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Should You Change Your Last Name after Your Divorce?

  • Mar 15, 2021
  • The Harr Law Firm

Blank red name tag stickerWhile the tradition has been losing popularity in recent years, many women still choose to take on their husband’s last name when they marry. If you changed your name when you were married (whether you took on your spouse’s name or hyphenated your last name), you might be wondering what to do now that you’re facing divorce. Should you keep your ex’s last name for the sake of simplicity? Or reclaim your identity by reclaiming your former surname? While there is no one right answer to this question, here are a few things you should consider when making this decision.

How Does It Impact Your Children?

If you have children, it’s important to consider how changing your last name might impact their perception of the divorce. This period of time is extremely difficult for many children, and the separation of their parents can be a great loss. Having a parent change their last name to a different one can sometimes make children feel an even deeper sense of separation from that parent and a deeper feeling of no longer being a family.

Many parents do choose to keep their married name after divorce for the sake of their children. Not only does it create the feeling of still being a family, but it can simplify things at school and other activities; oftentimes, parents who have a different last name than their kids have to give further explanations or confirm their identity as the child’s parent, which can be frustrating.

Do You Have Professional Ties to Your Married Name?

For some people, their married name is a central part of their careers. If you founded a legal firm with your married surname in the business name, changing your last name might create more complications than anything else. Similarly, if you’re a public speaker, author, artist, or other individual whose career is closely tied to your name, changing it could mean losing many of your fans and followers. When you have significant professional collateral tied to your married name, it’s usually best to keep it.

How Do You Feel about Your Last Name?

Of course, you should always take your personal feelings and desires into consideration when deciding whether or not to change your name again. After all, it is your name. Even if you have children with your ex, if keeping your ex’s surname causes feelings of anger, resentment, or frustration to arise, you should absolutely change it.

Many people find that reclaiming their birth name helps them to better reclaim their identity as a single individual. It’s a helpful way to “reset” your life to a time before you were married and can often make starting over easier. If you feel that taking your maiden name back will help you to move on, you should do so.

Will You Be Using the Name to Hold On?

Even after divorce, old feelings of attachment to your ex can linger. This is natural after so significant a relationship ends. And while you may never be completely severed from your ex (especially if you have children together), sometimes keeping your ex’s last name can make it more difficult to move on. Sharing a last name with a former spouse is a constant reminder of what you used to share. If you feel like keeping your married name will be a way for you to hold onto that past relationship, you should change it.

Legal Considerations Regarding Name Changes

While changing your last name is a deeply personal decision, there are some legal considerations we want our clients to be aware of when making this decision:

  1. Name changes can be used as leverage in divorce negotiations. Even if you don’t feel strongly about changing your last name, your ex might. This can be used as a point of negotiation during divorce proceedings.
  2. If you do plan to change your name, it’s important to include a name change order in your divorce decree. Make sure to inform us of your wishes so we can include this. Without a name change order, you’ll have to petition the court for a legal name change order later, which can be an extensive and time-consuming process.
  3. If you don’t change your last name and remarry later, make sure you write your current married name on your marriage license application—not your birth name. If you don’t, you won’t be able to use it to change to your future spouse’s last name.

We can’t tell you whether or not you should change your last name after you divorce. But we can help you to negotiate a fair and equitable divorce with your ex. Contact us today for a consultation with one of our experienced divorce attorneys.