During divorce proceedings, the couple, along with their lawyers, typically come to an agreement on the division of assets and debts, parenting time, child support, and alimony. When the case cannot be resolved, the issues are litigated before the court. However, there is one exception to the typical give and take of a negotiated settlement or argument at a trial. That exception involves an individual’s choice to either keep or change their last name as part of the divorce proceedings.
There are, of course, good reasons both for keeping your married name, and changing it when you divorce. Below we discuss some common reasons people pick one over the other.
Keeping the Family Name For the Family
Some parents choose to keep their current last name to provide consistency for the children. Children often experience significant upheaval during a divorce. Keeping the common last name may provide some children with a sense of security. It also provides reassurance that not everything in their lives is changing, even though many things are. Finally, particularly in families with young children, some people express an interest in keeping the same last name for convenience, readily identifying the family unit at school events, sporting events, and the like.
Keeping the Married Name for Professional Reasons
Depending on the nature of one’s career path, it may be a good idea to retain one’s married name for professional reasons. In fields where your name is your brand, changing your name could mean starting over professionally. At a minimum, it makes finding you more difficult for your clients.
Keeping Your Married Name Because You Like It Better
Some last names are easier to pronounce than others. Some are shorter, some are closer to the front of the alphabet, and some just roll off the tongue more easily. If you spent your childhood and your early adult life spelling out your 13 letter long last name, you may want to keep your much shorter married name. Particularly if you are not particularly attached to your maiden name, why go through the hassle of changing it back if you prefer your married name?
Keeping Your Married Name Because It Is Too Much Hassle to Change Everything Over to Your New Last Name
Changing your name is easy, particularly during a divorce proceeding. Changing all of your assets to your new name can be a hassle. If you do decide to change your name during the divorce, at a minimum, you will have to change the following documents or accounts:
- Social Security card
- Driver’s License
- Bank accounts
- Credit cards
- Other bills
- Titled assets, including the house and your car.
You may find that during the divorce you are going to have to change your house deed or your mortgage to reflect only your name anyway. Thus, the hassle may be at least somewhat reduced.
New You New Name
Many people consider the process of divorcing a new beginning. If this is how you view your divorce, you may consider a new last name. It doesn’t have to be your maiden name, either. Perhaps you’d like to take the last name of your stepfather, or your mom. Maybe you wish to make up your own last name. There is nothing preventing you from doing so. Of course, the qualifier is, you cannot change your name in a deliberate attempt to avoid debt collection or criminal prosecution. That said, if you’ve always wanted the last name “Rainwater,” or “Jones,” or “Von Dusseldorf,” now’s your chance.
New Name = Clean Break
Some people feel that by keeping their ex’s last name, they are clinging to the past. Further, some people see changing their last name as a clean break from their past relationship, allowing them to move into the future with confidence and grace. It also provides an easy way to inform family and friends of your change in marital status.
Everyone’s Decision is Their Own
While there are good arguments both for and against changing one’s name after a divorce, at the end of the day, everyone has to make their own decision about what is best for them and their family. Deciding whether to keep or change one’s name is often an emotional process. It is not uncommon for people to struggle to make the best decision for themselves, are there are valid arguments on both sides of the issue. Whatever decision you make, if it feels right, is the right decision for you.
Contemplating a Divorce?
If you are contemplating a divorce, contact the attorneys at Fait & DiLima. With over 50 years of combined family law experience, our attorneys and legal team can help guide you through the difficult decisions you face. We work hard to offer our clients compassionate, understanding legal services. Where we can resolve a divorce through negotiation, mediation, or a collaborative law approach, we do so. However, if litigation is needed, we are prepared to move forward and try your case. Call our office to schedule a consultation at (301) 888-6384. We look forward to speaking with you.