Yes. In Virginia, anyone can change their name at any time, provided a judge signs off on the paperwork.
However, there are also special, faster ways to change your name, such as during the normal Virginia divorce process.
In this article we’ll quickly talk about the different ways that Virginia residents can change their names both during and after a divorce.
However, the best (and only) advice we can give about this question is “talk about it with the attorney you hired to handle your divorce.”
The Easy Way: Directly Before or at the End of Your Divorce
The best time to change your name is either (1) right before you submit your original divorce complaint to the court at the start of the divorce process, or (2) at the end of your divorce when you’re getting everything ready for the judge to review.
In either case, all you really have to do is ask your attorney to take a motion to the court that specifically requests a name change.
Most people choose to change their names at the end of the process, but there’s no real legal advantage or disadvantage either way.
On the other hand, changing your name in the middle of the divorce process, while possible, is a bad idea for several reasons.
The most important one is that changing your name during your divorce will add needless complications to the overall process, since the court (and both attorneys) would have to change the styling of every single court document.
For this reason, it’s highly recommended that you simply file for a name change at the end of your case instead, as this is the safer, faster, and cheaper method.
As one final note, you can change the names of any minor children in much the same way.
The only real difference is that it’s usually best to change their names at the end of the divorce once you’ve worked out a custody agreement with your spouse.
What to Do if You Missed the Deadline
In the event that you’ve already finished your divorce, but did not change your name at that time, you can still change your name using Virginia’s normal name-change process.
This process can change slightly from court to court, so you’ll want to do some research before you file the paperwork.
Better yet, it may be wise to call the Clerk of your local Circuit Court to ask them about the specific procedures you’ll have to follow.
The City of Chesapeake, for example, provides a wonderful rundown of what you can expect from the process.
On their page they note that you must (1) file a notarized application for a name change, (2) submit a copy of your birth certificate, and (3) pay a small filing fee.
Additionally, you’ll likely have to attend a short hearing so a judge can approve of the change.
Since you’re changing your name as a result of a divorce proceeding, the judge will most likely just approve of your paperwork and send you on your way.
How to Change a Child’s Name After a Virginia Divorce
If you would like to change your children’s names after you’ve already completed your divorce you’ll have to follow the same general process, with a few minor differences.
Instead of the adult version of the petition for name change, you should file the one for minors.
Then, you’ll have to notarize the application and attach a copy of your child’s birth certificate.
Finally, and most importantly, you need to get written consent from both parents or guardians before a judge will sign off on the documents.
Again, it is easier to accomplish this while the divorce is still being deliberated in court.
Waiting until after the final decree will usually only result in more fees, more time in court, and more paperwork.
Changing your name because of a divorce is actually surprisingly simple in Virginia.
Generally speaking, the recommended option is for your attorney to submit a motion at the end of the divorce process, right before you send your Final Decree to the judge, that asks them for a name change.
If you miss this deadline and have to file for a name change after the judge signs off on your divorce paperwork, you’ll simply have to go through Virginia’s normal name-change procedures.
Generally, this entails submitting a name-change form to your local Circuit Court and paying a nominal processing fee of ~$25.00 or so.
In either scenario, you should always at least consult with an attorney about the effects of your name change before you submit the paperwork.
Only an experienced attorney can guide you through all of the possible implications this name change will have on your life.