Six things to ponder before a name change after divorce.
Making a name change after divorce is a personal decision that no one else can make for you. I’ve heard many women struggling with the pros and cons who have been given opinions from many (including the ex-husband), so I wanted to share some things to think about that may help you with your decision, as well as share my thought and my decision on my name.
1) Consider what your married name means for your identity, both positive and negative. If you have built your career using your married name and feel this name has value to you currently and in the future, that may be a checkmark in the “keep” column. If your name holds no value in your job, your community etc., you may add that to the “change” column.
2) Remember what your maiden name meant for you. Did you lose a little part of your identity when you changed your name, and think you may gain something back? If so, that’s a check in the “change” column. Were you delighted to change your name and cut ties with your past like Melanie (Smooter) Carmichael in Sweet Home Alabama? If so, that’s a checkmark in the “Keep” column.
3) Prioritize important decisions. If the idea of changing your name right now is completely overwhelming to you, put no checkmarks in any columns and put this decision on the back burner. It’s a lot of work to change your name (remember all the paperwork you had to do when you got married?!) so if it’s not a huge rush, just decide that you will decide later. (Please note that your state may allow name changes only if agreed upon in your divorce decree so consult with the attorney/mediator you are working with.
4) Evaluate the emotional impact on keeping this tie to your ex. If sharing the last name with your ex-spouse makes your cringe, it may be time to change it. If you’re filled with a sense of comfort from the consistency of how you’ve been known, let it be.
5) Think about what your name means to others, namely your children. My kids were very young when I got a divorce (2, 4 and 7) and for them I felt us all having the same name was incredibly important, and therefore I kept my married name. Your kids may be older, or may just not care at all, and you may decide to change your name. This is perfectly understandable and you can share your thoughts on why you are making a change with them. (Just leave out the part about feeling cringey about their last name!)
6) Do not let the opinions of others influence yours. A lot of people asked me if I was changing my name. I did not ask a single person if they thought I should. It’s no one else’s business what you decide to do, except yours and your children. Your name and your identity are yours to own, so decide what feels right, and go with that.
Want to learn more about managing divorce stress? Check out this article about Putting on a Brave Face. And in the meantime, sit and think about what a name change after divorce might mean to you and how you want to move forward, either way.