Prior to 2003, a spouse wishing to resume legal use of his/her former, "maiden" name could do so simply by requesting that the court, as part of the final divorce order, restore the former name. However, current law contains additional requirements. Below is a brief, step-by-step guide for regaining use of a former name.
When to request: A former name may be restored at any time prior to, pending, or after divorce. The appropriate time to request the change will depend entirely on a party's individual circumstances and wishes.
How to request: If requested as part of a pending divorce suit, either in the initial pleadings or orally at the final divorce hearing, a separate application is not required. If desired prior to the entry of the final order of divorce, prior to the initiation of a divorce suit, or subsequent to the completion of divorce proceedings, however, a separate application is required. In either case, a separate Order from the court is required.
Where to request: Pursuant to Virginia Code Section 8.01-217(A), the name change must be requested in the circuit court of the city or county where the person requesting the change resides. If no place of abode exists, then the circuit court in any locality will consider the application if it finds good cause to do so.
A. Application: The application must contain the following information about the applicant: (i) name; (ii) current residential address; (iii) names of both parents, including the maiden name of the applicant's mother; (iv) date and place of birth; (v) felony conviction record, if any; (vi) statement as to whether the applicant is presently incarcerated or a probationer with any court; (vi) if the applicant has previously changed his or name, the former name(s); and (vii) a statement that the name change is not sought for any fraudulent purpose. The application must be signed by the applicant in the presence of a notary public or the clerk of the court. The application can be handwritten or typed, but must be legible. An electronic form is available for download and completion on the Virginia Judicial System website (see Additional Sources of Information section below). If you submit a handwritten or typed application, you should use the online form as a template.
B. Order: While the applicant is not required by statute to do so, it is appropriate to prepare and submit with the Application a draft Order for the court to sign. Doing so will decrease the time required for the completion of the process, and will likely avoid the necessity of a hearing.
The top of the Order should mimic the top of the Application, such that the proper designation of the Court (e.g., "VIRGINIA: In the Circuit Court for the County of Albemarle") and the proper identification of the applicant (e.g., "In Re: John Doe") is included. The Order must contain the following, and only the following, additional information: (i) applicant's current address; (ii) statement as to whether the applicant has previously changed his or her name, and if so, a list of the previous names; (iii) an "ORDERED" clause stating the old name changed from and the new name changed to; (iv) a statement that "The Clerk shall spread this Order upon the current deed book in his/her office, index it in both the old and new names, and transmit a certified copy of the Order and Application to the State Registrar of Vital Records and the Central Criminal Records Exchange" (note: if the change is requested as part of the divorce proceeding, transmission to these agencies is not required, and the transmission language is unnecessary); and (v) the signature of the applicant.
(C) Cover Sheet for Filing Civil Actions: This form is available for download and completion on the Virginia Judicial System website (see Additional Sources of Information Section below). Simply fill in the court and party identification information at the top of the form, check the "Name Change" box in the body of the form, and sign and print your name at the bottom of the form.
(D) Filing Fee: You should contact the clerk's office of the court to which you are submitting your application to determine the filing fee required, and include a check for that amount in your package to the court. The clerk's office will refuse to process your application if unaccompanied by the fee.
Filing: The Application, Order (if completed), Civil Cover Sheet, and filing fee should be submitted as one package to the clerk's office, via hand-delivery or mail. You should include a cover letter, addressed to the clerk, identifying the documents enclosed and requesting that the Application be filed and the Order be submitted to the court for consideration. If you intend to complete this process without the assistance of legal counsel, you should contact the clerk's office prior to submitting your package to be sure that you are submitting all necessary documents and following all required processes.