When you get married and you take your spouse’s last name, this is based on tradition. It is not a legal name change unless you applied to the government, through Vital Statistics, to legally change your name (which most people do not do). So, when you separate from your spouse, you can go back to using your birth certificate name at any time – you do not need to apply to the government to do this, and you do not need to wait for your divorce to go through. For example, if you want to get a new driver’s license in your birth certificate name, just bring your birth certificate with you when you go to get your new license.
Sometimes, institutions like banks or other credit lenders, want to see evidence of a legal name change when you get divorced. This is usually to avoid fraud – so that you cannot borrow money or get credit in more than one name. You can do this legal name change as part of your divorce for no extra charge – just fill in the appropriate information regarding your name change wherever it talks about this issue in your court documents. When you are filling in your name in these sections, be sure to include all of your names. For example, if your full birth certificate name is Jane Mary Ellen Smith, make sure you put all of this in. If you only type ‘Jane Smith’, you will legally lose your two middle names.