The average wedding ceremony takes about 30 minutes and along with nice gifts and well wishes, in most cases, as the bride, you get a new last name. However, if you end up where around 50% of married women do – divorced – should you change your name back to your maiden name or not? Divorce brings lots of changes, from your residence, to parenting, to free time, maybe dating, financial changes and, should you choose, your name. But what should you consider in choosing to change your name?
Children and Sharing the Same Name
Some women don’t want to have a different name than their children, which is understandable, but that shouldn’t keep you from changing your name post-divorce. On the occasion that someone like a teacher at a conference calls you Mrs. Whatever, instead of Ms. So and So, you can choose to correct them or let it slide. If a playmate of your child’s calls you Mrs. Whatever, again you can choose to correct them or let it go. In the big scheme of things, it may not be that big of a deal to you.
Reasons to Change
If you are thinking that changing your name will help you stick it to your ex, getting some distance from him, you might want to look at your reasoning. Not many decisions made in bitterness and hate turn out to be good ones. Many of us have spent over half our lives getting lost in the shadow of a spouse, often hearing, ‘Aren’t you So and So’s wife?’ That can get old over decades. In today’s society, women work hard to establish their own identity, so if taking your name back helps you move forward in a positive way, and you loved your maiden name, then do it!
Career and Reputation
Perhaps you are going back to work after staying at home during your marriage or continuing in a career where people know you and your work by your name. Suppose that before you were married, you were the top sales representative for a company or maybe you are a columnist for a publication and you are known with your married name. If you changed to your maiden name, there might be some confusion, for a time, of people realigning you with your new last name. You want to be recognized for your work and reputation, but you feel like a final step you need to take is to shed your married name. This is a conundrum and one you need to think long and hard about.
Comfort in Who You Are
Most of my friends who are divorced have kept their married name for the simple reason of they’re just comfortable with it. When you’ve had a last name for 20 or more years, it just kind of feels like it’s always been your name. If that’s the case, remember, it’s your business, so don’t let anyone shame you into changing it.
Patience for the Long Haul
Be prepared for all the forms and all the people you are going to need to inform of your name change. If you go back to your maiden name or pick an entirely new name, which a lot of women do these days, like maybe using your middle name given to you at birth, as your last name, the process is involved. If you start with a list of the places you need to inform of your name change, then it goes a bit smoother. A visit to the Clerk of Court for a name change application is a good place to start, and you can also get info on where to go from there. Most continue the process at the DMV to get a new license with your chosen name, and then to the Social Security office. After those two big visits, you pretty much have a bunch of phone calls to utility companies, financial institutions, credit cards and in some cases, you may need to submit a copy of the decree that states your name change. Just take your time and look at the process a step by step.
In the end, no matter the last name you have, you are still you, with a few new scars from what you’ve been through, but you’re stronger or on the way to being stronger. If your last name doesn’t make a huge difference to you, then go with your gut. You may change your mind, but you can change your mind and name at any time. What does make a difference is what is at your core, what you know about yourself, what is in your heart and what you continue to give to the world every day.
*There are many websites set up to walk you through the process. Search ‘Name change after divorce in North Carolina’ for the best results.