Name change after divorce, marriage, or any other reason under the sun is a huge decision. If you are in Illinois there are a number of things you might want to know in order to proceed with this change legally and properly.

Marriage name change options

In Illinois, the right to name change after marriage is extended to the husband or wife, including those in a same sex union. During the application for a marriage certificate/license you don't have to indicate the preferred name. After marriage you only need to apply for a marriage certificate's certified copy from the county clerk in your jurisdiction. The certified copy of the marriage certificate can then be shown to any governmental and nongovernmental institution where a proof of change of name through marriage is required. Depending on what you want, there are a number of options you can use to change your name.


Hyphenating your name after marriage has always been popular. It allows the maiden name to remain while at the same time adding the surname of a spouse. Hyphenating a name ensures that friends, clients and colleagues know who you are, follow your career and other passions after marriage.

Maiden to middle

Taking your maiden name and using it as the middle name, while taking the last name of your spouse is very popular today in name changes. If you have never loved your middle name this option is more appealing and a choice in Illinois, but not in every State.

Husband taking wife's last name

In Illinois, a man's right to change his name to that of his wife after marriage is only recognized through the courts. Sometimes the woman might have a famous name and because the husband is not tied to his he might decide to drop his last name for the wife's.

It's worth noting there will be changes in the name change area considering the ever changing legal challenges cropping up including the legalization of same sex unions. However, the most important thing is convincing the court with solid reasons as to why you need a name change.

Illinois name change law also seems to give people who are married the chance to adopt a wholly new name beyond the hyphenated or spouse's name but again, you need to convince the judge you need a name change.

Divorce name change

To change your name in Illinois after divorce is easy if you can indicate your decision to change your name during the divorce process so that it can appear in the divorce decree. If you do this, you will not need another legal process or pay extra fees to change your name to what you want or revert to a prior name.

On most divorce decree forms, practically every form for divorce used in the United States, you will find a section allowing you to change your name with the divorce decree.

However, this will only allow you to go back to a maiden name or prior name you had used legally before. Beyond this, you must go ahead with another name change process to adopt the name you want. In case the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage does not contain the provision on resuming a maiden name, before appearing in the court ensure you have written it on the Judgment.

It's possible in some parts of Illinois, such as Cook County, to have the Judgment certified immediately after the Judge has signed it. The Judgment can then be taken to the clerk's Domestic Relations office.

General adult name change

Sometimes seeking a name change in Illinois might seem too much a hustle, considering all the paperwork required, court appearances and fees, but making the change official as soon as possible is very important. Illinois is one of the states allowing a name change just by its consistent usage but the name won't be accepted by governmental bodies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles and Social Security Administration. A legally accepted name change is the way to go.

Remember, the State of Illinois requires anyone seeking a name change to be 18 years of age and above, and a resident of the state for a minimum of six months if a name change petition was going to be accepted. Registered sex offenders in Illinois and elsewhere or those with a felony record are also restricted.

Have the right forms for a name change with you. These includes request for a Name Change form, Order for Name Change and Notice of Filing a Request for Name Change, all of which are accessible online from any county courthouse, even in your own jurisdiction. Have the paper work filed at the county courthouse in your locality and fill each of these three forms in the manner required leaving out the areas reserved for the judge or clerk to fill.

Submit them at the Circuit Clerk office at the county courthouse and have three additional copies of each of the three forms together with the originals. Ensure you have been provided with a hearing date, which is usually eight weeks after filing the forms. The copies and original forms also need to have the official stamp. A filing fee has to be paid, although it is not uniform in all the counties. If you want a waiver of the fee this is also the time to apply for it for those financially challenged.

It's required that you publish the Notice for Filing a Request for Name Change form that you have completed as required and stamped by the court clerk. The clerk usually indicates the newspapers available or accepted by the State or county court. Remember, the notice needs to appear in the publication at least once every week consecutively for three weeks. The first appearance in the paper needs to be at least six weeks prior to hearing before the judge. You are the one to part with the publication fees.

After the notice has been published as required, ensure you have received a publication proof from the newspaper and take it to the clerk; sometimes the newspaper will do this. If you get the proof yourself file it fast with the court clerk prior to appearing before the court on the date indicated.

Arrive early in the court, know the room number of the hearing venue and wait for the case and your name to be summoned before the judge. Before appearing in court ensure you come with copies, dully stamped, of the various forms from Request for Name Change, Order for Name Change, and Certification of Publication to the Notice of Filing Request for Name Change. Other additional documents that might be required with your name change request should also be carried, especially a photo ID showing the current name you seek to change. In case of a past conviction come with evidence that the criminal conviction was dealt with accordingly and it's in the past.

Since you'll probably be questioned by the judge under oath, everything you say should be the truth. Whether the request is denied or granted the judge will sign indicating the decision the court has made. Once granted, go ahead and ask for extra Order for Name Change certified copies from the court clerk.

Child name changes

In case it's a minor, below the age of 18, who wants a name change the process is very similar to the adult name change petition that culminates in an Order for Name Change. Only the paperwork differs while at least one guardian or parent should approve the name change request. The required forms for child name change include Notice of Publication if there's only a non-custodial parent who cannot be traced, Notice of Motion for non-cohabiting parents, Minor's Decree of Change of Name and Petition for Change of Name for a child.

Remember the name of a minor can only be changed by a biological parent or if the minor has lived with you/your family for a minimum of three years and recognized as your adopted child. It's the court to determine if the child has been adopted or recognized as adopted. The minor's name cannot be changed, however, if he/she has been convicted of aggravated identity theft, identity theft, felony or misdemeanor for various things such as indecent solicitation, sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of a minor or a child or has to be registered as a sex offender.

It's also important to note that name change of a child cannot be done in a divorce decree. Changing the name must be done separately. You will also have to explain to the court that the request is in the best interest of the minor; if the child is seven years of age or older you must take him to the hearing with you. Once the judge has accepted the reasons given for the name change, a court order will be provided granting the name change of the minor.

Always be prepared with all the required documents before appearing in court by bringing all the documents copies for every person involved as well as the original documents for the judge to sign.

Change of name on birth certificate

If you want to change the name of a minor on a birth certificate, who was born within the state of Illinois, this can be done easily through mail by sending the request to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Remember for this to be done you need an Order for Change of Name's certified copy that you should have requested from the court clerk after the judge had approved the name change request. You also need the original birth certificate's copy of the minor.

Mail the documents together with a money order of a $15 fee (it's not uniform across all counties in the state) to the Illinois Department of Public Health Division of Vital Records. For minors who were not born in Illinois, the birth records officer in the state the child was born should be contacted so that the birth certificate of the minor can be changed.

For adults who want their birth certificates corrected with the new name they need to apply the same way with the proof of name change, a valid photo identification issued by the government or state, and the fee. However, the Department of Public Health, Vital Records division insists each request is always unique and will be approached as such.

Name change on Social Security, DMV, Passport, IRS

Once you have completed the name change process legally, the change needs to be reported to the Social Security Administration first before approaching the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles (a subdivision of the Secretary of State office). To change with Social Security, you cannot do it online, but either by mail or in person.

Ensure you have a certified document showing the change of name, such as a court order, divorce decree or marriage certificate, proof of your own identity through a United States Passport, an ID issued by the State or driver's license, including a proof you are a Citizen of the United States such as a certificate of naturalization, citizenship certificate or a U.S. birth certificate. Ensure all the documents are either certified copies or originals.

Once the Social Security has changed your name, approach the Illinois DMV to change your driver's license and the name on the vehicle title. You can then complete the name change with the other governmental bodies, such as IRS and State Department.

Name change with non-governmental institutions

Banks, credit card companies, loyalty club memberships, professional and academic documents, employers, insurance companies and other nongovernmental institutions will require the legal proof of your name change to effect it. Always have the original or certified copies of the documents required, which you have probably used with the Social Security Administration and other governmental bodies to change your name.

Recognized documents of the name change event

  • Certified copy of marriage certificate for marriage name change
  • Certified judgment for dissolution of marriage for divorce name change
  • Court order for name change for adult name change
  • Proof of identity
  • Proof citizenship


  1. Cherie Demmith

    Can you have two last names in Illinois without the hyphen? I wanted both my maiden and married name.
    Please let me know

    1. Valera

      Can you have two last names in Illinois without the hyphen?

      You'd have to file a court-petitioned name change for a space separated (a.k.a. double-barreled) name change.

  2. Jaime

    I was married last year and we went to DMV to hyphenate our last names in illinois. We did not go through the SSA or change our names with anyone else. For professional purposes, I need to change my last name back to my original single last name and eliminate the hyphenated add on. Can I just go to the DMV with my social security card (which has my original single last name on it). Or what do I need to do?

    1. Jaime

      Also, I want to notate that I never changed any names on my marriage license or certificate. The DMV changed my name on my ID solely because we said we were married and showed them the certificate with my original full name and my spouses original full name. My social security card I showed them had my original full name on it and still does.

      1. Valera

        Also, I want to notate that I never changed any names on my marriage license or certificate.

        This has no impact.

    2. Valera

      Can I just go to the DMV with my social security card (which has my original single last name on it). Or what do I need to do?

      You'll have to present a court-ordered name change to the DMV.

  3. Michelle Rotramel

    When signing the marriage certificate at the ceremony, which name do I sign? My maiden name or my husband's last name, which will become my last name?

    1. Valera

      Hi Michelle. I don't believe you'll be signing anything. Only the officiant writes on the certificate.

  4. Erica Lampo

    Hi Valera

    If my daughter changes her name in the court can her husband change his name to her's with SS? Neither of them changed their names after marriage. If her name alone is changed and she changes her name on her birth certificate can she also change it on their Illinois marriage license/certificate as well?


    1. Valera

      If my daughter changes her name in the court can her husband change his name to her's with SS?

      He'd likely have to go to court as well, as the name he'd want to change to wouldn't be referenced on the marriage certificate.

      If her name alone is changed and she changes her name on her birth certificate can she also change it on their Illinois marriage license/certificate as well?

      A "certificate of correction request" can be made to a marriage certificate, but what you're proposing isn't a correction, so it wouldn't apply.

  5. Julie

    If I legally changed my middle and last name after getting married and want to change it back to my maiden name while still married (not getting divorced), can I use my marriage certificate the same way I did before to change everything or do I need to go through the adult name change process?

    1. Valera

      can I use my marriage certificate the same way I did before to change everything or do I need to go through the adult name change process?

      Since you've already changed your name once because of marriage, you'll to petition the court as an adult to change it back to your maiden name.

  6. Melinda

    My biological father was never much of a father. My stepfather raised me and I want to take his name and hyphenate it with my husband's name. Can I do that?

    1. Valera

      Hi Melinda. If your stepfather's last name is not your current legal last name, you cannot hyphenate using your marriage certificate. You'd have to go to court for such a name change.

  7. Jessica

    I have decided to drop my middle name and use my maiden name as my middle name, and then take my husband's last name after marriage. I was able to do this easily (becoming Jessica Draper Johnson instead of the former Jessica Marie Draper) with the Social Security office and even got my card in the mail, but the Secretary of State's office refused to change my driver's license due to saying they need a court order for this kind of change; I can't find any evidence online that a court order is needed for this kind of name change after marriage in Illinois (it is in a few other states), and the social security office was no problem, but I really need my driver's license to match my SS card… any tips??

    I already showed the DMV staff my new social security card that states "Jessica Draper Johnson" as my name and they still would not do it without a court order. Really don't want to have to do a court order as it costs hundreds of dollars and takes ten weeks.

    1. Valera

      Hi Jessica. Sometimes clerks get it wrong. You can request documentation that cites where it isn't allowed, such as the state's compiled states or written clarification from the SOS or attorney general. Or, even try another clerk or office.

      1. Jessica

        Thanks, Valera. I'm ordering a new passport and going to bring it to DMV as well for my next go around to see if that will be enough to get my name changed. But yes, I think the clerk got it wrong which is very annoying.

        1. VG


          Did you ever get this issue fixed? I’ve called the SOS’s office in Illinois twice, and both agents have told me the same thing, that I can’t change my middle name to my maiden name without a court order, which makes no sense to me either because I can’t find any evidence of this online, and I also know of people who have done this in Illinois without a problem.

  8. Maitte

    When I married my husband (10 yrs ago) i was legally still using my 1st husbands last name, my ID was still under that last name and I never asked for my maiden name to be reinstated in the dissolution of marriage. So obviously my marriage certificate shows me with my previous husbands last name. I have since then started using my maiden name. My current driver license and other documents are under my maiden name now. Can I have my last name changed to my maiden name on my marriage certificate? what is the process?

    1. Valera

      Can I have my last name changed to my maiden name on my marriage certificate? what is the process?

      You'd have to have a court order, but it's unlikely to be approved just to change the name on your vital record. Altering a marriage certificate is reserved mainly for clerical errors.

  9. Jocelyn Tayag

    in Lake county illinois, ccan i legally follow my husbands name even if my name in marriage certificate is under my maiden name?

    1. Valera

      can i legally follow my husbands name even if my name in marriage certificate is under my maiden name?

      Yes, you can.

  10. Tes

    Can you have 2 middle names in Illinois. I don’t want to give up middle name and want to add maiden as 2nd middle name?

  11. Anwar

    My wife and I got married in 2009, and didn't do the name change at the time. Now that we have children we'd like to get her last name changed. Is the process still the same as if we would've just got married, or is there more to it because of the time?
    Also, how can we do this being out of state? We are military not living in Illinois, and have no plans of returning any time soon.

    1. Valera

      Is the process still the same as if we would've just got married

      The process is the same.

      how can we do this being out of state?

      The SSA has foreign offices.


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