So, you’re bored being named “Cathy Brown,” and you want a new more original/artistic/funky name (for example “Cat Le Brun”) or you’re going through a divorce and now you no longer wish to have your soon-to-be-ex-husband’s last name.
A woman who divorces may in fact resume her unmarried name, keep her married name, or even petition for a complete name change. Once divorced, you will be given a Final Judgment of Divorce (divorce decree) with an affixed gold seal.*
You can request a certified copy of your divorce decree by calling the Superior Court of New Jersey Records Center at 609-777-0092. There may be a fee.
If you requested a name change, after the Final Judgment is entered, you will need to deliver a certified copy to the following offices:
The Department of the Treasury: you must get a copy of the Final Judgment to this department within 45 days after the date of the Judgment. Notice that a fee may be required. For a certified copy of the filing, an additional fee may be needed. The original decree will be returned to you.
The Bureau of Vital Statistics in the state in which you were born. In most states the Bureau of Vital Statistics will be located in the state’s capitol. You must contact that office to find out what to do to change your birth or other records. Include a letter identifying the vital record to be corrected; the name as currently reported in the vital record that you are changing; the exact date and place where the birth, marriage, adoption, or domestic partnership occurred; and, in the case of a birth record, the mother’s maiden name and father’s name if listed on that vital record. You must also include a payment.
The Motor Vehicles Commission: if you are a licensed New Jersey driver or a registered owner of a motor vehicle, or if you have a handicapped or non-driver identification card, you must present a certified copy of the Final Judgment in person at any New Jersey Motor Vehicle Agency or Regional Service Center. You must do this within two weeks of the date of the date of the Final Judgment. Visit the Motor Vehicle Commission website (http://www.njmvc.gov) for additional information, including the list of acceptable documents to satisfy the Motor Vehicle Commission’s identification requirements.
Additionally, you should contact all government agencies and private companies that have records of your name. Contact the people and institutions you deal with and ask what type of documentation they require to make your name change official in their records. Different institutions will have different rules and forms. You should probably first obtain a driver’s license and then a Social Security card in your new name. Once you have those pieces of identification, it is usually fairly simple to acquire others or have records changed to reflect your new name.
I think it goes without saying that you need to inform your family and friends about your name change. If you like getting paid for your work, you should let your employer know too. Also, it may be useful to notify:
- Post Office
- Credit Card Companies (creditors and debtors)
- Department of Records
- Social Security Administration
- Banks & Financial Institutions
- Telephone & Utility Companies
- Insurance Agencies
- Registrar of Voters
- Passport Office
- Public Assistance (Welfare) Office
- Veterans Administration
If you have a will or other estate planning document (such as a living trust), it’s recommended to replace it with a new document reflecting your new name. Also remember to change your name on any other important legal documents.
* This divorce decree is a proof that you are officially divorced, and you should keep it in a safe place.