Can (and Should) I Change My Name as Part of My Divorce?

The short answer is yes – if you wish to reclaim your maiden name or a name from a prior marriage then you should do it as part of your divorce.

Texas law provides that:

In a decree of divorce or annulment, the court shall change the name of a party specifically requesting the change to a name previously used by the party unless the court states in the decree a reason for denying the change of name.

Texas Family Code Section 6.706

If you have any thought about changing your name to a name used prior to your marriage, then you should take advantage of the opportunity to do so during your divorce.

If you do not ask for a change of name during your divorce, then you will have to file a separate suit in court. This results in increased court costs because it is a separate proceeding and of course, more attorneys fees.

The mechanics of seeking a name change are simple. If you are the party filing for divorce, then you simply request a change of name in your Original Petition for Divorce.

If you are served with a divorce petition, then your attorney will first file an answer.

Your attorney will also file a Counterpetition for Divorce seeking a divorce on the grounds that you allege in your Counterpetition as well as seeking a change of name.

Changing your name will not prevent creditors from collecting on debts that you owed under your prior name. Changing you name in a divorce proceeding will also not prevent you from collecting debts owed to you under your prior name.

After the court orders a change of name, you can get a change of name certificate from the clerk’s office which is legal proof of your change of name.

Getting Organized For Your Divorce

I recently wrote an article discussing How to Prepare Yourself For Divorce that focused on preparing yourself mentally and physically for the divorce. This article discusses how to get organized for your divorce so that you have the best outcome possible.

The Importance of Getting Organized

Any lawyer will tell you that an organized client will get a better outcome in their divorce for a number of reasons.

Being organized helps identify the best starting point for your negotiations.

Being organized makes your case proceed more efficiently with less delay and less cost as well.

Being organized will make you better prepared if you have to testify at a deposition or in court.

Being organized will make you better prepared to work with your lawyer – remember this is your case. No one will ever know the facts as well as you do.

Protect Your Privacy First

Before you do anything else you should take steps to protect your privacy – even during the process of getting organized for your divorce.

You should address each of the following:

  1. Change Your Passwords. I mean every password. Your email password, your bank account password, credit card account passwords, social media account passwords, etc. Use a password that you have never used before and that has no connection to your life. In other words, don’t use some combination of your kid’s name and wedding date.
  2. Secure Your Devices. This means change the PIN’s and access codes for your phones, tablets, computers, and any other devices. Use a new code that you have never used before and that has no connection to your life. Make sure your devices are set to automatically lock themselves after a short period of time.
  3. Secure Your Communications. You should consider setting up a secure way to communicate and store information. For example, you might setup a new email account specifically to handle matters related to your divorce. You might lease a P.O. Box to receive mail away from your house. You also might consider a secure online document storage system (such as DropBox) to store copies of important electronic documents outside of your house.
  4. Create a Secure Location for Your Notes. The last thing you want is your spouse to find out you are preparing for a divorce as it will make your efforts much more difficult. You should consider keeping notes electronically in a secure online storage site or on a device you secured as discussed above.

Collect Information For Your Divorce

It can become difficult to secure basic information after filing for divorce so collect as much information as you can prior to filing.

What type of information should you try to collect when getting organized for your divorce?

At a minimum, you should try to get the following information:

  1. Copies of your recent pay stubs.
  2. Copies of your spouse’s recent pay stubs
  3. Copies of tax returns for the past 3 years.
  4. Copies of account statements for bank accounts, credit card accounts, and any other financial accounts. Go back at least 6 months and further if you have concerns about where money was spent.
  5. Copies of statements for retirement accounts or other benefits. You should get statements all the way back to the beginning of the account or the marriage, whichever is earlier. You should also get copies of the plan documents.
  6. Copies of business documents if you or your spouse own a business. This would include certificates of formation, company agreements, shareholder agreements, partnership agreements, profit and loss statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, purchase agreements, and any other documents reflecting the organization or financial condition of the business.
  7. Copies of any trust agreements under which you or your spouse are settlors, trustees, or beneficiaries.
  8. Copies of real estate documents. This includes deeds, deeds of trusts, mortgage documents, and any other conveyance documents.
  9. Copies of car titles and car loan documents.
  10. Copies of any promissory notes under which you and your spouse owe or are owed money.
  11. Contact information for your financial adviser.
  12. Contact information for your CPA.
  13. Any other documents showing any liabilities of you or your spouse.
  14. Documents concerning any large or unusual expenses incurred during the marriage (such as a home remodel or refinance).

Don’t just write the information down. Get copies of documents. If you setup a secure electronic storage site, keep copies of those documents in PDF format on that site. Most account statements can be downloaded as PDF’s which makes that process easier.

***Bonus*** If time permits while getting organized for your divorce, go ahead and review all those account statements for any unusual expenses or charges. If not – do so as soon as possible after filing for divorce.

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Identify Separate Property

This section could be part of “Collect Information” above but I believe it deserves a separate discussion.

In general, separate property is any property owned prior to marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance.

Separate property is not subject to division during divorce, however, the spouse claiming the property as separate property has the burden of establishing its character.

If you believe you own any separate property, then you should collect sufficient information to establish its character as separate property.

This includes documents showing when the property was acquired as well as documents showing how it was paid for.

If you acquired property by gift, try to locate documents showing that the property was in fact a gift.

If you acquired property through an inheritance, get copies of the probate records showing how the property was granted to you.

Prepare Your Financial Information

The first financial statements you should prepare are two income/expense statements.

This first income/expense statement should show all money you and your spouse earn as well as all expenses you incur in your married life.

Reviewing those account statements you collected is an easy and effective way to make sure that you do not miss any expenses.

The second income/expense statement is just for you. This income/expense statement should show the realistic income you expect to receive during and after divorce. It should also show the realistic expenses you will need to pay for during and after divorce.

This is a reality check. Divorce is expensive not just because of the attorneys but also because you may have many of the same expenses with significantly less income.

You will use the second income/expense statement to help determine what property you might need from the divorce as well as the amounts of an child support or spousal maintenance after the divorce.

After you prepare these statements, you should review them and update them regularly.

The third financial statement you should prepare is an asset/liability statement. This document should be a complete list of all assets owned by you and/or your spouse.

I use the conjunction “or” because this list should include your community property as well as both your and your spouse’s separate property.

This asset and liability statement should also include a description of each liability owed by either spouse as well as the balance of the debt.

Identify, Inventory, and Locate Significant Personal Property

Sometimes items go missing once a divorce petition is filed. This is an unfortunate fact with no easy solution once it happens.

That is why it is important to identify, inventory, and locate significant personal property as part of your getting organized for your divorce.

Significant personal property means things like particular pieces of jewelry, family heirlooms, gun collections, or other items with significant value whether monetarily or sentimentally.

Once you identify these items, create a written inventory with a description of the item, its potential value, and where it is located.

If you have control of the item, you might even take steps to place it in a secure location such as a safe or safety deposit box. It is not a bad idea to take pictures of the items as well.

Have a Plan For Your Children

This means prepare for the issues of child custody and child support, especially if you think there is any chance this will be an area of contention in your divorce.

If you are seeking primary custody of your children, then prepare a detailed parenting plan. This would include specific details about where the children will live, go to school, church, and how you will provide for their welfare.

Your parenting plan should include details such as how you will get your children to and from school and any extracurricular activities. It should also include details on who will care for the children when you are at work or unavailable to do so.

You should also list your expectation for what rights and access your spouse will have to the children.

You should prepare a detailed schedule of your children’s activities, especially if they require special care or are heavily involved in extracurricular activities. This might include practice and game schedules.

You should also identify how your children will be provided for under medical and dental insurance plans. This may be through your employer, your spouses employer, private insurance, or another plan.

Last but perhaps most importantly, if you expect your spouse to fight for primary custody of your children then you should prepare a list of reasons why you should be awarded primary custody and also a list of reasons why your spouse should not be awarded custody.

Custody decisions are made based on the “best interests of the child” standard.

This means that the list of reasons against your spouse should not be made of personal attacks but focused on specific reasons why it is not in your children’s best interests for your spouse to have primary custody.

A Recap

Getting organized for your divorce will help make sure that you get the best result possible.

When getting organized for your divorce you should make sure that you address each of the following issues:

  1. Protect Your Privacy
  2. Collect Information
  3. Prepare Financial Information
  4. Identify Separate Property
  5. Identify, Inventory, and Locate Significant Personal Property
  6. Create A Plan For Your Children

Additional Information:

While you are getting organized for your divorce, you can learn more about the general rules governing various aspects of divorce by reading the articles below:

If you would like to schedule a free consultation to discuss your divorce case, then please send me an e-mail or send a request through my contact page.

Preparing Yourself For Your Divorce

This article isn’t about the law. It isn’t about the divorce process. It isn’t about dividing your property or child custody. This article is about you and making sure that you are truly prepared when you make the decision to seek a divorce from your spouse.

The Importance of Preparing Yourself

Divorce is hard. Especially when children are involved.

It can take an emotional toll on you. You may see the worst side of your spouse. You may feel the worst side of yourself.

You may hear or see your spouse do things that you never thought possible. You may find out about things your spouse has already done that you never knew about.

Divorce can take a physical toll on you. Lack of sleep. Constant worrying about your kids, your future, your house, and everything else.

If you are not prepared, then your divorce will not go well. Your emotions will get the better of you. Your physical health will betray you. The stress will cause you to make poor decisions.

So how do you prepare yourself for your divorce?

Decide On the Life You Want After Divorce

The first step is to decide on just what you want your life to look like after the divorce. Don’t worry about how you get there right now – just focus on where you want to go.

Where will you live? How will you care for your kids? Where will you work?

Who will be your friends? What will you do for fun?

Picture the furniture where you live. Picture the car that you drive. Picture the toys that your kids play with. Picture every detail possible.

Why do I suggest you start at the end?

Set Your Goals For Your Divorce

Because you won’t know how to get there if you don’t know where you are going.

Now that you know where you want to go you can make an honest evaluation about what type of result you need from your divorce to put you in the best position to get to that vision of your life after divorce.

How does the house fit into your vision? Do you need it in your life after divorce? Can you afford it in your life after divorce?

Do you need to fight over it in your divorce?

What about the children? When you imagined life with your children after divorce – where did they go to school? Who did they live with? How often did you see them?

What do you really need from your marriage as far as assets, custody, and support, to make your vision possible?

Once you have your vision for life after divorce and you know what results you need from your divorce to help you achieve that vision, you now know what you need to focus on and fight for during your divorce. The rest can be ignored or used as leverage to help you achieve your goals.

Make Sure You Are Physically Prepared

You only have one body and one life – protect it. I promise that no matter what happens during your divorce, life will go on.

If you regularly exercise – good for you. Protect that time both before and during your divorce. Do not let anything that happens take you off schedule or make you miss a day of exercise. That is your time.

If you do not regularly exercise – start. Visit your doctor to make sure there is no medical reason that would prohibit you from exercising, then get started.

You want to make sure that your body is physically prepared. Exercise will help clear your mind although you might have to fight through a few of those OMG what the hell am I doing to my body sessions first.

Exercise will give you a place to go to work out your frustrations, reduce your stress, improve your overall health, and take a mental break from life.

Don’t wait until you file for divorce – start now.

Prepare Yourself Psychologically for Divorce

You may be that one unique person in the world who is so mentally strong that nothing bothers you. You may not need anyone to share your feelings with.

But for everyone else – you need to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally as well. A divorce can be a long and trying process with plenty of ups and downs and frustrations along the way.

Your lawyer is not a psychiatrist. Don’t call your lawyer and expect to get help with your emotions. That’s not what we do.

If you need professional counseling, then find a professional to work with you. Counselor, psychiatrist, or whatever you need.

Make sure you have a pillar of support that is there just to listen to you even if that person is not a professional counselor.

Just be careful not to discuss the details of your case, especially if you aren’t meeting with a professional.

Find that friend who will listen to your frustrations without a need to know the details or try to fix it.

Find that friend who knows how to cheer you up no matter how bad your day has been.

Find someone you can talk to when there is a bad day during your divorce.

To Summarize

Once you have decided you want to look at a divorce, it is time to prepare yourself.

Spend time thinking about what you want your life to look like after your divorce.

Use that vision to establish the goals and results you want from your divorce.

Prepare your body physically to handle the stress of divorce.

And prepare your mind to handle the emotions of a divorce.

Once you prepare yourself for divorce, you can move on to Getting Organized For Your Divorce.

Additional Information:

While you are preparing yourself for your divorce, you can learn more about the general rules governing various aspects of divorce by reading the articles below:

If you would like to schedule a free consultation to discuss your divorce case, then please send me an e-mail or send a request through my contact page.

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