Recently an article appeared in Huffington Post exploring how women feel about changing their name when they married. According to knot.com who conducted a survey of 19,000 women who married last year, 86% of those surveyed took their husbands’ name. It got me thinking…what percentage of women keep their husband’s name after divorce and why?
“To change or not to change” usually comes under consideration at some point in a woman’s divorce process. If she hyphenated her name when she married, had a short-term marriage or did not have children, she usually opts to return to her birth name. The situation is more complex when the marriage is longer term, there are children, or a woman uses her married name professionally.
Some divorcing mothers are hesitant to change back to their birth name because they feel it will be confusing for the children to have a different last name. They are concerned that a greater alliance will exist with the father because of the shared name. If you choose not to change your name because you feel it will impact your children negatively, then what happens if you remarry? (I know, right now you are saying “Never!”, but admit this is a possibility!). Your intended is probably not going to be happy if you keep another man’s name. So, you may end up changing your name anyway! What message does that give your children about how you value and identify yourself when you will change your name for another person but not for yourself? In truth, most children do not care about the name issue. As the divorce rate continues to escalate, remarriages are not uncommon and women today (at least that 14% identified in the above cited research) keep their birth name when they marry, so children with different names than their parents are not unusual.
If your concerns are professional: That is just a problem of logistics. You can begin to use your maiden name as your middle name, and then drop your husband’s name when the divorce is final. Or you can add your maiden name at the end, using your husband’s name as a middle name, and then delete it after the divorce. Some women simply send a notice. “Joan M. Smith announces that effective January 1, 2012, she will use the name Ms. Joan Madison.” Friends will know the change is due to the divorce, colleagues will probably not ask and business associates won’t care. It won’t be as big a deal to them as it is to you.
Or consider this possibility: Some women actually use divorce as an opportunity to create an entirely different last name. Unhappy to carry their former husband’s name and yet not entirely enthusiastic about returning to their maiden name these women actually pick a new last name. They may choose the name of an admired ancestor or a hybrid of either name –possibly changing the spelling or shortening it. Some even choose a name with no significance or history simply because they like it or it has personal meaning.
The process is really not as involved as it may seem. The final divorce decree can include a clause about officially dropping your husband’s name and adding your new one. True, there is a period of running around changing your driver’s license, insurance documents, etc. However, many women confirm that changing their name creates a clean slate. For some it signifies taking back some power they feel they may have lost during the marriage. For others, a name change symbolizes the beginning of a new life chapter.
Regardless of whether you keep your current name or change it, think about what your name means to you and what it says about you. Does your name represent how you see yourself now or who you used to be?
So, to change or not to change?
What did you choose to do about your name when you married? If you are divorced, did you choose to change your name or keep it? If you remarried, did you change your name again? What were your reasons for your decision? Are you pleased with your choice or do you regret it?
Please share your story.