Changing your name after an Illinois divorce

Russell Knight

Russell D. Knight has been practicing family law as a Chicago divorce lawyer since 2006. Russell D. Knight amicably resolves tough cases while remaining a strong advocate for his client’s interests.

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How To Change Your Name After Divorce In Illinois?

Changing your name after an Illinois divorce

A cultural tradition in the United States and in most of the Western world is for the wife of a marriage to adopt her husband’s last name.  Alternatively, the wife can hyphenate her name and add husband’s last name (this is the cultural tradition in much of Latin America). After a divorce, however, a wife or spouse may want to shed the last name of their husband or spouse.  How do you change your name after a divorce in Illinois?

How Your Last Name Got Changed In The First Place

When you initially got married you applied for a marriage certificate where you indicated what your last name is and what you’d like it to be after you were married.  The marriage certificate then was issued to you and filed with your local county’s vital records department.  It was then your responsibility to take that marriage certificate to Social Security and any other agency that had your previous last name recorded.  Additionally, you probably faxed or emailed your marriage certificate to your credit cards, power company, or any other private entities who still used your old name.

Changing your last name back to your maiden name post-divorce is almost as simple.

You Change Your Name In Your Illinois Divorce Decree

Every Illinois divorce has a document called a “Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage.” This document lists the bare facts of your marriage and your divorce; when you got married, where you got married, if you had children during your marriage, that your marriage is ending due to irreconcilable differences, that you submit yourself to the jurisdiction of this court for future disputes and that you want to revert to your maiden name.

“Unless the person whose marriage is dissolved or declared invalid requests otherwise, the judgment under this Section shall contain a provision authorizing the person to resume the use of his or her former or maiden name, should he or she choose to do so, at any time he or she chooses to do so.” 750 ILCS 5/413

Reverting to your maiden name is not mandatory. It is your option to return to your maiden name. 

The Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage should have a clause which reads:

“That the Wife is granted leave to resume the use of her former name: __________”

Even this language implies that the return to your maiden name is optional. 

The only people that will know about your option to change your maiden name are the people you show this final divorce decree to.

Other more salient divorce details such as your finances and your schedule with your children are NOT included in the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage.  Those matters are usually just “incorporated by reference” so that prying eyes can’t go to the Circuit Clerk’s office and inquire about the demise of your marriage.  You can show the Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage to whomever needs to record your name change without fear of them learning anything about your personal life

Most public agencies are going to require a certified copy of your Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage. This is just a copy of your Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage with an embossed stamp from the Circuit Clerk. It’s available at the Circuit Clerk’s desk for $ 11 in Cook County, Illinois.

You Do Not Need To Publish Your Name Change In The Newspaper In Illinois

The old law required divorced name-changers to publish the notice of the name change in the newspaper.  This is no longer required as of January 1, 2020

“The publication requirement of subsection (a) shall not be required in any application for a change of name involving a person who has received a judgment for dissolution of marriage or declaration of invalidity of marriage and wishes to change his or her name to resume the use of his or her former or maiden name.” 735 ILCS 5/21-103

Can You Revert To Your Maiden Name After You’ve Been Divorced?

If your Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage did not include a clause allowing you to revert to your maiden name, you don’t have to go through the complicated machinations of changing your name through the county court system and publication…you can just file a motion to amend your Judgment of Dissolution Of Marriage.

A motion to amend a judgment for dissolution of marriage politely explaining that you’d like to exercise your right to change your name under 750 ILCS 5/413 should be sufficient to convince an Illinois family law judge to allow the amendment.  You can then use your Amended Judgment For Dissolution Of Marriage to change your name as described above.

If you’d like to learn more about changing your name after your divorce contact my Chicago, Illinois family law firm to schedule a free consultation.