If you took your spouse’s last name when you got married, 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). 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 be granted by the court. 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 for your name change wherever it talks about this issue in your court documents. The two documents that address name changes are the 'Affidavit supporting an Uncontested Divorce' and the 'Divorce Order.'
If you wait until after your divorce is final, and then decide to do a legal name change, you will have to file a more complex application with Vital Statistics, and you will have to pay fees to do this.
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.
If your spouse took your last name when you were married, they have a right to keep that name if they choose to do so, even if you divorce. You can’t make them change their name.
If you are the respondent in the divorce, you can still do a legal name change as part of the divorce process. You will need to file a separate affidavit with the information required by the court to process your name change. You may be able to use this document. Check with court staff as to what to do if this is your situation.
If one of the spouses has applied for a legal name change through the divorce process, court staff will send a copy of the required documents - your divorce order and Certificate of Divorce - to Vital Statistics for the name change to be processed. You don’t have to do this.
You generally can’t change your children’s names as part of a divorce. A change of the child’s name can be requested as part of the divorce, but is generally not granted unless both you and the other parent agree to this in writing. Please see a lawyer for advice if this is something you are thinking about requesting.