When you get divorced in New Jersey, you can request to change your name in the initial paper work that you file with the court. This initial filing is called the complaint or counterclaim. If you file before your spouse, you file a complaint. If your spouse files first, you file a counterclaim. The court routinely grants this request at the divorce hearing, as long as you’re not trying to change your name to avoid creditors or criminal prosecution.
There is no additional cost to change your name; however you must appear in court for the divorce hearing to answer a few questions about why you want to change your name.
The court or your attorney will ask whether you are the subject of criminal investigation, whether you have filed for bankruptcy, and whether you are seeking to avoid any creditors by changing your identity. You will also need to state why you want to change your name.
Most people simply say that they want to be known by the name they used before marriage. The court will likely accept any other reasons as well, as long as you aren’t attempting to avoid criminal prosecution or defraud creditors.
No, the court will consider your request without regard to your spouse’s opinion.
No, only the person who can request a name change is person whose name will be changed.
No. Changing a child's name is a separate procedure that requires the notification of both parents and usually the consent of both parents. You can read more about changing your child's name in Changing a Child's Surname in New Jersey.
Yes, New Jersey Statute 2A:34-21 allows the court to approve a name change to the name you used before marriage or any other surname.
No. The common law gives you the right to be known by any name you choose. However, government agencies like motor vehicles and social security will often refuse to change your name without a certified copy of a court order. So while you may begin using a different name at any time, practically, you probably won’t be able to complete the change until your divorce is final.
Anytime before the final hearing you can amend your complaint or counter claim requesting to change your name. With the consent of your spouse, this request can even be made during the final hearing.
You can file a post judgment motion with a nominal filing fee requesting the court grant you permission to change your name to resume the use of your maiden name. In some counties the court may ask you to appear in court for a brief hearing to ask you the questions that you would have been asked at the divorce hearing. In other counties, the court will accept your sworn statements in the post judgment motion and amend the final judgment of divorce to reflect your name change.
There is no requirement that you have a lawyer to change your name, although a lawyer will be more familiar with the rules and motion requirements. You can complete the paperwork and the process yourself, following the same rules that lawyers follow. If you wish to do this, it would be wise to consult with a family lawyer or research the procedure in a local law library.
Get more information about divorce in New Jersey on Divorcenet.com’s New Jersey Divorce and Family Law page.