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Bill to simplify marriage dissolution name change headed to House Floor

A divorce is both an ending and a beginning.

That new path forward can include a name change, something Rep. Jessica Hanson (DFL-Burnsville) wants to simplify.

Currently, if a name change reverting to a pre-marriage name is included in a divorce decree, it is simple and free, she said, but if it’s done after the fact there is a fee, another court appearance, and a lot more paperwork.

She sponsors HF179, which would bring divorce-decree simplicity to a name change any time after a divorce, provided the new name is the legal name on a person’s birth certificate.

Courts would be required to grant the name change if a person provides a certified copy of a marriage dissolution court order and a certified copy of the person’s birth certificate. Removed from current law would be a requirement that name changes outside of a divorce decree include a national criminal history check and proof of a person’s identity by two witnesses.

The House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee approved the bill Thursday and sent it to the House Floor.

Hanson said the proposed change would be especially beneficial to women.

“Since it’s customary in this country for women to change our names upon marriage, women are disproportionally impacted by the current post-divorce name change requirements,” she said.

Plus, she noted, many women in abusive relationships seek a quick marriage dissolution to help end the abuse. Retaking their pre-marriage name is often not a high priority and is forgotten until later.

Rep. Leigh Finke (DFL-St. Paul) hopes the scope of the current proposal could be expanded in the future to also simplify procedures for adopting a completely new name, not just the name on a person’s birth certificate.

“A divorce decree is an opportunity for many trans people to authentically live their life,” Finke said.

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