While for some women, the issue of name change after divorce is a no-brainer, for many others, it is a dilemma with important consequences.
Many women struggle with the question: should I change my name after divorce? Or should I keep my ex-spouses’ name?
The decision about a name change after divorce isn’t always straightforward
On the surface, it seems like a simple thing. However, depending on your particular situation, the issue of name change after divorce may not be straight-forward.
There are some things to consider when making the decision about whether you should change your last name after divorce or not.
Name change after divorce was an easy decision for me
Personally, changing my name after divorce was a no-brainer. I was certain that I did not want to keep my ex-spouses’ name. So, when my attorney asked about changing back to maiden name after divorce, my answer was a resounding “yes”!.
My name was changed back to my maiden name through a divorce decree name change order. This simply means that my divorce decree includes a name change. So I have used my divorce decree as the legal document to change my name everywhere that I needed to do so.
However, the issue of divorce name change is not a one-size-fits-all. Changing name back after divorce is a deeply personal choice that hinges on many different things for everyone.
Below, I share 5 tips for how you could go about making this important decision for yourself.
Things to consider in order to determine whether name change after divorce is right for you or not
1) Know your “why”
By this, I mean that you should spend some time thinking about why you want to change your last name back to your maiden name, or why you want to keep your ex-spouses’ name.
For me, my name speaks to my identity, the core of who I am. In my Nigerian culture, a name is very important. Parents often name their children based on significant things that happened at the time of the child’s birth. The name that is given to a child often includes a prayer for what the parents desire for that child. For me, changing my name is like swapping out a body part…seriously.
When I got married, I took on my ex-spouse’s last name as this is the tradition in my culture, as it is in many parts of the world. But for me, taking his last name was also a pledge of my love and allegiance to this person that I had made a covenant with for life. A vow to love, to cherish and to honor, till death do us part.
When my marriage ended, those vows were broken. I didn’t want to bear the name of a man that I was no longer bound to. It had been stripped of its significance to me.
I love my birth name. It’s a good name, buoyed by the reputation of my father who was a great man and highly respected by those who knew him. Name change after divorce was an easy choice for me.
Prov 22:1 A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches…
Think deeply about whether you want to change your name or keep your ex-spouse’s name. There are reasons to go either way, just be certain of your “why”.
2) Your children
For some women, maintaining the same last name as their children is important to them. For this reason, they choose to keep their ex-spouses’ name.
Even though name change after divorce was an easy decision for me, I understand this line of reasoning.
It can be awkward having a different last name from your kids! You might as well have a “D=Divorced” sign stamped on your forehead. It may raise eyebrows (real or imagined), every time you have to fill out forms for the kids, at the doctor’s office, when you travel with the kids and in many places that you frequent. I get it.
However, make sure that divorce shame is not at the core of why this makes you uncomfortable. Many women struggle with deep shame, even when the divorce was not their choice! Don’t let shame steal your joy. God loves you, just as you are, kick shame to the curb!
If it has nothing to do with shame, but you really just want the same name as your kids, then go ahead and keep your ex-spouses’ name.
The only thing that I wonder about in these situations is what happens if you remarry? Do you keep your ex-spouses’ name after remarriage? Just something to consider as you decide whether changing back to maiden name after divorce is right for you or not.
3) Your professional life
Some women in the process of divorce have already built strong careers or entrepreneurial reputations while bearing their ex-spouses’ name. If this is you, and you have a strong reputation in your industry, are a published author, have a higher degree like a Ph.D. or some other significant personal accomplishment in your ex-spouses’ name, it may not be wise to change back to your maiden name.
You would need a clear strategy for how to go about the name change with all of your professional contacts. Apart from the obvious hassle of the process, you stand the risk of losing some of your important professional relationships if you mistakenly omit them in the process of changing name back after divorce.
Weigh the risk-reward of pursuing a divorce name change and make sure that you are not “cutting off your nose to spite your face”.
Here are some other great tools to help you navigate the divorce process and heal after the lawyers are gone!
Do you have the flexibility in your schedule to change your name in all the different places that you would need to do this? You would have to change your name with your banks, company, social security office, and on your drivers’ license to name a few. It’s quite a hassle.
Even though I had a divorce decree name change order, it took a while for me to get to all the different places where I needed to change my name. Just last week, I found one document that needs to reflect my divorce name change. It takes time! Fortunately, once it’s all done, you don’t have to do it again. Going forward, if you purchase property or undertake any significant business or investment deals, all the paperwork will be in your new (or maiden) last name.
However, if you were married for a long time or have significant assets, there will be many areas to process your divorce name change. Seriously consider whether you have the time or energy to go about doing this. If you don’t, it may be best to keep your ex-spouses’ name.
5) Your healing
Think about the impact that keeping your ex-spouses’ name may have on healing from the pain of your divorce.
- Do you think that keeping his name would be a roadblock to healing for you?
- Would it be a trigger, causing frequent pain and preventing you from moving beyond the past and moving forward?
- Would it bother you if people assumed that you are still married to your ex-spouse because you bear his name?
This is such a personal decision, you really need to consider how it may impact your ability to heal and recover from your divorce.
If you decide to keep your ex-spouse’s name, you can still change it later if you choose to do so. However, it’s easier to have it included in your divorce decree name change order. If you are not sure, then it may be wise to wait.
What are your thoughts? If you are in the process of divorce, are you changing or keeping your name? Why or why not? If you’re already divorced, how did you handle this?