There are many essential decisions that couples need to make while navigating their divorce. When a spouse takes the last name of their partner when they get married, they are given the option to restore their maiden name at the time of divorce. This week we explore some of the considerations that might go into making this decision, who gets to make the decision, and the timing options available.
Name Change When there are Children. One of the biggest considerations for a spouse when exploring whether or not to change their name when they are getting divorced is whether or not they have children who might have the same married name. A large majority of parents who have children decide to retain their married name so it remains the same as their children. This is certainly not required, but it just seems to make the identification of the family connection more clear.
Professional Identity. Spouses that have been married for longer periods of time have built identities with their married names. They may be known in their profession by their married name, and their married name may be reflected in the title of their business, in promotional materials related to their business, or in licenses, contracts, etc. Many spouses elect to keep their married name because changing it might impact ongoing recognition in the community.
The Name Change Hassle. Many spouses will decide to keep their married name because they don’t want to deal with the hassle of formally making the change. There is already a lot to deal with in their divorce so why add something else to the to-do list? Once the name change has been made in the divorce decree, there are various entities that need to be notified and provided documentation to accomplish the change. Here is a list of some of the places where you might need to update your name information:
- Social Security
- Department of Motor Vehicles- license, title, registration
- Property Title
- Retirement accounts
- Investment accounts
- Voter registration
- Life insurance
- Health insurance
- Car insurance
- Estate planning
- Club memberships
Simply sending a copy of the file stamped cover of the Judgment reflecting the name change may be sufficient. You may need to obtain a certified copy of the Judgment to change it with such entities as the DMV, Social Security or the Department of State for your passport. Some spouses may quickly decide this is more than they want to have to deal with so might keep the married name for simplicity’s sake.
Memorialize Change. Moving to the other side of the ledger, many spouses want to memorialize the change and restoring their maiden name lets the world know that the change has happened. The chapter of their life with their former spouse is over and their name reflects this change. Sharing the name of your spouse while in a relationship with them may feel right, but now that the relationship is over there is no longer a connection with the name so restoring your previous name makes sense.
Affinity/Lack of Affinity to Name. Some spouses simply like their married name more than their prior name so elect to maintain it simply because they like it better. Some are the opposite and can’t wait to drop it and restore their prior name.
Combination of Considerations, Timing and Who Gets to Make the Decision. A spouse may consider any or all of these factors as they make their decision to change their name. Sometimes they feel very strongly one way or the other, and sometimes it is a very difficult decision to make. The good news is that you can take as much time as you like in making the decision. If you have not decided to change your name by the entry of your final divorce decree when the name change typically takes place, you can file a form after the fact which restores your maiden name for a nominal fee. Finally, the decision is placed in the hands of the spouse who will change or not change their name. A spouse has no say in the matter unless the other spouse seeks their input.
Just when you thought you had it all sorted out. Now we throw one more wrinkle into the process. What will your name be as you move to the next chapter of your life? There is lots to think about when sorting that one out.