Illinois to simplify name changes in divorce

A change in Illinois state law will soon make it easier for people going through a divorce to go back to the legal name they had prior to marriage. People, in most cases women, will have fewer steps to take before they’re legally able to go back to using their birth name, maiden name or whatever name they used before taking their spouse’s surname.

Passed by large margins in both chambers of the Illinois legislature and signed by the governor in August, the change will drop what seemed to many Illinoisans like a bizarre and intrusive relic of the distant past. Previously, a woman going back to her maiden name had to pay to announce the change announced in the pages of a newspaper.

Laws make it hard to change names except by marriage

Changing your name is not supposed to be easy. A new name makes it simpler to steal another person’s identity, for example, or to evade the law when there’s an arrest warrant for you or you want to avoid paying child support. That’s why Illinoisans must notify the public to change names.

A marriage certificate is different. Laws across America make it easier to change your name at marriage, thanks to the old tradition of women taking their husband’s name. And lawmakers rarely want to be known as an obstacle to romance by making it hard for brides to take their groom’s last name.

But until now, reverting post-divorce to your maiden name has been more like changing your name for non-marital reasons.

In Illinois, a newspaper notice runs for three weeks starting at least six weeks before the name change. A court may allow exceptions in some situations, such as when there’s good evidence that the publication puts the person at risk of physical harm.

New Year brings new way of reclaiming your name

Beginning January 1, 2020, Illinois drops the requirement that reverting to your maiden name, or any other name from before your marriage, involves notifying the public.

The law also makes things a little easier in another way. After the first of the year, your divorce decree itself can implement your name change. Previously, a separate proceeding was required to make your maiden name your legal name once again.

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