the Court whether that is a Complaint with you as the Plaintiff or in your Counterclaim with you as the Defendant.

If you are unsure as to whether to do so at the start of your case, a request can be made by your attorney at the final divorce hearing to amend/revise your pleading to permit you to do so at that time.

In almost all instances the Court will grant the request to resume the use of a former or different surname, except where that person:

  1. is seeking to change their name for a fraudulent purpose;
  2. is using the name change application to avoid creditors;
  3. has any pending criminal charges;
  4. was ever convicted of any type of crime; or
  5. is currently in bankruptcy proceedings.

I advise my clients that if they are granted the right to resume a former name by the Court it is in their best interest to notify the appropriate government agencies, most often NJMVC (here in New Jersey) and the Social Security Administration.

Additional questions that are often asked on this topic are:

If they are in my custody, can I change the last names of my children?

The answer is “possibly” but it is a completely different and far more involved proceeding to attempt to do so. Contact me to discuss further.

Am I required to resume a former name at the time I am divorced and can my now ex-spouse demand that I do so?

The answer to both questions is no.

New Jersey Drivers License

Each of these agencies will continue to have you in their records under your married name and to accurately interact with them in the future you will need to take the appropriate steps to have them revise their records. Whether changing your name on your license or applying for a “RealID” with your name change, it is best to check the New Jersey MVC website.

Social Security

If the Court has granted you the right to resume the use of a former name as part of your judgment of divorce (or by separate Court Order thereafter), you are obligated to tell the Social Security Administration (SSA) so you can obtain a corrected Social Security Card. Understand that, while there is no charge for a new Social Security Card, you cannot apply for a new card online.

To get a corrected Social Security card, you will need to:

  • Show the required documents. You will need proof of your identity. Sometimes you also may need to prove your current U.S. citizenship or lawful noncitizen status. For more information, go to the SSA website and go to “Learn What Documents You Need.” Under the heading, “Type of Card,” select “Corrected” for a list of the documents you need;
  • Fill out and print an Application for a Social Security Card; and
  • Take or mail your application and documents to your local Social Security office.

For complete information on why it is important to have an accurate card, click here. If you need any assistance in obtaining an Order or Amended Judgment of Divorce to have the Court permit you to resume the use of a former name or any other issue related to family law, please contact me at or call (908) 233-6800 ext. 2363. All inquiries are confidential.

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