Generally speaking, if one wants to change his/her name, it must be done with the filing of a Complaint for Name Change in the Law Division of the Superior Court. The same does not hold true for changing one’s name as part of a divorce action. In that case, a party can request to resume a maiden name in her Complaint or Counterclaim for Divorce. This request can also be made as part of a Dissolution of Civil Union application. You will need to provide the name you are resuming, your date of birth, and the last four digits of your social security number. At the time of the divorce hearing, you will need to represent to the court that the reason you are seeking to resume the maiden name is not to avoid criminal proceedings, bankruptcy actions, or for any other reason aside from your marriage to your spouse ending.
In the event that you decide to resume your maiden name at the conclusion of the case but did not address this in your Complaint or Counterclaim, your attorney will still be able to make that application orally at the final hearing. If you are already divorced, you can change your name with a Consent Order if your ex-spouse is willing to sign it or by filing a Notice of Motion, which is routinely granted. While this application is liberally granted in absolute divorces, if you are obtaining a divorce “from bed and board,” you will not be able to resume a maiden name without a formal name-change application in the Law Division, as that form of divorce does not satisfy the requirements of the name-change statute.
Heidi Ann Lepp is a Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney in Warren, New Jersey and a partner with the law firm of Shimalla, Wechsler, Lepp & D’Onofrio, LLP.