What’s in a Name? How to Reclaim Your Identity After Divorce

Your divorce is final. Although your divorce agreement provides an accounting of who gets what, for women, there’s an asset that remains unresolved: Your name. How and when you decide to change your name is up to you, but in the state of Alabama, there are specific steps to take in order to revert to your maiden or pre-marital name.

Step 1: Go online to download the petition required for the county in which you live. Each county provides its own form and specific requirements. (Click here for the link to the Jefferson County name change instructions; and click here to download  the Jefferson County name change petition.)

Step 2: Complete the petition provided by the Probate Court. An Alabama driver’s license, birth certificate, supporting marriage and divorce documents and two proofs of residency (such as a current utility bill, voter registration card, deed, mortgage, renter’s contract, etc.) must be provided upon filing petition. Post office box address are not accepted. You are not required to have an attorney to file.

Step 3: Sign the form in front of notary. The petition must be witnessed, signed, and sealed by a licensed notary. (Your financial institution or bank may provide a notary service at no charge. Or you can find a list of notaries online. Some business services providers, such as The UPS Store, provide notary service for a fee.)

Step 4: File your signed and notarized petition in person with the Probate Court Clerk.You must bring the required documentation (See Step 2) and cash or money order. At that time, you will be required to pay between $65 and $80, depending upon the number of copies made.

Step 5: Wait for your court date. All adult name changes are set for hearing. Authorization of a background check is included in the petition. (This makes sense. Changing your name should be held up to scrutiny.) Once your petition is filed, it takes about a month for your court date to be set. From there, timing of your court date will depend upon the schedule of the probate judge who is assigned to hear your case.

Step 6: Attend the hearingYou must be present on the date of your hearing to answer any questions the judge may have for you. (Again, you don’t need an attorney present.) On that day, if all goes well, you will receive a court order for your name change. With your official court order in hand, you can now go about the business of changing your name.

Step 7: Follow through. Applying for a new social security card should be a top priority. You can get more information on this at http://www.socialsecurity.gov. You’ll also need to contact your local motor vehicle registration office to update your driver’s license and/or photo identification card. If you’re planning to travel out of the country, be sure and update your passport, too. You can make this change via mail by filling out the proper forms and providing an original or certified name change document. Find details at the US Department of State website.

Also high on the list is getting the necessary paperwork to your employer so that your W-2, retirement accounts, health savings plans and health insurance all bear your new (old) name. Email accounts, as well as your snail mail address, will require updating as well.

You’ll also want to get new credit and debit cards issued with your new name. Also reach out to your bank, regarding any accounts, mortgages, loans, deeds, titles, etc. that may require attention because of the name change. Some of these accounts may be updated online.

Changing your name is a time-consuming process. But it’s never been more important to be consistent with – and safeguard – your identity. Remember to give yourself the time required to make these important changes. Plan ahead, follow through the required steps, and you’ll be able to check this all-important post-divorce task off your list.