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Should you change your name after your divorce?

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

Getting divorced has so many moving pieces and is fraught with emotions. It isn't just "decide to get divorced" and it's all done, wrapped up in a nice little bow. It takes a lot of time to sort through the details and impact of each little portion.

One of those details is whether or not you want to change your name back to your pre-married name, your maiden name, or if you want to keep your soon-to-be ex-husband's name. Or frankly, whether or not you want to start from scratch and go on to a completely different last name. (It is your choice after all!)

More and more women are choosing to return to their maiden names, that's if they changed it with the marriage in the first place. Divorced women are seeing themselves more as independent women, rather than a previous part of a dissolved union. But there are always considerations to take into account when making the decision.

One of the most common reasons that women stay with the ex-husband's name is so they can continue to share that name with their children. It offers a sense of stability and unity with the kids, rather than parent and child having different names. Mothers of younger children often feel more comfortable in sharing the same name, and it can have unforeseen disadvantages if you do decide to change in the divorce process. It has been known to make travel, especially international travel, more complex if someone questions the family connection between mother and child. Issues with school could arise with a staff member unfamiliar with the family. Legal or medical paperwork could take longer to process without that natural connection. Though these can be fixed, it is an area to consider. If the children are older, as mine were, then a name change is nothing more than a different word on a sheet of paper. In regards to travel, school and legal issues, an older child can articulate the situation and family connection better, minimizing issues and confusion.

Many women received degrees or professional certifications under their married name. They have a rapport at work (with colleagues and clients) or they have had an identity for years that has been tied to this particular last name. It can be difficult for these reasons to legally change your name. It's almost like changing your identity as well and starting from scratch. It can cost time, money and clients to make that switch. So practicality would be considered of whether or not it's worth it.

For me, I knew changing my name was a MUST! I no longer wanted to be identified with the man to whom I'd been married. We worked in the same place for years and being able to break free was a relief. My kids were teens, so they understood why I felt the change necessary and were okay with me reverting back to my maiden name. It's definitely something I spoke with them about prior to petitioning the court.

To change your name you can: 1) petition the court before the divorce,, 2) change it as part of the divorce process, 3) petition the court after the divorce (at any time), or 4) just start using your previous name (an option in some states and local jurisdictions). ALWAYS talk to your attorney before making any changes for the stability of your divorce case and for help with the local ordinances.

For more, listen to the The Divorce Confidante Podcast episode #8 - "Should You Change Your Name?"

Remember, this is your life. This is your new life. You get to decide how you want to identify yourself from this time forward. Take the time to make the right choice for yourself.

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