Can a Divorced Woman Keep Her Husband's Last Name?

By Louis Kroeck

After a divorce, a woman is free to keep her husband's last name, revert back to her maiden name or choose an entirely new name of her liking. Although name changes are controlled by state law, most states allow individuals to change their name with relative ease. Therefore, after divorce or even during marriage, a woman is free to take any name she chooses.

Keeping the Same Name

There are many reasons some women decide to keep their name following a divorce. Some women choose to keep their name because they have grown accustomed to it or they do not want to deal with the additional hassle of the paperwork associated with a new name. Some women decide to keep their husband's name so they will have the same name as their children. Whatever the reasons, there are no laws barring a woman from keeping her husband's name following a divorce.

Name Changes During Divorce

It is possible to change your name, or state your intentions to keep your married name, as part of your divorce decree. Many divorce decrees contain an order stating what the name of the divorced woman will be following the divorce. If you decide to keep your husband's last name, simply make sure the order states your name will remain the same or a name change order is not present in the divorce decree. No additional action is necessary on your part to keep your legal name unchanged.

Name Changes During Divorce

If your name was changed during your divorce and you have since decided you would rather keep your husband's name, you will still be free to change your name following your divorce. In some states, such as California, this can be accomplished by filing an ex parte application for restoration of a former name after entry of judgment, also known as a modification of a divorce decree. In other states, you may be required to undergo the formal process necessary for a name change.


If you do decide to change your name following your divorce, even in a minor way, you must make sure to contact the appropriate agencies to notify them of your name change such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, your financial institutions, your insurer, the Internal Revenue Service, your employer, the Social Security Administration and any other institutions where you have sensitive records. Alternatively, if you decide to keep your husband's name and your name does not change at all, you may not need to contact these agencies unless you need to change your address or other contact information.