If you changed your name when you got married then ending your marriage means thinking again about your name. You may ask yourself, “Should I keep my married name my divorce?”
For me, the answer to that question was an easy. Deciding to go back to my maiden name was a no-brainer. It was also a no-brainer for Mary Wright. However she decided to keep her married name. Here’s Mary
My married name is Wright and when my husband and I split up he actually told me I was not allowed to keep his name, that I had to take my maiden name back.
We’d been married 23 years so I’ve been Wright for 23 years. That’s how I’ve been known for my entire professional career. All my clients know me as Mary Wright and I have two children. I don’t want to have a different name than my children. We’re still a family but I want to share our last name and not have that be confusing for them.
My ex felt that if I was divorcing him, I was divorcing his entire legacy and his last name was part of his legacy. But I was part of his family. His mother and father are both deceased now but I was very close to them. They were my family too.
I was Leake before I was married. I wasn’t going to be Leake-Wright – that wasn’t going to work for me. It wasn’t that I don’t like “Leake” because that’s what I grew up with and I knew what it felt like. But it’s been a long time since I’ve been Mary Leake.
I was actually a different person then. I was 19 when I met him. I was a child. I’m now a professional woman, I’m 50, I’ve had two children, I’ve been active in the community, I’ve taught at the university for 16 years under the name of Wright. My whole adult identity has essentially been developed as Mary Wright and I am a very different person at 50 than I was 19. I identify myself as Mary Wright. That’s me. It’s not his wife or his identity. It’s my identity.
The Divorce Coach Says
I chatted with my divorce attorney, Judy LaBuda, about name changes. In her experience, the women who didn’t change names after a divorce were women like Mary, with long term marriages or who had children and didn’t want their children to have a different last name. Judy said hyphenating their name was a popular solution.
Perhaps naively, it hadn’t occurred to me that a man might demand that his wife change her name. I asked Judy if the law provides for this. “It happens fairly frequently in dissolutions where they’re adversarial particularly where the husband has been the person who has controlled the marriage,” Judy said. “Often times that’s the reason for the dissolution and the husband will be very adamant that you must change your name. But the husband gets no choice. It is completely at the wife’s discretion as to whether she wants to keep or change her name. She has sole discretion to decide that.”
There is no one-size fits all answer to this question. it is very much a question of personal preference but it’s not one to be rushed or made at the last minute. The legal process for changing your name as part of your divorce is easy – the process for changing your name later is much more involved. It’s important to think through the possible consequences of changing your name. While working through the logistics, getting all the companies with whom you have accounts is painfully tedious but that shouldn’t be the reason not to change your name.