Traditionally, women used to take their husbands’ last names when they got married and children born from these unions, got the father’s last name.
In certain parts of the world it has been customary for generations to use both parents’ last names in hyphenated form for children.
Another growing trend is for women to keep their birth names, especially when they are established professionals or business people. Lately, there have been instances where men even took their wives’ last names for various sensible reasons. In any event, name-changing for the sake of marriage seems to be a rather common occurrence and because our chances of divorce are so high these days, multiple name-changes are in the cards for many.
1. Too much
With divorce comes many traumatic changes apart from the loss of the marriage and family dynamics, such as moving house, scaling down to a lower standard of living, re-entering the work force etc. You might not be ready to lose your identity on top of all that, just yet.
However, you might want to get it all over and done with as quickly as possible, so that you can move on and build a new life.
Changing your name will turn a private event which you could choose to share at your own discretion, into public knowledge as colleagues, clients and acquaintances will notice and conclude that you are divorced.
Although you might feel the need to control who knows what and how much, people talk and everybody is bound to find out at some stage anyway, so perhaps you might as well go ahead and change your name.
It makes perfect sense for you to keep your married name if you want continuity and avoid confusing your children, although basic concepts like these are fairly easy to explain on an age appropriate level to most children.
If you find yourself wishing that your ex would change back to her birth name, consider for a moment, how you would feel if your children’s names were also changed and they no longer had the same last name as you?
Women form a substantial part of the workforce and many build their careers and reputations on their names. It would be detrimental for you to suddenly change your last name and literally disappear from your industry because you have become a stranger.
On the other hand, some women might be returning to work after years of absence because of raising a family. In that case, it would be wise to have the same last name that you had when you were still working.
The longer you were married, the more accustomed you would have become to being called by a certain name and the stronger you would have developed your identity around that. It would be very unpleasant to lose that suddenly.
You can actually call yourself whatever you wish. Decide whether the name means anything to you? Whether you keep it, rid yourself of it or reclaim a previous name, is entirely up to you.
What are your reasons for wanting to change names? If your need for a different name from your ex is fueled by anger and resentment, rather take some time to come to terms with those emotions. You might find that your last name holds a lot less significance when your wounds have healed.
If you think changing your last name and pretending to be someone else would be a brilliant way to avoid paying debt or bankruptcy, think again because you’ll be guilty of fraudulent intent.
Spending hours filling in paperwork and queuing to get your new identification documents, might not be worth the effort, just to get rid of your last name. Especially if the numerous phone calls, e-mails and online updating of your personal details prove to be time-consuming and frustrating.
However, getting a new photograph taken and the chance to update your profile everywhere, might be an exciting ritual for new beginnings.
The lengthy list of important updates to be done include your identity document, passport, driver’s licence, voter registration, ownership of all moveable and immoveable property, banks, health services, schools, employers, insurance, tv licensing, utility accounts, loyalty cards, memberships, subscriptions, tax authorities, all internet login details, friends, family and colleagues – everyone you know.
If you grew up with a last name that evoked ridicule or a spelling challenge which took you years to overcome and a pronunciation that still requires pulling funny faces to demonstrate to every new person you meet, you might not be keen to revert back to it after divorce.
Some difficulties might also arise with hyphenated or double-barrel names, when it comes to online registrations which do not allow special characters or symbols and filing systems which cannot accommodate two last names.
Bonus points to the weird and wonderful among us who persevere and just love standing out from the crowd, though.
Having made travel arrangements prior to your separation, might pose several problems, as names cannot always be changed on flight bookings and refunds are not necessarily paid out for cancellations. Ensure that the name on the flight booking corresponds with the name on your passport.
Come to think of it, making reservations for accommodation in one or the other could either cause havoc or priceless amusement.
Changing your last name on bonds, hire-purchases and leases, might very well impact your credit ratings and interest rates, because a divorced person is apparently regarded as a higher actuarial risk than a married person.
The benefit of such changes would still be new-found independence and privacy.
11. Social Networks
Not all social networks allow you to change your last name without having to re-create your profile and re-invite all your connections, but it could be an easy way to untie the knot with in-laws and unfriend those who took sides and broke your heart.
Although you might forfeit your no-claim insurance bonus if you change your name with some companies, your premium would at least be a lot less if you only insured your half of the divided stuff that is actually registered in your name.
At the end of the day, traditionalist or not, you can change your name to your heart’s desire, as long as it does not contain numbers, symbols, trademarks or obscenities.