Ask The Lawyer
“My ex-husband told me that I can’t change my name now unless I get remarried because of our child. Is that true?”
Question: I went through a divorce about one-and-a-half years ago and I kept my married name. Now I want to go back to using my maiden name. When I went to change my driver’s license, I was told I need a court order that changes my name or it can’t be changed on my license, which I need in order to change other things. Do I have to reopen my divorce case so that I can get my name changed back to my maiden name, and if so, how do I do that? My ex-husband told me that I can’t change my name now unless I get remarried because of our child, and that if I try to he will contest the change and tell the judge that my name should stay as his last name. Is that true?
Answer: No to both questions. The State of Texas allows a woman who is divorcing to “restore” her name to a prior used name, which may or may not be a maiden name. Name changes in Texas are governed by Chapter 45 of the Texas Family Code. By allowing a woman to restore her name as a part of the divorce proceedings, she is able to avoid some of the requirements regularly associated with a name change, as well as avoiding the filing fee. If, for whatever reason, a woman does not elect to change her name during a divorce proceeding, she may file a change of name suit with the court of proper venue, generally the District Court in the county where she lives, and ask for a change of name. When changing one’s name outside of a divorce preceding the petitioner may select any name they choose, and are not restricted to use only prior names.
A change of name is a lawsuit, just like any other, that requires the person to file a petition with the court, a filing fee, and to send notice of the suit to anyone who has a right to know about it. For the change of name of a child, the parent who is not filing the suit is entitled to receive notice, is a proper party to the lawsuit, and may contest the change or agree to the change. In the case of an adult who desires to change their name, there is no person entitled to notice, so that step is skipped. An ex-spouse is not entitled to notice of the other spouse’s request for a name change, and they have no right to contest the change. It is, basically, none of their business.
The petition must include many things, and without them, a judge may not grant the change or restoration of a petitioner’s name. An adult may file a petition requesting a change of name in the county of the adult’s place of residence. Required information in the petition includes the present name and place of residence of the petitioner; the full name requested for the petitioner; the reason the change in name is requested; whether the petitioner has been the subject of a final felony conviction; whether the petitioner is subject to the registration requirements of Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure; and a legible and complete set of the petitioner’s fingerprints on a fingerprint card format acceptable to the Department of Public Safety and the Federal Bureau of Investigation must be filed with the Court.
Further, the petition must include the petitioner’s full name, sex, race, date of birth, driver’s license number for any driver’s license issued in the 10 years preceding the date of the petition, social security number and assigned FBI number, state identification number or any other reference number in a criminal history record system that identifies the petitioner. The petitioner must also tell the Court about any offense above the grade of Class C misdemeanor that the petitioner has been charged and identifying information about that charge. Changing one’s name will not release them from liability incurred in that person’s previous name or defeat any right the person had in the person’s previous name.
When a change of name occurs as a part of a divorce, the Clerk issues a Change of Name Certificate that has the same effect as an Order for Change of Name which may be used to change a driver’s license or other identifying documents. A court could deny a change of name in a divorce proceeding, but not solely to keep last names of family members the same. Again, a husband or ex-husband does not have the right to contest a wife or ex-wife’s change of name, either during a divorce proceeding or afterward. The most common reason for denying a change of name is that it was sought to avoid creditors or criminal prosecution.
This article is meant for informational purposes only and not as a substitute for sound legal advice. Direct questions to Ask the Lawyer to firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Dalhart Texan Facebook page.