Tennessee Laws on Regaining Maiden Name After Divorce

By Timothy Mucciante

Taking back your maiden name after a Tennessee divorce is a straightforward matter, and many women include the request in the divorce complaint. If your husband files the divorce, you can request the name change in your answer to the divorce complaint. Restoring your maiden name is a legal and emotional decision. You are not required to change your name after a divorce. If you have children, you may choose to keep your ex-husband's last name as changing your last name will not affect your children's last name. Your ex-husband cannot force you to restore your maiden name.

Name Change Request

Your request for restoration of your maiden name in the divorce complaint can be very brief. For example: "It is requested that plaintiff be restored to her maiden name of Smith." When the judge issues the divorce decree, it will have similar language: "It is hereby ordered that the plaintiff's maiden name of Smith be restored." In Tennessee, post-judgment changes to your divorce decree are possible if you forget to request the name change, or if the judge inadvertently omits it from the final divorce decree.

Making It Official

To change your driver's license after restoration of your maiden name, you must take an original or a copy of the divorce decree, with either the judge's original signature or official court seal, to a Tennessee Driver Service Center. This change must be made in person. You can find the Driver Service Center locations on the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security website. To change your name with Social Security, you must complete an Application for Social Security Card (Form SS-5). The divorce decree or court ordered name change must accompany Form SS-5.

Post-Divorce Name Change

You can file a petition with the clerk of the county where you live to have your name changed, if you did not do it during the divorce. Each county in Tennessee handles name changes a little differently. For example, Rutherford County requires you be represented by an attorney for a name change. The attorney will prepare the petition and order for the name change. He will then make an appointment with a General Sessions judge for your petition to be heard. In Shelby County, an attorney is not required to file the name change request. An online legal document provider can be helpful if you need assistance with a post-divorce name change.

Minor Child Name Change

Although you can request restoration of your maiden name in a final divorce decree, the judge cannot change the last name of a child born to the marriage at this time. If you would like to petition for your child's last name to be changed, you must use the regular name change procedure. In Shelby County, if you are seeking to change the name of a minor child, both parents listed on the birth certificate must be present and consent to a name change. A notarized affidavit of consent from one parent will suffice, if that parent cannot be present.