Navigating the rocky waters of divorce is stressful. Your life has taken an unexpected turn, and you’re faced with choices you never thought you’d have to make–like whether to sell the home you’ve shared or try to find a way for one of you to stay in it. If you have children, negotiating custody issues can be emotionally draining for everyone and planning a name change just adds to your stress. There are many other legal issues that will arise during the time between the time you file for divorce and the time it’s final.
If you took your spouse’s name when you got married, deciding whether or not to change it back can be among the most personal choices you’ll face. During this time when your emotions are running high, it’s important to understand the facts about name changes before you decide what to do. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions regarding name changes with divorce in the state of Indiana.
Q: Is my name change automatic when my divorce in Indiana is issued?
A: No, it’s not.
You must petition for your name change during the proceedings. Indiana law allows for a woman to restore her maiden name (or even a previous married name) when the decree of dissolution is entered, but the name change is not automatic. If you have requested restoration of a previous last name, your changed name takes effect when the divorce decree is issued. That decree will serve as proof of ID for the license branch, your creditors and places you’re not even thinking of yet, so keep it handy.
Q: Does it cost anything extra to change my name during a divorce in Indiana?
A: No, it doesn’t, provided you request the name change prior to the divorce decree being finalized.
While you might have to pay a small administrative fee for copies of your divorce decree, there is no extra charge from the courts for a name change. (And it’s a good idea to pay for at least one extra copy of the decree, as it will be your official proof of identity immediately following the divorce.)
Q: If I change my name through my Indiana divorce, can I change my kids’ names too?
A: Not necessarily, but it’s possible.
The courts have long held the (somewhat archaic) belief that the father of the children has a right to insist that the children keep his name, as long as he continues to fulfill his parental duties. However, some courts are taking a more modern approach to this issue and area considering what might be in the children’s best interests. They’ll weigh issues like the age of the children, the strength of their relationships with both parents and the potential benefits and negative impacts that a name change might bring to the children’s lives. Custody issues will also be factored in. Consult your Indiana divorce attorney for guidance on this.
Q: If I didn’t request a name change during my divorce, can I still do it later?
A: Yes, but it’s not as simple.
In certain circumstances, you may be able to obtain your name change using your divorce decree without filing a special petition. If not, you’ll have to file a petition in the local circuit court, prove you’re a US citizen, describe any criminal convictions you’ve had and publish your petition in the local newspaper once per week for three weeks, 30 days prior to the hearing. That’s a lot of hoops to jump through post-divorce, so you should consider your choice carefully prior to your divorce being finalized. Don’t allow the emotions of the moment override your best judgement, and trust the advice of your family law attorney who can help you weigh the pros and cons of your name change.
Q: How do I choose the best divorce attorney in Indiana to help me navigate my name change and other issues in my divorce?
A: Do your research, check references and look for experience, compassion and approachability.
Finding a compassionate, experienced divorce attorney in Indiana who will take the time to listen to your concerns, consider your best interests and help you see the big picture of what your life will look like once you get past this time in your life is invaluable. If you live in southern Indiana, interview several divorce attorneys throughout the areas of Seymour, Brownstown and Columbus before you make your choice. Remember that the big names don’t necessarily mean the best choice. You’ll be spending a lot of time and confiding very personal information with your attorney, so make sure you’re working with someone you like. Don’t make any decisions about your name change, custody issues, real estate matters or anything else related to your divorce until you have a trusted divorce attorney by your side.
Zach Miller is a private practice attorney in Brownstown, Indiana who serves southwestern and central Indiana communities including Indianapolis, Seymour, Bloomington, Columbus and Jeffersonville and other cities and towns throughout Jackson County. Zach serves clients in family law and personal injury cases as well as other areas, including criminal law, probate law, business litigation, real estate law and general legal counsel. Zach prides himself on creating personal relationships with his clients and delivering one-on-one service. He lives and works in the community he serves. Keep up with the latest news from Zach by subscribing to his newsletter.