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Change Your Name for the Price of a Divorce?
I may not recommend that you file for divorce to change your name, but it is one of the benefits you may receive as part of your divorce case. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-21 provides that a spouse as part of a divorce proceeding may ask the court's permission to change his/her name. What is most interesting is that a spouse can choose to resume their former name, or any other surname.
The procedure to change your name in an independent proceeding is significantly more complicated and expensive. It requires the filing of a Verified Complaint for Name Change, the publication of the proposed change of name and the Final Judgment of Name Change in a newspaper of general circulation. You may be required to appear in court, as well.
The Complaint for Divorce is deemed to be a substitute for 'putting the world on notice' of your intent to assume another surname. Even if you did not request to change your name in the Complaint for Divorce, you can still raise this issue at the time of your final divorce hearing. You cannot change your child's name as part of the divorce proceeding. This would require the filing of a Verified Complaint for Name Change and notice to the other parent.
At the time of your divorce your attorney will ask you some simple questions as to why you want to resume or assume another name. The court will want to know, among other information, whether you are assuming another name to defraud creditors, do you have any judgments which are pending against you, have ever committed a crime, as well as other miscellaneous questions.
At the time of divorce, if you are not sure whether you want to resume another name, it is possible to reserve the right to have this done at a later time, without the necessity of filing a separate Complaint to change your name. Most Judges are willing to consider such an application as long as there has not been a long passage of time.
To file for divorce in New Jersey under no-fault grounds, the couple must have been living separate and apart in different residences for at least 18 consecutive months. There must be no hope of reconciliation in the marriage.
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Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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