As you’re aware, it’s still customary for women in our society to adopt their husbands’ last names upon getting married. Others decide to hyphenate, keeping their own last names but attaching their husbands’ last names. In either case, when women decide to divorce, part of the journey to a new life often includes taking back one’s old name.
The best advice I can give is to make a name change part of the divorce decree – it’s the easiest way to facilitate a name change, and as you’re already paying to get a significant legal document through the courts, you might as well make your name change part of it!
It’s worth noting that you don’t have to change your name back to your original maiden name – as long as you’re deemed to be doing it for the right reasons, and not to avoid creditors or criminal investigation, you should be able to pick whatever name you want as part of the process. (For that matter, if the man wants to change his name – perhaps if both of them hyphenated and are thinking better of it – he can use the divorce decree to do that as well.)
It’s also worth noting that the idea doesn’t necessarily need to originate with the person changing the name. For instance, if a man involved in a divorce wants his wife to change her name, he can make that a condition of the negotiations. She doesn’t have to change her name if she doesn’t want to, of course, but it’s certainly possible to create incentives in the decree that would make a name change attractive where it might not be otherwise. The name change would then just be written into the decree.
Changing your name after the fact, on the other hand, can be a little more complicated. I remember one judge joking that it’s the most expensive “I to a Y” a person can make, and there’s some truth to that. If you’re changing your name after a divorce is final, you’ll have to follow regular procedure and start with a Texas Name Change Petition and Order.
In that process, you’ll also have to get fingerprints from a local law enforcement office and have those with you when you go to court to file. (That’s a step you don’t have to take if you’re doing a name change as part of your divorce.)
Once the divorce decree is signed by the judge, the name change is legal – however, the Texas DPS and the Social Security Office doesn’t know that. It’s still incumbent on the person changing her name to let those offices know to change those important legal documents.