Divorce and Name Change
Often, one or both spouses will want to change their name as part of the divorce process. If a spouse is returning to the name she or he used prior to the marriage (sometimes called a “maiden name”), the name change can be included as part of the divorce process. Other name changes, such as adopting a completely new name after divorce or pursuing a change of name for minor children, are separate processes from the divorce.
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Returning to the Name Used Before Marriage
Both the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) and Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) forms include a section in which you can ask the court to return one or both spouses to the name they used before the marriage. The forms vary slightly; some use the terms “wife” and “husband,” some use the terms “Petitioner” and “Respondent.” The Petitioner is the spouse who files the initial divorce petition; the spouse who was served with the petition is the Respondent.
Note that including the name change as part of the divorce process is only possible when you want to return to the name you used prior to the marriage. If you wish to change your name to a different name than the one used prior to the marriage, you will need to request your name change as a separate process from your divorce.
If your divorce is already complete and you did not include a request to restore your name to the one you used prior to the marriage, you can initiate a separate name change process to request that your name be legally changed. Each county’s Superior Court has forms and a process for requesting a change of name. Maricopa County has forms for requesting a name change for an adult with minor children, an adult without minor children, or for a family consisting of one or more adults and one or more minor children. Pima County uses a single form for all adult name changes.
Although legal name changes are always at the discretion of the court, requests to return to a pre-marriage name are generally granted during or after a divorce.
Returning Your Spouse to the Name S/he Used Before Divorce
Although the divorce petition and response forms allow you to ask the court to restore the name of either spouse, you cannot force your spouse to change his or her name, whether as part of the divorce or through any other process. Your spouse will have to agree to the name change in order for it to be granted as part of the divorce.
Changing the Names of Minor Children
Changing the names of minor children is a separate process from divorce. Note that changing a child’s name does not change the legally recognized identity of her or his father. Name changes also do not affect the rights or duties of either parent regarding visitation, child support, or rights of inheritance.
Each county’s Superior Court has forms and a process for requesting a change of name for a minor. Your completed forms requesting the name change will be filed with the Clerk of the Court, and depending on the details of your situation you may be required to serve notice on interested parties. If the child was born in Arizona, you may also be able to change the name on his or her birth certificate as part of this process.
If you wish to change your minor child’s name and birth certificate because you believe the individual named on the birth certificate is not the child’s biological father, you will first need to follow your county’s process for establishing or changing paternity.
When a parent requests a change of name for a minor child, the court will consider many factors before making a decision. Ultimately the court will seek to determine whether the name change is in the child’s best interest.
Adopting a New Name After Divorce
If you wish to change your name due to divorce but you do not want to return to the name you used prior to the marriage, your name change must be filed as a separate process from your divorce. The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) and Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) forms only allow for one or both spouses to return to their pre-marriage names.
Instead, you will use your county’s process for requesting a name change for an adult. Your completed forms requesting the name change will be filed with the Clerk of the Court, and depending on the details of your situation you may be required to serve notice on interested parties. If you were born in Arizona, you may also be able to change the name on your birth certificate as part of this process.
As with all petitions to legally change a name, the ability to legally take on a name different from both your married name and the name you used before marriage is at the discretion of the court.
General Information About Name Changes
It is important to understand that legally changing your name does not alter either your rights or your obligations. Pima County Superior Court’s form Application for Change of Name for an Adult specifies, “This application is made solely for applicant’s best interests and will not operate to release applicant from any obligations applicant has incurred or is under, or defeat or destroy any rights of property or action had in applicant’s original name” [sc.pima.gov].
In addition, Maricopa County’s Superior Court advises that in order to file for a change of name you must be “prepared under penalty of perjury to inform the Court whether you have ever been convicted of a felony and whether there are any pending charges against you for a felony or other offense involving false statements or misrepresentation of identity” and also that you must not be “changing your name to that of another person for the purpose of committing any crime or furthering any offense involving fraud or misrepresentation of identity” [www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov].
Once your name is legally changed, you may want to review any long-term legal documents you may have, such as a will, to ensure they reflect your most current legal name. You may also need to inform your county Superior Court of your name change, if you have any current cases before the court.
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