In New Jersey, you may assume any surname you choose as long as you are not doing so for any fraudulent purpose. If you intend to file for divorce, you may incorporate your request to change your name in your Complaint for Divorce. If you inadvertently omit this request from the Divorce Complaint, you or your attorney can make an oral request to the court at the time of the divorce. Alternatively, you can file a written application with the court after your divorce asking for permission to resume your former name or to assume a new name.
If you are not divorced and do not plan on becoming divorced, you can file a separate Complaint for a Name Change. This type of Complaint, unlike the Divorce Complaint, requires publication of your intent to change your name in the Legal Notices section of your local newspaper. Whichever type of Complaint you file, you must state in your Complaint that you are not seeking the name change to avoid creditors or criminal charges or for any other fraudulent purpose. You must also testify to your lack of fraudulent intent at the final hearing. Based on your testimony, the court will grant you the right to assume your maiden name or any other name that you choose.
The name change will be confirmed in a court order which should be presented to the Divison of Motor Vehicles, the Social Security Administration, the Bureau of Vital Statistics, and any other government agency that requires such information.
Risa A. Kleiner, Esq., is a certified matrimonial attorney and accredited divorce mediator in the New Jersey area.