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New law makes post-divorce name change easy in Illinois

Women who change their last name upon marriage are generally pleasantly surprised at how easy the whole thing is to accomplish. As a customary act, the road to your "married name" is usually easy to follow.

Not so, however, when you get divorced. Depending on where you live, reclaiming the name you used prior to your marriage can be a complicated -- and intrusive -- process that adds a layer of frustration to an already difficult time.

In fact, until Jan. 1, 2020, Illinois residents (usually women, in this situation) were required to post a legal notice in the local newspaper regarding their name change. For many, the requirement felt both ridiculous and archaic -- forcing them to make a public spectacle out of an intrinsically private situation.

Under a new law, however, a divorce certificate -- like a marriage certificate -- is all that you need to effect a name change without a hassle. If your divorce or dissolution decree doesn't contain an order that restores your former name, you still have to file a petition to change your name through the probate court -- but you are no longer required to publicize your decision in the paper.

This change may seem small -- unless you're already going through a divorce and now feel like you have to put your private information out there for everyone to see. The sense of vulnerability and exposure was so unpleasant that many women simply skipped the whole thing. Now, however, they're no longer being forced to make that choice.

If you intend to return to using a former name after your divorce, make certain that you include that request in your divorce petition. That way, you can easily accomplish your goals.

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