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Should You Change Your Last Name after a Divorce?

“Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”– Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Whether to keep your married name or revert to your maiden name after a divorce is a decision that carries both practical and emotional ramifications. Objectively, no right or wrong answer to this question exists. Each determination must be made on a case by case basis. When contemplating whether you should keep your married name or opt for your maiden name after a divorce, consider the following:

1. Children

If you have children and depending upon your child/children’s age(s), it might make for an easier transition for them if you continue using the same last name as them. For instance, if your children are younger, a name change could cause confusion for them and their peers. It might also lead to befuddlement in the classroom or in extracurricular activities. Some children may just not be emotionally equipped for such a change. However, in cases where the divorce was particularly contentious, whether or not your children are old enough to fully comprehend the situation, it could possibly make more sense for you to change your name.

2. Identity

Many women feel as though their married name is now a part of their identity. It is the name by which they are known in the community. Some women feel that going back to their maiden name is tantamount to reverting back to being an adolescent or someone with whom they can no longer relate. Still others might embrace this time as an opportunity for change. A decision to once again use your maiden name depends upon the association you have with it. Do you feel a sense of comfort or pride in your original surname? Or do you have less than fond memories associated with your maiden name?

3. Emotional Ties

Your married name carries with it the vestiges of a relationship that once was, but is no longer. Some report seeing their married name as a constant reminder of a failed marriage. Depending on the acrimony involved, it may be ideal to change your name and start fresh. Was infidelity involved? Do you want to maintain the association? How close are your ex-spouse’s family? Perhaps, you are more attached to your maiden name because it reminds you of happier times. The determination is completely up to you, so give yourself time to truly reflect on the emotional ties you have to your last name.

4. Professional Reasons

Perhaps you are a working professional who has really made a name for yourself in the community in a certain line of work. Maybe you have really developed your brand in a particular professional niche and clients know you by your married name. You are likely to get referrals by that name and you might lose business or might not be recognized as a result of a name change. These are considerations that could affect your financial and professional future.

5. Hassel

Changing your name can be a bit tedious but very doable. Depending on your preference, you might not want to go through the onerous process of a name change. The following are various entities and networks that you would need to notify and documents that you would need to modify:

Government Identification: You would be required to update all Government issued identification such as your Social Security, US Passport, State issued Driver’s License, and State Voter Registration forms, and you must notify the IRS and the USPS as to this change.

Creditors: If you choose to change your name you also must send letters notifying all creditors of your name change. Please do not change your name in an attempt to avoid creditors or shirk debts. You must have a good faith reason for wanting a name change.

Social Media: Social media accounts such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat etc., and even your Email Account should all be updated if you change your name.

6. Privacy

Ostensibly, your family and friends who are close to you will know that you are getting divorced. However, some women choose not to change their name back to their maiden names because they want to limit attention to the divorce, or they want to limit mere acquaintances’ knowledge that a divorce occurred. For instance, if you are active on social media and have many “friends” or “followers”, changing your last name abruptly will signal to all of these connections (who in reality are not close personal friends) that a major change has happened in your life. It may be your personal choice to keep your “private life” private.

Ultimately, if you have determined to change your name, have your family law attorney indicate that you would like to restore your maiden name in the Divorce Decree. This will save time and money by preventing you from having to petition the Court for a legal name change later. The above list is by no means exhaustive and in the process of deciding whether or not to change your name, you should consult with your attorney.

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