The New Jersey family courts make it very simple for a wife to resume her maiden name at the conclusion of her divorce case. In order to take advantage of the opportunity for a name change the wife should make the name change request in her complaint or counterclaim for divorce. Once she makes the request in her initial pleading the wife does not have to address the name change issue again until the day that the final divorce is entered.
On the day of the divorce the court will require the name that the wife is intending to resume, her social security number (last 4 digits), and her date of birth. Either the court or the wife’s attorney will ask the wife a series of questions related to the reasons why she is requesting the name change. The questions are generally along the following lines:
1. Do you have any civil judgments or pending civil judgments against you in your married name?
2. Do you have any criminal convictions or pending criminal cases against you in your married name?
3. Have you filed for bankruptcy in your married name, or do you have a pending bankruptcy case filed in your married name?
4. Are you requesting permission to resume use of your former maiden name in order to avoid, or otherwise defraud creditors?
If the wife answers “yes” to any of the above questions the court will inquire further in to the details of the situation. If, for instance, there is a civil judgment against wife in her married name the court may ask questions about whether the judgment is being paid off or settled. The court may also require the wife to inform the creditor of the name change.
It should be noted that while the court has the power to issue a Name Change Order, the court does not contact the different agencies and government entities on the wife’s behalf and make the name change. Once the wife has the court order it is her responsibility to go to each agency (e.g., motor vehicles, State Department – for passports) and present them with the name change order. There is no automatic notification from the courts to other government agencies.
It should also be noted that, in the context of a divorce, a husband cannot object to a wife’s decision to resume use of her maiden name. As well, a husband cannot force a wife to stop using his name after the divorce.
If there are children of the marriage and they use their father’s surname the wife has to make a decision about whether she wants to have the same last name as her children. The situation of having a different last name then your child can cause unnecessary headaches with schools, travel and other routine areas of life. On a separate but related note if a husband or wife wants to change their minor child’s name that proceeding is not typically brought in the family court (unless the parties have been recently divorced).
With regard to taxes, the NJ Division of Revenue requires that the wife file the name change order with the division within 45 days from the date of the issuance of the name change. According to the division of revenue website the wife should send in the original copy of the name change order (along with the division of revenue’s fee) and the name change order will be returned.
I have been helping clients with name change issues in the context of a divorce for over 20 years. My practice is concentrated primarily in northern New Jersey – Bergen, Hudson, Passaic and Essex counties. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the name change process during a divorce proceeding. I can be reached via telephone at 201-731-3086, or via e-mail using the contact form. The consultation is free of charge.