In both South Carolina and North Carolina, if a spouse changed his or her name upon marriage, he or she can also change his or her last name upon divorce. State law does not allow a wife to change her first name or take on a surname she has never had upon divorce—a wife would need to go through a different legal name change process for that. State law permits a wife to resume her maiden name, or take a former surname in certain circumstances, which we will outline below. State law permits a husband to resume a former surname only.
What names can you use?
In North Carolina, the “Resumption of Maiden or Premarriage Surname” statute (N.C.G.S. § 50-12) dictates the options for choice of last name upon divorce. The names a wife may resume in her name change pursuant to divorce are:
In North Carolina, if a husband changed his last name upon marriage, then upon divorce, state law also permits a husband to resume the surname he had prior to marriage.
In South Carolina, a party may resume a former last name or the last name of a former spouse (S.C. Code Ann. § 20-3-180) upon divorce. Since the statute specifically names “a party” and does not specify that it must be “a wife,” either spouse who changed their name upon marriage can also request a name change upon divorce to a former last name or the last name of a former spouse.
What is the process in North Carolina to change your name pursuant to divorce?
When either spouse files for divorce, he or she can ask the court to allow a change of last name to one of the options listed above. This name change request is made in a Complaint if you are the spouse initiating the divorce proceeding, or in an Answer to the divorce complaint if your spouse initiates the divorce proceeding. There is a low fee (at the time of this writing, $10) for requesting a last name change pursuant to divorce. If you request a name change, that resumption of name will be granted in the Judgment of Divorce. A party should then proceed to the Social Security office and North Carolina DMV with the Judgment of Divorce and any other required paperwork to change your last name the same way you did when you changed your name upon marriage.
What is the process in South Carolina to change your name pursuant to divorce?
In South Carolina, a spouse can request to resume his or her pre-marriage last name upon divorce by requesting to do so in court at a final hearing. The spouse will have to answer certain questions from the judge to make sure the name change is not for improper purposes (like avoiding creditors or criminal prosecution). Once you have the Final Decree, you take the Decree along with any other required paperwork to the Social Security office and South Carolina DMV the same way you did when you initially changed your last name upon marriage.
Please note the information in this blog post only applies to last names changed pursuant to marriage and resumed upon divorce. Upon divorce, you cannot change your first or middle name to a new name utilizing the process described above. Changing your first or middle name is a different name change process under N.C.G.S. § 101 “Names of Persons” in North Carolina and S.C. Code Ann. Chapter 49 “Change of Name” in South Carolina.
Please let your lawyer know if you would like to resume a pre-marriage last name as part of your divorce. It is easiest to complete this name change while you are filing the divorce proceedings rather than addressing it after the divorce is finalized.
Reach out to our office for help with your name change. We would be happy to assist you.
Lindsey Dasher is the Managing Partner at Dasher Law PLLC