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How To Change Your Name Or Your Child's Name After Getting Divorced.

How do you return to your former name?

In most states, you can request that the judge handling your divorce make a formal order restoring your former or birth name. If your divorce decree contains such an order, that's all the paperwork you'll need. You'll probably want to get certified copies of the order as proof of the name change -- check with the court clerk for details. Once you have the necessary documentation, you can use it to have your name changed on your identification and personal records.

If your divorce papers don't show your name change, you can still resume your former name without much fuss. In most states, you can simply begin using your former name consistently, and have it changed on all your personal records . If you're returning to a name you had before marriage, you're not likely to be hassled about the change.

After my husband and I are divorced and I return to my former name, can I change the last name of my children as well?

Traditionally, courts ruled that a father had an automatic right to have his child keep his last name if he continued to actively perform his parental role. But this is no longer true. Now a child's name may be changed by court petition when it is in the best interest of the child to do so. When deciding to grant a name change, courts consider many factors, such as the length of time the father's name has been used, the strength of the mother-child relationship and the need of the child to identify with a new family unit (if the change involves remarriage). The courts must balance these factors against the strength and importance of the father-child relationship. What this all boils down to is that it's up to a judge to decide which name is in the child's best interest.

Keep in mind that, even if you do change your children's last name, you won't be changing the legally recognized identity of their father. Nor will a name change affect the rights or duties of either parent regarding visitation, child support or rights of inheritance. Changes such as these occur only if the parental roles are altered by court order - for example, a new custody decree or a legal adoption.

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