You have an important decision to make after the divorce: how will you identify yourself in the future?
What do you consider fundamental to your identity, the things that make you “you”? Are your relationships with the people around you? your profession? your own personality and quirks? what about your name?
Reading: Changed by divorce
These are not idle musings when you’re in the midst of a divorce. As if the hundred other decisions he’s forced to make weren’t enough, if he took his spouse’s last name (or just added it to his own), he may also have to make the decision about what he’s going to do. . to do with his name after the divorce. what will you do now with this remnant of your past life? And what will your new identity be?
With everything going on, you may be tempted to take the path of least resistance and do what works best for you at the moment. But if you’re thoughtful, you can use the one decision that’s entirely in your hands as a starting point for creating your new identity after divorce, and doing so in a way that honors your authentic emotional self while better positioning you for your next chapter. .
ask yourself these seven questions to choose your smart path
Your legal name is entangled in a web of complex problems. there are the emotional ones, inevitably tied to their feelings about the marriage itself. then there are the more practical, but important, consequences that can significantly affect your future.
Unpack the issue and gain clarity by asking yourself these seven questions to make your decision:
1) How closely related is your sense of identity to your last name?
Is your married name the way you are known, recognized and respected in the community? Does your married name represent the valuable professional reputation you have worked hard to earn? How long have you had your married name? the longer you have been married, the more your core identities tend to be wrapped up in your married name. Consider the ties, recognition, and even professional reputation you may be giving up along with your married name. Is it worth the change for you?
While you’re at it, don’t forget to think about your emotional reaction to adopting a name you may have identified with as a young adult. would you feel comfortable if they gave you the same nickname you had then? after all, you can be and think of yourself as a very different (and better) person now than you were then.
2) how do you feel about your marriage?
Does thinking about your marriage and subsequent divorce evoke mostly good and neutral memories, or unhappy and painful ones? if mentioning your married name triggers negative feelings, it may be worth starting over with a new name to gain new and positive feelings about yourself and your future life.
3) how do you feel about having a different last name than your children?
If you have children, does it cause you a pang to lose this connection with them at a time when you may feel like you’re already losing so much? Will you feel more connected and more easily able to transition if you can keep at least this one thing unchanged? then consider keeping your married name.
4) How important is your name to your professional reputation and future livelihood?
There are several things to consider when deciding what your name will be after divorce.
Have you worked hard for years, maybe decades, to earn the professional reputation that will help you build your financial future? If you’re an author or industry insider, for example, your future income may depend on how easily your audience can find you through means like google goog searches.
If you risk losing recognition and future income by changing your last name, consider keeping it to preserve your income prospects and financial security.
5) Do you have the bandwidth to go through the paperwork and hassle of doing the name change?
As with all legal matters, changing your name involves a lot of red tape and paperwork that will inevitably take longer and need more attention than you think. happily though, there are plenty of services that can take the hassle out and do it for you for a small charge. if you have the bandwidth or don’t mind paying a small fee to take care of the paperwork, a new name may well be worth the price.
6) Is remarriage on the horizon?
Are you open to reconsidering marriage in the future? if so, what would you like to do with your name then, whether or not you change your name now? think about this now. By doing so, whether or not you change your name now, you’ll have a clearer picture of the ramifications if you decide to marry the right person in the future.
7) Is your spouse making your name after divorce a bargaining chip?
It may be surprising to hear that in order to change your name, the option must be included in your divorce decree. don’t make the mistake of signing a document without it or you’ll be forced to get an amendment, which means more legal fees and court action. a court will not and cannot force you to change his name against his will. however, your divorcing spouse may feel important enough to include you in the divorce negotiation. they may do this for emotional or other reasons. Whatever the case, think carefully about whether he is willing to give up valuable trading chips before deciding on his position. The answers he gave to the six questions above should help you make a more informed decision either way.
how to make the change of identity a reality
okay, you’ve thought about your options and decided to start your next chapter with a new name. what are you doing now?
There are two main sets of actions you need to take:
- make the legal change recognized by the courts, and
- update your name in all the places that matter
make the change recognized by the court
Laws for changing your name vary by state. In most states, you can start with a court document that is usually your final decree of divorce or your initial petition for dissolution of marriage. Be sure to include language to specifically request a name change to your birth name on your documents.
Your state may require you to file a post-divorce petition, similar to anyone else who wants a name change (for reasons other than divorce). California, for example, will allow a name change both before and after the divorce is finalized by submitting applications through its website. In many states, like Illinois, for example, you can ask the judge for a formal order to start using your maiden name before the divorce is finalized. if additional costs are an issue, it may be worth waiting until the divorce is finalized. get the correct details for your state.
updating your new name where it matters
It is not enough for the courts to recognize your name change; it is vitally important to reflect that change in the areas that have a major impact on your future. To help you prioritize, we’ve categorized them into tiers, so you’ll be sure to take care of the most important ones first:
Tier 1 Items: Critical Legal Status Items
start with the most important elements first. there should be clear instructions online regarding what… [+] documentation you will need at each federal or state agency.
- social security card
- driver’s license/state ID
- bank and financial accounts
- wills/trusts/estate planning documents
- insurance policies
- state taxing authority (irs will be notified through ssa)
- vehicle registration and title
- credit cards
- debts (such as student loans)
- payroll/work/school benefits, including company retirement plans
- service invoices
- voter registration
- loyalty programs or points
- nursery school
Tier 2 Items: Economically Impactful Items
level 3 elements: other changes needed
make it easier for yourself
start with your social security card and your driver’s license. take the original court document with the corresponding seals or notaries to the social security administration office or to the dmv.
a word to the wise: search your state’s dmv site to make sure you have all the documents you need before making the trip to your local driver’s license office. these are notorious for their long waits and demanding requirements, so spending a few minutes up front can save you a lot of trouble down the line.
If you want to make this even easier, consider a service that does all the work for you. newnamed is one of those services that takes a lot of work off your hands. On this site, you’ll complete an online questionnaire to receive a paper or electronic name change kit that will streamline the entire process and take care of it for you, for a small fee.
Now let’s get back to you. Which path will best serve your future goals and aspirations?
What will you call your future?