If you are going through a divorce, you can legally change your name through the divorce process. There is a separate procedure for name changes that are not divorce-related. As long as you meet the requirements and the paperwork is in order, it should not be a problem.

As Part of a Divorce

You can regain your maiden name during a divorce. Under Pennsylvania statute 54 P.S. § 704,

“Any person who is a party in a divorce action may, at any time prior to or subsequent to the entry of the divorce decree, resume any prior surname used by him or her by filing a written notice to such effect in the office of the prothonotary of the county in which the divorce action was filed or the decree of divorce was entered, showing the caption and docket number of the proceeding in divorce.”

In New Jersey, you could retake your maiden name as part of the divorce or afterward.

  • You should include your request in the initial complaint.
  • If you do not do so, you can later change (or amend) the complaint to do that or seek the change by verbally asking the judge before they finalize your divorce.
  • If you continued to use your spouse’s last name after the divorce was final but changed your mind later, you could file a post-judgment motion with the court. There is a filing fee, but this is simpler than the process for a civil name change.

Outside a Divorce

If you are not getting a divorce, there are some limits to changing your name or that of a minor child:

  • It must be for a legitimate purpose.
  • You cannot have certain criminal convictions, such as voluntary manslaughter, murder, rape, statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, sexual assault, or robbery.

The petition for a name change would be filed with the civil court in your county. There is a filing fee, and you will need copies of your fingerprints which you can get at the local police department. There should be a hearing for the petition within one to three months after filing.

Before your hearing:

  • A notice will be published in the local newspaper of general circulation and county law reporter.
  • There will be checks by the Prothonotary’s office for any pending civil matters, the Clerk of Courts will see if you are facing criminal charges, and the Recorder of Deeds will look for property issues you are facing.

If you are seeking a name change for a minor child:

  • The same publication requirements apply.
  • You must prove you served the petition on the other parent.

If the other parent disagrees with you, the court will decide the issue after a hearing with both parents. To succeed at the hearing, you must convince the judge the name change is in your child’s best interests.

What’s Next?

Once you have a signed/certified order granting the name change, head to the agencies and companies you deal with:

  • Social Security office
  • Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Banks
  • State and federal taxing authorities
  • Your insurance agent
  • Utilities
  • Stockbroker
  • Internet/phone service provider
  • Employer

This is part of re-starting your life with a new name.


Work with an experienced family law lawyer from Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., with an in-depth understanding of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey statutes and court procedures. We can help make the process go as smoothly as possible. Call us at (215)752-6200 or book a consultation online now.

If you changed your last name to your husband’s when you married, you might be considering changing it back to your maiden name after your divorce. Depending on your situation, there are pros and cons to a name change. 

Fresh Start 

Dropping your ex-spouse’s name creates a firm break from your past married life. Taking your spouse’s name symbolized you were one unit. Changing your last name shows you are no longer emotionally, legally, or financially connected. You are independent, and your marriage is over. If you are having a difficult relationship with your ex-spouse, it may be additional motivation to change your name. 

Does Your Maiden Name Reflect Who You Are? 

You should be proud of this new, post-divorce you. You are not the same person you were during your marriage. Life after your divorce is a new chapter. Changing your name, where you live, and even new clothes may be part of your emotional makeover. 

Will a Name Change Cause Confusion in Your Professional Life? 

If you work professionally, own a business, or are successfully moving up in your industry, you have a personal brand you need to maintain. You want people to think specific positive thoughts when your name comes up in conversation, or you meet them. Changing your name can confuse those you work with or connect with.  

However, this change should be manageable. Businesses often rebrand themselves, their products, and their services. Do you drive a Nissan? Back in the day, it was a Datsun. Blue Ribbon Sports is now Nike. Divorces are common, and changing your name is not something negative. Consider making it positive by creating a reason to reach out to these people, give them an update, and engage in a conversation.  

Will It Impact Your Children? 

You could change your last name, but your children could have their father’s last name. If your kids are young, maintaining your ex-spouse’s last name may be more practical and easier. You can always change it later. 

Which Name Do You Like More? 

Do you have a preference? You might not like your maiden or married name for many reasons. It may be very long, difficult to spell, or not very flattering. You might not have enjoyed being Ms. or Mrs. Butts, Crump, or Gopnick. You may be tired of spelling out “Krzyzewskewicz” to people. You have options. 

Changing Your Name and Bill Collection 

Some people leave their marriages deep in debt, and if they have been out of the workforce for a long time, their job and income prospects might not be good. Bill collectors use many methods to find debtors. As part of the name change process, you will need to publish a notice of your name change. Thanks to that notice, the internet, the amount of publicly available information about you, and special databases used to find people, going back to your surname will not help. 

If you have questions about the name-changing process, call us at (215) 607-2893 or fill out our online contact form

Can you write your own divorce? Do you really need a divorce attorney? People hire attorneys because they need help with something they do not feel comfortable doing themselves. Most of those getting divorced should retain legal counsel to protect their rights. We provide advice and counsel to educate our clients and propose courses of action. 

Our attorneys want to prevent mistakes because that is one way we provide value to our clients. It is up to our clients, not us, to decide what direction to take, but if they follow our advice, they reduce the risk of making errors we want them to avoid. 

Most divorce cases settle. For nearly all parties getting divorced, litigation consumes too much time, energy, emotion, and money. The resolution to your divorce will probably be an agreement that will impact you for the rest of your life. It must be in your best interests as much as possible. 

What Divorce Settlement Mistakes Can I Make? 

  1. Do Not Just Settle 

Divorce can create a lot of stress and you may want to put it behind you. We can do that depending on the circumstances and how well the parties cooperate. But the assets you have, any children involved, and the cooperation of your spouse, will all impact how long it will take to reach an agreement. Your spouse may use your urgency against you and propose unreasonable terms hoping you will quickly agree. 

  1. Tax Implications Are Not Considered 

Not all assets are alike, and there are tax implications to the equitable distribution of property. Some assets may be taxed higher than others, impacting their value. If you do not know about tax issues, you may agree to a property settlement that, after taxes, is worth significantly less than what your spouse will receive.  

  1. You Want to Keep the Marital Home. Can You Afford It? 

If you own a house or condo, keeping it may be a goal for many reasons. You may see it as worth giving up your rights to other property to attain it. Is this goal reasonable? Create a post-divorce budget.  

  • What will your expenses and income be?  
  • Will you be able to refinance the mortgage? If so, what will your payments be? If not, what is your Plan B? 
  • Will you be able to pay the utilities, mortgage, insurance, and taxes?  
  • Will you be able to set aside money to pay for future repairs and maintenance? 

Everyone needs a home, but will this one make you so property-rich and cash-poor that you will be forced to sell it after your divorce? 

  1. Your Spouse May Hide Assets 

A complete inventory of the parties’ marital assets is the foundation of fair, equitable property distribution. Do not agree to a settlement if you believe your spouse is dishonest and may be hiding assets. If there are ways he or she may be siphoning off or mislabeling assets, we can get to the bottom of it so we can have clear, reliable information about the property the two of you own. 

Contact Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., today if you are thinking about getting divorced and have questions or if you have decided it is right for you and need legal representation.  

Divorce in New Jersey and Pennsylvania involves the equitable division of marital assets. If one spouse wants to keep more than their fair share, they may resort to hiding assets. This not only goes against family law and court procedures but, depending on the circumstances, could lead to criminal charges. So, how do you know if your spouse is hiding assets from you?  

We see the best and worst in divorces. Some couples understand they are no longer a good match. They amicably and respectfully work with each other and go their separate ways. On the other end of the spectrum are those who see divorce as a battlefield where rules don’t apply to them, and they will do all they can to come out ahead. These are the people who hide assets. 

What is Marital Property? 

Marital property includes the property either spouse acquires during the marriage or with funds earned during the marriage. It also consists of the increased value of non-marital or personal property up to separation. It is not always clear when an asset is marital because couples may mix personal and marital assets during the marriage. 

What is the Equitable Distribution of Marital Property? 

Part of ending a marriage is equitably, or fairly, dividing marital property and debts. This does not mean assets will be evenly split. Usually, part of negotiating this issue will involve alimony payments. One spouse may be willing to get fewer assets in exchange for higher alimony or vice versa. Pennsylvania statute spells out several factors to be considered when dividing marital property.  

Why Would a Spouse Hide Marital Property? 

The spouse may try to keep as many assets as possible by misclassifying marital property as personal or hiding assets, so the other spouse does not know about them.  

How Could a Spouse Hide Marital Property? 

Their efforts are only limited by the spouse’s imagination. It is easier to do if the spouse owns a business, the couple has a lot of assets, or the spouse manages the family’s financial matters. Some common ways to shield assets include: 

  • A spouse may try to move cash from personal to business accounts if they own a business. The spouse may try to delay large contracts until the divorce is complete. The company may create “ghost” employees who do not exist or bogus expenses or asset purchases. What would appear to be a business expense is transferring money into bank accounts controlled by the spouse. A business could also make a fake loan to an entity that is just a front for the spouse. 
  • Money and other assets could be transferred to family or friends.
  • A spouse may set up investment accounts and buy stocks or other investments in their name only and not tell their spouse. 
  • Physical assets like cars, artwork, or jewelry may be undervalued. If the other spouse accepts these estimates as accurate during the negotiation and the person keeps them, they are getting more value than they deserve. 

If your spouse has lied to you about other aspects of their life, the fact they are hiding property should not be a surprise. 

How Can We Find Hidden Marital Property? 

If you have worked on as many divorce cases as we have, you develop an awareness of how a less-than-honest spouse may operate. Hiring a forensic accountant can be a good investment if your finances are complex or a business is involved. 

Our most important information source is you. You can tell us about your family’s income, assets, and family-owned business. You can supply us with copies of documents establishing your family’s assets and your tax returns. 

During conversations with your spouse or while negotiating a divorce settlement, you need to tell us if what we are told does not make sense. There is no point in dealing with a spouse acting in bad faith. 

After the divorce complaint is filed, we can request information and documents from your spouse and their business. We can ask them questions during a deposition. Information and documents we obtain could be sent to an accountant for analysis. 

Are There Penalties for Hiding Assets? 

If a spouse is violating court rules and orders, a judge could take action in response. They may order the offending spouse to pay a larger share of their assets than if they acted honestly and order that they pay for our investigation and attorney time spent uncovering hidden assets. 

The police could get involved if your spouse went so far as to commit crimes like forgery. If a spouse secretly makes money “off the books” without paying taxes, state and federal taxing agencies might be interested. 

If you have any questions about equitable division or believe your spouse is hiding assets, please contact us here at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C. We can discuss this and how we can help you through the divorce process.