New Jersey law allows either spouse in the divorce process to change their name. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-21 reads in pertinent part:
The court, upon or after granting a divorce from the bonds of matrimony to either spouse … may allow either spouse … to resume any name used by the spouse … before the marriage …, or to assume any surname.
But what happens if a couple is only being granted a divorce from bed and board or a limited divorce? A trial court recently addressed this issue in a recently published case (Leggio v. Leggio, FM-16-1229-04). In short, Mrs. Leggio asked for a name change some 10 years after their divorce from bed and board was granted by the court. The court denied her name change request, not because of the time elapsed (which wasn’t an issue — an earlier case [Olevich v. Olevich, 258 N.J. Super. 344 (Ch. Div. 1992)] indicates no time bar for that kind of request), but because the state does not recognize a divorce from bed and board as a dissolution of a marriage. In the eyes of NJ, the Leggios are still married. Mrs. Leggio could go through the more lengthy regular name change process if she wants or convert her divorce to a full divorce.