By Lenore Skomal for Divorce360.com
You couldn’t wait to be married so you eagerly gave up your last name to become Mrs. so-and-so. Now, you’re splitting. While changing your last name may have seemed like a no-brainer when you said “I do,” it becomes a major decision if you divorce. Do you keep his name? Go back to your maiden name? Pick something completely different?
“Many divorced women don’t want to be left with a last name that they did not grow up with. Many are reverting back to their maiden names, but more and more are choosing new last names,” says Kelly Utt-Grubb, a family-naming expert. “Some women don’t like their maiden names, so they pick a maternal grandmother’s last name or the name of another relative to whom they were very close. And some are even picking combinations of names. The new name is really a reflection of frame of mind and starting fresh.”
While that may be understandable, maybe even exciting, for you, what do you do about your kids? Do you change their name as well? It’s not as strange as it sounds. Some women change their children’s last names after divorce, some hyphenate their children’s last name, especially if the woman takes back her maiden name, and some actually change their children’s name to their maiden name.
As you can imagine, it can be a recipe for disaster. “When emergencies arise and Mom's or Dad's last name is different than the kids', it can cause unnecessary confusion and critical delays. Medical files alphabetized under the wrong last name or school personnel reluctant to release a child to a parent with a different surname are a few of the potential difficulties,” Utt-Grubb says.
Perhaps you are thinking of changing your last name. Maybe you want to go back to your maiden name after your divorce. Maybe you would like to hyphenate the kids' names so they can have yours too. Or maybe you just want to chuck it all and take on a whole new name. No matter what name you pick, if it is different than your old moniker, here are some suggestions to help minimize the glitches after you make the change:
Plan, plan, plan: Inform everyone of the name change -- schools, sports organizations, associations, doctors, health care providers, postal service, insurance companies, family members and even business associates if applicable. “You want to make sure you cover all the bases,” she says. “It helps to provide it in writing for some of these services, especially the children’s schools, where you might even need supporting documentation.”
Talk to extended family and friends: Involving your loved ones helps with support and minimize the surprises. “Sit down with those who might be involved with you and your children and clearly explain your choices,” she says. “This will help earn respect for eventual decision and prevent those who might influence the children from making careless mistakes.”
Be ready for opinionated staff: Even though the world may seem like a changed place, traditional values are still deeply entrenched. “Some may not understand a non-traditional choice and have a lot of opinion on it,” she says. “It’s important you know that going in so it doesn’t irritate you.”
Follow up: A few weeks after you make the name change, call or visit the various offices to make sure that the names have been changed and changed correctly. It makes life easier for everyone, she says.
Speak up immediately: If someone addresses you incorrectly, don’t let it pass, Utt-Grubb says. “Correct them immediately. Too often we let our own insecurities keep us silent and that will of course create confusion.”
Most important is that you choose carefully when making name changes or not. Then, embrace your choice.
“Project confidence in your choice because it is your identity. Ultimately, what you are doing is help change society’s collective mind while developing pride in your own name and grace under pressure,” she says.
What did you do after your divorce?