It may come as a surprise to you that changing a last name is not only a female consideration these days. I just read a surprising article about Kevin Spacey who changed his last name to put the past farther behind him and disassociate from his father.
Women have to make this difficult decision when they get married and when they get divorced. Too often, it goes without thought and we fall into the tradition of taking our spouse’s name. The first time I got married, I was ecstatic to have an unusual name (my maiden name was Smith).
Our names entwine with our identity, so before you leap without looking, here are a few things to consider.
1. What is your attachment to your current name?
Are you a professional? Famous? Do you have children with that name? Is it a traditional name?
When we consider changing our name for marriage, we never want to consider that the marriage may not work out. We take a leap of faith. Some women keep their maiden name because they have already made a mark on this world with that name.
Keeping the marriage name to appear related to your children or to other people is not worth it if the marriage went sour. Your kids will still be your kids. Today, it is common for a parent to have a different last name than the kids. When I travel to other countries with my kids, I have no problems. Customs officers have never questioned if my kids are in fact mine.
Other than tradition, there is no reason for women to change names these days, as the surname passes down only through the male generations. Although, I once knew a man to take his wife’s last name to keep her family name going as she was the last one in the family tree.
2. What are all your options?
You can make up your new name, or go back to your maiden name. You could keep his last name but re-add your maiden name with a hyphen. Some women keep their married name after divorce to feel more united with their children.
I knew a couple where the woman had her maiden name, and I asked her why she didn’t take his last name. Let’s call him Mr. Johnson. She said his ex-wife is still Mrs. Johnson, and she didn’t want it on principal. That was sticky. I will never ask that question again.
After my divorce, I considered my kids before I made my decision to change my name. Only I did not go with my maiden name. Instead, I decided to honor my step-dad and take his name as my new forever name. It was a decision that I knew could come under scrutiny if I were to ever re-marry.
I decided that the “right man” would be an understanding one.
3. You can always change it later.
The easiest time to change your name is when you do it with your dissolution or divorce paperwork. Then it becomes a small part of a bigger chore. Sometimes, the complexity of undoing a marriage is enough and we are not in the right mindset to make a committed decision on a name.
If you choose to change your name at a different time than your divorce court date, there will be court fees to pay.
Our own name is such a personal thing. We get a charge when we hear someone calling our name at an event, a ballgame, a podium to collect an award. Make sure you choose one that you want your identity connected to.
Shakespeare wrote: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Does it? Try substituting rose with foot. Sometimes careful consideration is optimal.