Separation Name Change
You may change names without being divorced, however, the process can be tricky and time-consuming. When you were married you simply showed your marriage certificate and assumed use of your spouse's surname. Unfortunately the process to go back to your former name is unfairly more bureaucratic.
You may start using your former name socially at any time no matter what your personal situation. Simply ask family, friends and colleagues to call you by your preferred name. You won't be able to get bank accounts or identification updated until you have proof of your name change.
Request an order restoring your former name
If your divorce is currently with the court you should ask that an order to restore your former name be issued before your divorce is finalized however not all states allow this.
Or wait for your divorce to be finalized
If you are in the process of divorcing it is best to wait until your divorce is finalized. Ask the judge to issue an order restoring your former name as part of your divorce proceedings. This court order is universally accepted as proof of name change. In the event you don't request this order, you may still change names with just your divorce decree and proof of your name being corrected by the SSA, but this is not allowed by all state DMV offices. See our section on divorce name change for more information.
Can you get your name changed before divorcing?
Yes, you may apply for a legal name change whilst married, however some states require your spouse's signature on the petition. If you have already filed for divorce or have other legal proceedings taking place it may complicate your case or may not be allowed. Check with your local court on these matters.
If you decide to legally change names, file a petition with the court where you reside. Filing fees vary significantly between states so contact your county court directly to ask about filing fees and processing times. Some states will be able to hear your case on the spot, others may need you to wait 3 months or longer to be heard. Usually the judge signs an order restoring your former name (or any other name of your choosing) at the hearing. You may be asked to return at a later date to collect the order. Keep in mind, a legal name change cost anywhere from $35 to over $500 and can take months in some states, so it may be best to wait. (continued)
Then update your accounts
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