Divorce Laws in Louisiana Regarding Name Changes
By Elizabeth Rayne, J.D.
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Although many spouses decide to change their names when getting married, Louisiana does not require anyone to do so. During the marriage, spouses are permitted to use their spouse's last name although their name is not technically changed. After getting a divorce, women do not need to follow the typical legal requirements for a name change, but can acquire confirmation from the court that indicates they are no longer using their ex-spouse's surname.
Choice of Surnames
In Louisiana, a spouse may use her birth surname, or spouse's surname, before or after the divorce. The state does not require either spouse to take the other spouse's last name; instead, a spouse may keep her name or use a hyphenated one. Although rare, a male spouse may change his name as well. After a divorce, a former spouse may return to her birth name, keep her ex-spouse's name or continue using a combination of names. If you do change your name after the divorce, ensure the change is also reflected on your Social Security card, driver's license and other important documents.
Name Change After Divorce
In order to change your name after a divorce, Louisiana law provides that women can avoid the normal obstacles when requesting a name change by having the court confirm the name change during the divorce proceedings. The court's confirmation will provide documentation showing your name was different only during the time of the marriage; it can also be used to confirm the name of your minor children. With respect to male spouses who changed their name during the marriage, they must file a name change petition with their parish's district court in order to return to their birth name. Having this court documentation will help in changing your name on important documents and when dealing with your bank and other financial institutions.
Petition for Divorce
In a divorce petition, women have the option of asking the court to include the name confirmation in the divorce decree, regardless of which spouse initiated the divorce. Women in Louisiana may begin to use their maiden name after a divorce is finalized, even without a court order. The order simply helps document the change, so it's easier to change your name on bank accounts, licenses and other important records.
Name Changes for Minor Children
Following a divorce, you may also want to change the name of your minor children. To do so, you must file a name change petition in your parish's district court. In most cases, both parents must sign the petition. However, you may avoid this requirement if your ex-spouse is a year behind on court-ordered child support, failed to provide support for at least three years after you were awarded custody of your child, or has failed to provide support and failed to visit or communicate with your child for at least two years.
Elizabeth Rayne earned her J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2009, advising clients on issues ranging from employment law to nonprofit management. For two years, she served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."