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Considerations When Deciding Whether to Keep or Change Your Last Name

on Nov 25, 2017 in Divorce

When women divorce, consideration must be given to whether or not to keep their married name.  There are arguments both for and against keeping one’s last name. As with many decisions during the divorce process, there is no simple answer to the question.  What works for one woman will not feel right for another.  Below are some considerations frequently mentioned by women who have made the decision to keep their married name, or revert to their maiden name.

Your Last Name as Your Identity

Many people consider their last name as part of their identity.  This can cut both ways.  If you have only been married a short period of time, you may wish to revert back to your maiden name.  If your soon to be ex-husband’s last name is associated with something you find unpleasant, whether it be a criminal conviction, or just something that was very public, such as an indiscretion, you may decide changing your name back to your maiden name is in your best interests.

On the other hand, if you have been married for a significant length of time, your married name may be closely tied to your identity.  If you work in an area where your last name is part of your business, such as a real estate agent, or contractor, you may wish to keep your last name.  Of course, you have the option of retaining your business name for business purposes, while still legally changing your name back to your maiden name, if that’s your preference.

Your Last Name has Sentimental Value

Some people are more tied to the significance of their last names than others.  People who marry young sometimes consider their married name a milestone – the start of their adult lives. Similarly, some people associate their maiden name with their childhood.  If this rationale makes sense to you, keeping your married name may be the better choice for you.

Your Last Name as an Announcement

Other people, however, feel their last name clearly sends a message.  Changing one’s name from their married name back to their maiden name is an easy way to announce a divorce has taken place.  It clearly separates one from their former spouse.  (See, also, “Your Last Name as Your Identity.)

On the other hand, others feel keeping their husband’s last name is an effective avoidance strategy.  If you are not interested in extended conversations with acquaintances about your name change, and your divorce, keeping your husband’s last name can reduce these encounters.  For some people, this is not enough of a motivation one way or the other, but for those who never really felt emotionally invested in either last name, this is as good a reason as any for keeping your husband’s name.

The Convenience Factor

The truth of the matter is, some last names are just easier to pronounce and spell than others.  People who spent part of their lives spelling out their 13 letter last name, including spaces and capital letters half way through, may consider taking the easier option.  “Jones” is much more easy to deal with when making doctor’s appointments, ordering online, and when making reservations.  There is a certain attraction to a short, easy-to-spell last name.

The Uniqueness Factor

On the other hand, some people prefer the uniqueness factor associated with a 13 letter last name with spaces and two capital letters.  The uniqueness of a name can be just as attractive as the simplicity of a name.  Whether you long for uniqueness or crave familiarity and convenience, a divorce allows you to maintain the status quo or change things up.

The Alphabetization Factor

Some studies show the first letter of your last name matters, from college applications to job security.  While this variable may not be a factor for everyone, those who don’t feel strongly one way or the other may want to consider this.

The Hassle Factor

If you are not good at paperwork, you may want to consider keeping the last name you have now.  Changing your last name in the divorce decree is a simple matter.  However, you must also consider the rest of your life.  At a minimum, you will need to change your name on the following documents:

  • driver’s license,;
  • social security card;
  • passport;
  • retirement accounts;
  • real estate titles; and
  • bank loans.

The paperwork may seem endless.  If this challenge seems overwhelming to you, and you don’t have strong feelings to the contrary, keeping your married name may suit you better.

Your Last Name, Your Family’s Last Name

Particularly if you have children, you may want to consider keeping the family name.  This provides continuity for the children at school.  It also provides a talking point with the children when discussing what the divorce means to them.  While not the only way to do so, keeping the same name as your ex and the children sends a message, “We are still a family unit.”  It also reduces the number of conversations you need to have about how yes, you are the child’s parent and yes, you do have the authority to make decisions about the child.

If You are Considering Divorce

If you are considering divorce, you know there are a whole host of decisions ahead.  These decisions include the best parenting schedule for your family, whether alimony is appropriate or warranted, calculating child support, dividing possessions.  For some, keeping or changing their last name is the least of their concerns.  For others, it is a source of emotional stress and indecision.  There is no single right answer to this, or other divorce questions.  Only the decision that is right for you.

At Fait & DiLima, our family law attorneys have extensive experience guiding clients through the divorce process.  Contact us to discuss the choices that best suit you and your family.