Historically, it has been traditional for a married woman to take on the last name of her partner, although it’s not required by law. But when divorce arises, a woman may choose to return to her birth name. While there is nothing legal that prevents you from keeping the last name of your spouse, and some people choose to do so for any number of reasons, a woman can also legally change her name as a part of the divorce process, or any time afterwards.
Following are some reasons why you might consider changing your name after a divorce, and how to get started with the legal process of changing your name in Washington.
Why You Should Consider Changing Your Name
There are many reasons why you should or shouldn’t change your name as part of a divorce. Ultimately, it’s a personal decision, but there’s one major reason to consider a name change: it’s a chance to reclaim your identity.
Divorce is an opportunity to start a new life. Changing your name allows you to state your independence, as well as decide who you are and want to be. Some women find a name change to be a means of achieving or renewing a positive sense of self-identity after a marriage ends. Others use it as a way of creating a clean break from the relationship, choosing an entirely new last name to avoid association with a former spouse.
If domestic abuse was a part of your reason for divorcing, you may also file to have your name change kept confidential to protect yourself, your children, and reclaim your life.
“Divorce is an opportunity to start a new life. Changing your name allows you to state your independence, as well as decide who you are and want to be. Some women find a name change to be a means of achieving or renewing a positive sense of self-identity after a marriage ends.”Leah Hill | Founder and CEO, Divorce Strategies NW
How to Change Your Name as Part of a Divorce
The simplest way to change your name is to include the request as part of your petition for divorce. If you request it, your name change can be included in your final divorce decree. This decision can be made at any time from when your case is filed until it your divorce decree is finalized, giving you time to consider your options.
If you wait until after the divorce is complete, changing your name requires a few extra steps. The exact procedures and forms may vary based on your state and county of residence. In Washington State, you’ll need to do the following:
- Complete a Petition for Name Change form
- File your form with the county clerk
- Pay a fee (usually under $200; check online for current prices)
- After your petition has been reviewed and approved by a judge, you will receive a certified copy of the order that officially changes your name (you may purchase more certified copies for an additional fee).
Once you have your certified order confirming that your name change has been recorded by the court, you can begin the process of converting all of your important documents to your new name. This may include your driver’s license or state identification card, passport, birth certificate, social security card, bank accounts and credit cards, and property titles.
It is highly recommended that you review the list of places, institutions, organizations, and documents that may require your attention for a name change (read our name change checklist here.)
Your Trusted Partner
Whether you’re contemplating a divorce, have already started the process, or are far into the proceedings, do you wish you had someone to share with you the inside scoop on how to save money, time, and emotional energy on your divorce?
Our team is available for Support On-Demand to discuss the many scenarios, options, and implications of separation or divorce, via telephone or videoconference during this time. Feel free to get in touch with us; we are here for you!