There are many decisions to be made when going through a divorce. For women who took their spouse’s last name upon marriage, an additional decision is whether they want to go back to their maiden name after the divorce is final. The legal procedure for changing your name back is quite simple: You request it on your Petition for Divorce (or Answer and Counterclaim for Divorce) and the Judge will grant your request as part of the Final Divorce Decree. The Divorce Decree becomes the legal document needed to change your name in other areas of your life (i.e. driver’s license, social security card, insurance, bank accounts). While the name change procedure is easy, there are a few things you should consider before making a decision on this issue:
- Do you have kids? For many people, this is the most important consideration when contemplating a name change. Unless there is a special situation, your children’s last names will not change after the divorce. Thus, if you return to your maiden name, your last name will not be the same as that of your children. While this can be confusing at first (especially for the children), schools and day cares have all seen this issue and will be ready to handle any changes that need to be made. Just make sure you let the requisite people know and update any forms so there are no issues. For many moms, this is a determinative issue – they want to keep the same last name as their children and they don’t care if it continues to attach them to their ex in some way.
- How are you known at work? If you have been in the same profession for the entire length of your marriage, then everyone with whom you work will know you by your married name. Any good will you have generated during your time in that profession is likely attached to that name. Certainly this does not mean that the good will won’t follow you when you change your name, but it may take some time for people (especially those with whom you do not work closely) to realize that the different name is still the same person. This particular issue, however, is likely easily resolved over time.
- Will returning to your maiden name better help you move on from the divorce? Some people just need a clean break after a divorce. If they see their ex’s last name everywhere, it may prevent them from fully moving on with their life. For those who do not have kids, or who have not spent substantial time in their profession, this may be the determinative factor in deciding whether to change their name back.
The decision to return to your maiden name is a highly personal one. As discussed above, fortunately the post-divorce name change procedure is simple. Thus, you should just think about what makes the most sense for you and your family in making this decision.