If you’ve recently been through a divorce or separation, you might have some questions about how to change your last name back to your maiden name.
You might have questions about the process of changing your name, about updating official documents, how a name change might affect travel plans, among others.
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In this in-depth guide, we will cover everything you need to know about changing your name after a divorce or separation in the UK.
We’ll take a look at the name change process, the documents required, and also answer some of the most common questions about changing your name.
Before we delve into the process of changing your name, let’s talk about if you should change your name in the first place.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to your choice in either keeping your married name or reverting to your maiden name after a divorce or separation.
It is a deeply personal choice, and what feels right for you might vary based on things like the circumstances of your separation, your ongoing relationship with your ex, and if you have kids, how they would feel about your new name, and many more.
Here are just a few of the basic things to consider before you decide to either keep your current name or go back to using your birth name.
A fresh start
Sometimes, divorce can be a traumatic experience. It can be hard to let go of a relationship that you’ve invested so much of yourself into.
But along with that, also comes the opportunity for new beginnings. Opportunities to reclaim who you are, pursue new dreams, and conquer new challenges.
And a new name (although it’s most likely your maiden name) can symbolize a fresh start, the fact that you’re officially letting go of the past.
You may want to go back to using your maiden name on your official documents after your divorce. For example, your driver’s license, passport, property deeds, etc.
If you want to change your name on your documents, you will have to change your name officially. We will discuss the process for a few of these documents below.
Passport and travel
If you want to book future international travel under your maiden name, you’ll have to update your name on your passport, which will require you to prove that you’ve officially changed your name.
Dating and new relationships
Eventually (or maybe right away!), you’ll want to start dating again. Some people feel a greater sense of freedom with their pre-marriage names when pursuing relationships.
Assuming you do want to change your name, the process and the requirements will vary somewhat based on your specific circumstance. In this section, we’ll break down the requirements for a name change for some of the most common situations after a divorce or separation.
Most likely, the first thing you’ll want to do is to change your name on your driver’s license and your bank statement. We’ll provide more details for both below, but first, let’s look at what you’ll need to update your name in your official documents.
If you took your spouse’s last name after marriage, and all you want to do is revert to your birth name, here is what you will need.
Assuming that the following is true:
● Your marriage took place in the UK
● Your divorce has been finalized in the UK
You will need the following to change your name officially:
● Your original marriage certificate
● Your original birth certificate
● A signed statement declaring that you’re switching back to your birth name for all purposes
● Your decree absolute
What is a decree absolute, and how do I apply for one?
Decree absolute is a court-issued document that makes the divorce official. Among other things, it gives you the right to remarry in the future.
But before you can apply for a decree absolute, you’ll need a decree nisi. The decree nisi is a document that is issued once a judge approves your divorce under UK law. Here is more information from the UK government website about how to obtain a decree nisi.
After you obtain your decree nisi, you’ll need to wait at least 43 days to apply for the decree absolute.
Here’s more information about applying for a decree absolute to make your divorce final so that you can move forward with the name change process.
If you’re missing any of the required documents, like your decree absolute, marriage certificate, or your birth certificate, you have a couple of options.
You can apply for copies of the missing documents, or you can simply get a deed poll. Let’s examine both options so you can decide which one suits you better.
Here’s how you can apply for copies of the following documents.
Missing decree absolute
If you’re missing your decree absolute, you can get a copy from the court that issued the original one.
For decree absolutes issued in England/Wales, a copy costs £5 if you have the case number. If you don’t have the case number and the court has to look it up, the copy of the decree absolute will cost you £40.
And if you’ve forgotten the court that issued your original decree absolute, you’re still not out of luck. You can request the Principal Registry of the Family Division to look it up.
Fill out the form D440: Request for Search for Decree Absolute, and send it to the following address, along with a payment of £60.
Principal Registry of the Family Division
First Avenue House 42-49 High Holborn
Tel: 020 7421 8509 (Enquiries)
Missing marriage/birth certificate
You can contact the General Register Office to replace marriage and birth certificates. You can apply online, and each certificate will cost £9.25.
If you’re missing any of the required documents to change your name, and you don’t feel like applying for copies of your birth certificate, marriage certificate, or decree absolute, you could simplify the process significantly by getting a deed poll.
What is a deed poll?
In the UK, you’re allowed to change your name for any reason you wish legally. A deed poll is a document that makes your new name official.
So, if you’ve recently been divorced, and you’re missing a document required to change your name, you can simply get a deed poll to make your name change official.
A deed poll demonstrates the following information:
● You have chosen a new name (which could be your maiden name or any other name you wish)
● You have given up your old name (in this case your married name)
● The date you start using your new name.
How do I get a deed poll?
Although accepted as an official document everywhere in the UK, there isn’t a government office where you can get a deed poll.
You have to either hire a solicitor to apply for a deed poll, or you can check out our fast, easy, and secure deed poll application process.
If you want to change to a name different than your maiden name, you will need a deed poll.
Presumably, none of your documents (marriage certificate, decree absolute, birth certificate) will display the name you wish to change to, and you’ll have to make your name change official with a deed poll.
Once you have the deed poll, you can use that as evidence of your new name to update various official documents.
If you’re a UK national, but you are/were living abroad, and either your marriage or divorce wasn’t finalized in the UK and one of your documents isn’t in English, you again have a couple of options.
You can get your documents translated to English by an accredited translator so UK government officials can accept them. Obtaining translations can often be quite expensive and involve a cumbersome process.
Alternatively, you can get a deed poll to simplify the process and not have to go through the process of translation, either for your marriage certificate or divorce documents.
If all you want to do is change your title, e.g., from Mrs. back to Ms., then you don’t need a deed poll or any official name change process.
You can simply start using your preferred title. Some official documents, like your passport, don’t even state your title.
If you’re a UK resident, and your marriage and divorce both took place in the UK, the same procedure applies to you for changing your name after a divorce.
But if your birth certificate is not in English, you would need to get it translated by an accredited translator.
You could also get a deed poll to simplify the process, but you should check with the embassy of your country of citizenship if they will accept a deed poll to issue a passport under your new name.
If you’re currently separated, but your divorce hasn’t been finalized, and you want to change your name right away, you will need to use a deed poll.
You’ll need a deed poll because you won’t get the decree absolute, which is one of the documents necessary to change your name, till your divorce is finalized.
There can be various costs involved with changing your name depending on your desired new name and the documents you’ll need to obtain.
If you’re reverting to your maiden name, and you have all the required documents, then your costs will be relatively low. For example, you may only need to pay the fee for updating your passport (usually less than £100).
It does not cost anything to change your name on your driver’s license.
If you happen to be missing any documents, then you might have additional costs of applying for copies, as we explained above. If you need to have any documents translated, that will cost extra as well.
Remember, if you’re missing any documents, or if any of your documents are not in English, you can always simplify the process with secure and easy deed poll application, which only costs £18.50.
Typically, you don’t need a deed poll to change your name on your passport after a divorce. You’ll only need a deed poll if your divorce isn’t yet finalized, or if you’re missing any documents and you don’t want to apply for copies, have them translated etc.
You’ll have to contact Her Majesty’s Passport Office to update your name. Here is their contact info:
Her Majesty's Passport Office
PO Box 767
Tel: 0300 222 0000
How do I change my name on my bank account after a divorce?
Typically, the process is quite simple. You just need to visit a branch with evidence of your name change.
Most banks accept official documents with your new name, like a deed poll, decree absolute, driver’s license, passport, etc.
To make sure you bring all the required documents, you might want to call your bank and ask what is necessary for your specific bank.
It doesn’t cost anything to update your name on your driver’s license after a divorce or separation. You simply need to apply with the DVLA with all the required documents.
For detailed information on the process, check out our article on changing your name on your driver’s license.
If you decide to change your name after a divorce or separation, it is vital that you update your name on all your official documents, like your passport, driver’s license, bank account, employer, property documents, etc.
As we explained in the article, if you have all your marriage/divorce documents that were issued in the UK, then those documents will be sufficient evidence of your name change.
If you’re missing documents, or if any of them are not in English, then a deed poll might be a more straightforward option for you.