Must I file my name change through the court if I’m going back to my maiden name?

I’m in CA. Married and divorced here, same county. I’ve been divorced for almost 8 yrs. I originally kept my married name after divorce. I would now like to go back to maiden name. Can I just go down to Soc. Sec. office with Birth Cert and get new card and start using my old name? or must I file through the court (over $300) in order to change my name back?

Asked on May 27, 2009 under Family Law, California


S.J.H., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Usually the issue of your maiden name is addressed in the divorce decree. Most states have a provision in their divorce decrees which specifically states that the Wife may resume use of her maiden name. I would check your divorce decree to see if this was addressed. If it was, you need only obtain a certified copy from the Clerk and submit that to motor vehicles and social security. If not, you could probably make a motion to the Judge who signed your divorce to allow you to use your maiden name officially.

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

As of right now, you can still do an "old fashioned" name change like the one you've described, and in a few years, you'll have it done, once you've re-established consistent usage.

But, most people, in most states, are best served by paying for the court order.  In these modern times, with identity theft a major problem, name discrepancies will often cause you problems, especially applying for credit, and a court order showing your name change is the best answer for those situations.  And there is no telling what will happen next;  there may be new laws to help defend us against terrorism, that tighten the proof-of-identity rules for things such as drivers licenses, to the point where the do-it-yourself name change becomes a real pain.

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