by Wendy Alton
A small but important question is always asked of the wife during divorce proceedings: Do you want to keep your married name, or go back to your maiden name? If the attorney fails to ask the wife this question, ultimately the Judge will ask the question at the final hearing.
In my experience as a divorce attorney, many women have a difficult time making this decision—especially if they have children from the marriage. Most women are concerned that if they go back to their maiden name, that their name will be different from their children’s’ name, and that this will cause problems. Some women, on the other hand, are concerned that if they don’t go back to their maiden name, and their soon to be ex-husband remarries, it will be too confusing altogether. Others who have established a professional reputation during their marriage are concerned that changing their name back to their maiden name will have a detrimental effect on their business. There are obviously a host of reasons that make this decision difficult.
To clarify, just having a provision in the Divorce Judgment changing a woman’s name doesn’t make the name change legal. In order to legally change your name you must take that Divorce Judgment to the Michigan Secretary of State and the Social Security Office to officially change it. So even having a provision in the Judgment of Divorce doesn’t make the name change automatic. There are further steps to take in order to make the change legal and official.
There is, however, a very significant advantage to including a name change provision in a Divorce Judgment. If this provision is in the Divorce Judgment, the woman can decide at any time to make the name change legal and official. That means that she can make the change right away, wait a while, or never change it. Having the provision in the Judgment makes it easy to change it officially.
What happens if you don’t have this type of provision in the Divorce Judgment, but want to change it later? If there is no name change provision in the Divorce Judgment, then you must file a petition with the Court for a name change, and follow all of the necessary procedures. The Michigan Courts website offers a tutorial on this process here: Name Change Self Help. It should be noted that there are significant costs included in a name change petition. There are filing fees, fingerprinting fees, publishing fees, and order fees. These fees will exceed $300.00. You also have to be fingerprinted, and your fingerprints must be sent to the Michigan State Police and the FBI. Both agencies must report to the Court about any pending charges or convictions. The process is time-consuming and expensive.
If in doubt, it is better to err on the side of caution and include a name change provision in your Divorce Judgment. If you decide never to change your name, it won’t hurt you. If you decide to change your name in the future, it will save you significant time and money.
If you are interested in learning more about divorce, or have a question about divorce, please call Wendy Alton at 248-380-9976 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.