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Using a former spouse’s name

Wives undergoing divorce are beginning a new life but may also choose the irony of bringing back part of an earlier marriage. Women who were married more than once sometimes choose to use a former spouse’s name. One of the first steps in planning for post-divorce life is considering the consequences of this choice and seeking approval.

In Texas, a woman may seek a name change in her divorce filing but is restricted to surnames she adopted in the past. A wife who divorces her second husband can use her maiden surname or the last name of her first husband. However, she cannot use her first husband’s surname in the divorce decree if she never used it during the first marriage.

Texas has legal procedures unrelated to divorce, however, for adopting her first husband’s surname that was never used before. Counties provide online petitions for a name change which can be downloaded, executed before a notary and filed with the county court with a completed fingerprint card.

This petition must contain the person’s current name, the reason for the change and the person’s criminal history. A judge will hold a hearing on the petition and grant it unless there is a reason to deny the change.

If a wife has children from their second marriage who use their father’s surname, she can request changing their name to that surname. Permission from the previous husband is not required. However, a second husband must agree to name changes for children from that marriage.

Changing a name does not release a spouse from paying debts acquired under another name, allow the changing of Social Security numbers or eliminate any criminal record made under another name. The new name must be placed on all legal documents such as a driver’s license, Social Security card and passport.

Keeping a married name after a divorce or returning to a former husband’s surname is often related to issues involving the children, identity consistency or prestige connected to fame or social mobility. Otherwise, it may be more convenient and cheaper to keep the maiden name on legal documents or solely for professional purposes or hyphenate a maiden and former husband’s name.

An attorney can help a spouse plan for these and other divorce legal issues. They may provide options for matters that arise at the end of a marriage.

Source: Bravo, “Can a woman take back her first (or second) husband’s name after divorcing a second (or third) husband?,” By Marianne Garvey, April 25, 2018

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