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Can I use my maiden name while I’m separated?

August 24, 2016 Our Blog

I am often asked during initial interviews with my divorce clients whether they can (or should) go back to using their maiden names during the period that they are separated from their spouse but not yet divorced. For many of these women, reverting back to their maiden name has emotional significance. They are ready to shake off the past of a bad marriage and begin a new and independent life. The last thing that these women want is a daily reminder of their old life in the form of their soon to be ex-husband’s last name.

Each state has their own laws regarding the process to retake one’s prior surname both during the pendency of a divorce action and after a divorce decree has been entered. Here in Pennsylvania, a woman who wishes to retake her maiden name must simply file a Notice to Retake Prior Surname with the appropriate court. The filing is easy, and the fee is minimal. A similar notice can be filed after a divorce decree has been entered. Again, it is a simple filing with a nominal fee.

I strongly recommend that such a document be filed before attempting to change your last name with any government agencies or financial institutions. For example, the Department of Motor Vehicles will not change the name on your license without the appropriate paperwork. I suggest reviewing that agency’s website to determine what is required before going to their office. If you wish to change your name with the Social Security or Passport Offices, you will likely need to provide a certified copy of a divorce decree before same can be accomplished. Again, consult the respective agency’s website to ensure that you have all the appropriate paperwork required before embarking on the wonderful adventure that is dealing with a government entity.
Generally, changing your last name with financial institutions is much easier. I would suggest consulting each financial institution’s policies to determine how to accomplish this modification. You are certainly not their first customer to get divorced and, as such, they likely have an easy procedure for you to follow.

Finally, do not forget to change your name with the United States Postal Service. If the post office still has your married name on file, they may return important mail that is addressed using your maiden name. Such a scenario reiterates the need to change your name everywhere and not just with those entities mentioned in this article.

In conclusion, using your maiden name while separated is permissible and should be formalized with a simple court filing. However, it will take time and legwork on your part to ensure that your new name is being used consistently in the next phase of your life.

In many family traditions, when a married couple joins together as a family, one spouse takes the last name of the other spouse. This symbolizes the new family they’re starting together. This tradition isn’t always upheld, and more and more people are keeping their last names in today’s world. However, if you’ve changed your last name to your spouse’s, you may be wondering about your maiden name. When you separate from your spouse, are you allowed to use your maiden name?

It’s most common for the wife in this scenario to change her last name to match her husband’s. After the marriage, the woman’s name will reflect her husband’s on her legal documents and driver’s license. During a separation, she might feel disconnected from her husband’s last name, especially if the split wasn’t amicable. Many women want to return to their maiden names after a separation as a form of empowerment. But is it something you can legally do?

Names Can Be Changed at Any Time

Traditionally, there are only a few circumstances in a person’s life that warrant a name change. A woman changing her maiden name to her husband’s last name is one of them. But there isn’t actually a legal restriction on when you can change your name. You don’t need to be going through a transformative period. All you need to do is want your name changed.

First names can be changed just as easily as last names. If you don’t like your name, change it. It can sometimes be as simple as that.

Even though a woman using her husband’s name is a tradition throughout most of the United States, there’s no law requiring that she do so. If you changed your name, you’re allowed to change it back whenever you want, for any reason.

Updating Important Documents

If you’re going back to using your maiden name when you separate from your spouse, you need to make sure the relevant people are informed. You’ll have to inform the bank and your creditors about the change. If you don’t tell people about the change, you’ll have a hard time applying for a credit card, bank account, or any other legal document. The name on your driver’s license won’t match the name on the application, and this can cause problems.

In addition to telling the relevant people, you’ll also need to update your relevant documents. Your checkbook should have your correct name reflected, as should your bank account.

Is the Hassle Worth It?

You should give serious consideration to whether the work involved in changing your name is worth it. You’ll need to commit to making a lot of phone calls and doing a lot of explaining. It’s enough to make any person exhausted. If you decide you don’t want to bother using your maiden name, that’s okay. Conversely, if you want to reclaim your name no matter how much of a hassle it is, that is absolutely your right.

One thing to consider is the circumstances surrounding your separation. Do you believe you’ll get back together with your husband? Are the two of you planning to reconcile? If this is the case, you might not want to change all of your banking and legal information. However, if you believe the separation will last a long while or inevitably end in divorce, using your maiden name may be a good way of distancing yourself from your husband.

There are other circumstances in which using your maiden name can be beneficial. Some husbands can be abusive or attempt to assert financial control over their wives. Using a maiden name distances the woman from her husband. It also makes it harder for him to track her accounts, spending, and independence. If the husband hasn’t been informed regarding the change, he’ll get a nasty surprise when he tries to take out false loans in her name.

The Potential Effect on Children

If you and your husband have children, you’ve probably given a lot of thought to how the separation affects them. You’ve probably thought about how divorce would affect them. Ultimately, you have to make the right choice for your family, and sometimes that means separating from your husband.

For very young children, a change in name might cause confusion. They may have trouble getting used to it, although children are extremely adaptable. Older children may be unhappy about the attempt to put distance between you and your husband. The way the children feel has an impact on your decision.



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