When women marry, they tend to change their last name by taking on their husband’s surname. Some do not change their names at all, continuing on with the names they were given at birth. For most women, deciding whether or not to change their last name at marriage is not a major decision. They have probably decided long before the wedding to keep their last name, change it, or hyphenate it. When they get a divorce, however, that changes.
Some wonder if they should keep their husband’s last name if children are involved. That way, they all have the same last name, eliminating confusion. Some no longer want to be associated with their husband, so they go back to their maiden name. Some even go as far as to create a new last name, as a fresh start. Others never changed their last name in the first place, so it is a moot point.
If you are ending your marriage, you may be in the same boat. While you may be too busy worrying about child custody, property division, alimony, parenting schedules, and all the other decisions a divorce brings, once the dust settles, you may wonder: Who am I?
This is important as you start your new life as a single woman. A name is an important part of your identity. It may even be a huge part of your career. Therefore, it is a good idea to choose it wisely. Should you change it? Is it better to keep it? Here are some things to consider as you contemplate the name change process after a divorce.
What to Consider
If there are children involved, you should consider that. Children may get confused over having parents with different last names. They may assume that both parents will share their name. This is a valid reason if you have school-aged children. If your children are toddlers, they will not know the difference. If your kids are in high school, college, or are much older, they likely will not care at that point. You may want to ask your children and consider their feelings on the issue. A divorce is hard enough on children. A name change could be even more devastating, as they may not feel like you are really part of the family.
If your career took off after you got married, a name change would be like starting all over. This is especially true if you are somewhat famous in your field, such as a speaker, author, or doctor. Therefore, it would make more sense to just keep it.
You may also want to keep your married name if you like it better than your maiden name. Some women do not like their given name. Perhaps it sounds funny or it reminds them of their abusive or absent father. If they feel better keeping their married name, then they should do it.
Other women hold onto their married name because, despite the divorce, they truly respect their spouse. They may even still love their husbands, but feel as though they are better off as friends.
So, are there reasons to change your last name? Of course. Maybe you want a fresh start and want to have a creative last name. Maybe your husband cheated on you, abused you, or otherwise disrespected you and you want no connection to him at all after the divorce. Maybe children are not involved and therefore not a factor in your name change decision.
Some women go back to their maiden name to carry on a family tradition. Perhaps they have family pride and want to honor and respect their parents and grandparents, who may be immigrants who worked hard to get into the United States.
Keeping your husband’s last name may prevent you from moving on. You will always have that connection to him, and while that is sweet in a way, you are still holding on to the past. Plus, it can inspire negative feelings in the future when he remarries and you and his new wife now share his last name. That can be awkward, to say the least.
One important thing to keep in mind: Do not change your last name for illegal reasons. Do not change your last name to avoid debt or commit fraud or some other crime. The name change should be sincere.
How to Change Your Name
You can change your name anytime once you start the divorce process. The easiest way to do it is to request it when you file for divorce. If you wait until later on in the process, you may still be able to have it added in the final divorce decree, but it may need to be amended. You can still include the name change request in your divorce filing if you are not sure. This makes it easier, so you do not have to return to court at a later date.
At your final hearing, you may be asked to verbally confirm the name change and explain why you want to change your last name. This is to avoid fraud.
Once your name has been legally changed, you need to let government agencies and other businesses know. You will need certified copies of your divorce decree as proof. Start with the Department of Motor Vehicles and Social Security office. You will then have the documentation you need to open a bank account or show to an employer.
Seek Legal Help
After a marriage, you will likely be ready for a fresh start. A name change can help accomplish this.
Need help changing your name? Want to know if a name change is the right choice for you? Get advice from Palm Beach divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler. A divorce incorporates various elements. A name change is a personal choice but an often complex decision. To schedule a consultation, call (954) 346-6464.