DIVORCE LAW: HOW TO CHANGE A SURNAME

Oftentimes when a divorce case is filed, a party desires a restoration of their maiden name or even a prior surname that may not be the last name she or he had at the time of her birth. There are a number of considerations to keep in mind when it comes to how to change a surname in a divorce case.

Prayer for Relief in Complaint for Divorce

If a party files for divorce, he or she needs to include a prayer for relief requesting a restoration of a prior name in the complaint for divorce. A prayer for relief is a legal request asking a court to take certain action. A party usually is entitled to have not only a maiden name restored but a prior surname that was lawfully used prior to the marriage at issue in the divorce proceedings as long as the party is not attempting to avoid creditors or criminal prosecution. . For example, if the party had been married previously, she theoretically could have restored the surname she used during that time. The same process applies to cases in which a partner in a same-sex marriage desires a name change. Same-sex divorce cases have only recently begun to work their way through the legal system. If a party is the respondent in a divorce case, i.e., the person being sued for divorce, she will request a name change in the response filed to the petition or complaint.

Changing the Name after the Divorce Decree Was Entered

In some cases, a party neglects to request a name change in either the complaint or response pleading for divorce. If that is the case they can file an amended pleading before the divorce is granted requesting the name change. Some Judges in New Jersey will allow a party to amend a pleading on the record the day of divorce. A party may not realize the omission until the divorce decree has been entered by the court. In other situations, a party may determine she or he wants a name change after the decree is entered. There are two possible alternatives: The party can file a petition for a name change with the court or she or he may be able to file a motion seeking a change in the divorce decree. In New Jersey N.J.S.A. 2A:34-21 allows a court to change a name after the divorce. If after a divorce was granted and a party wishes to resume a name, he or she would file a post judgement motion to change their name. A post judgement motion would more likely be less expensive than filing a petition for a name change.

Once the court has approved the name change, the party seeking the alteration needs to obtain certified copies of the order from the court. These are duplicates of the court’s order that are verified by the court as being true and correct, and are used to change the surname on official documents, such as Social Security cards and driver’s licenses.

If you any questions about divorce, call Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845 -7400 to schedule a free initial in office consultation.

 

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