Things to Consider About Changing Your Name After Divorce

Before deciding if you should change your name back (or completely rename yourself!) after your divorce, read these pros and cons of changing your name.

Like everything in life, changing your name after your divorce has both upsides and downsides…“It is a sad truth, but we have lost the faculty of giving lovely names to things. Names are everything.” ~ Oscar Wilde.

What have you always wished your name was? What is your name — is it different than the one you’ve been given, or the one you took when you married? This could be your chance to start fresh and give yourself a name that represents your new life…

If you’re new to the divorce-getting process, you may find Nolo’s Essential Guide to Divorce helpful — it can save you thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Nobody gives it a second thought when a woman changes her name after getting married,  but what happens when he’s no longer your husband?  More and more women are deciding not to keep their ex-husband’s last name after the divorce.  It’s not as unusual, or as difficult, to change your name as you might think.

Should You Change Your Name After a Divorce?

Here’s a look at both sides of the question…

A name change offers a clean break after your divorce

Whether you go back to using your maiden name or change your name entirely, changing your name after a divorce is a great way to make a clean break with your ex-husband. Just as taking his name when you married was a sign that the two of you are one, changing your name symbolizes your independence and the fact that you no longer wish to be affiliated financially, legally, or emotionally with your ex.  Once the marriage is truly over, there is something cathartic and self-empowering about giving yourself the gift of a new name. It can be a way to move on after your divorce.

Should you go back to your maiden name?

Ask yourself honestly if you really want to revert to your maiden name.  Many women do, and that’s perfectly fine.  However, more women are realizing that they don’t just want to set the reset button on their social life.  They discover that they’ve reached a point in their life where they want to make a more profound change — and choose a whole new name after their divorce.

Or perhaps change your name to reflect who you are…

Whether you consider it aging gracefully or finally coming into your own, successfully emerging on the other side of a divorce can be a wonderful time to celebrate the woman you’ve become.  Perhaps you’ll start traveling, or take art classes, or learn to salsa dance.  Chances are you’ll find that you’re not the person you once were – you changed your life.  Just as the new you may benefit from a makeover with new clothes, makeup, and a more flattering hairstyle, changing your name can be an emotional makeover.  Your parents didn’t know what type of woman you’d become when they named you at birth.  Who better than you to give you a name that fits the woman you’ve become?

The downside of changing your name after a divorce

Let’s face it: changing your name after your divorce isn’t all moonlight and roses! Here are a few reasons a name change may not be a good idea…

If you’re a professional, it can cause confusion

A name change can be confusing, particularly if you’re a doctor or a lawyer with patients or clients who’re used to addressing you by your married name. It can also cause problems if you’re a professional actor or speaker, or if you have a large professional network. If your name is your brand, changing it may not be a good idea.

Also, if you have young children you may find it easier to retain your ex-husband’s name so that you and your children have the same last name.  However, with the growing number of blended families, this is becoming less of an issue than it once was.

Changing your name can cause fear-based reactions

There are other reasons women give for not changing their name after a divorce, but unless they really love their ex-husband’s last name, most of those reasons involve some element of fear:

  • Are you afraid of offending your parents? Were they offended when you got married and changed your last name from theirs to your ex-husband’s? If so, they’ve already had some practice.  If not, why would they be more offended if you did this for yourself now?
  • Are you afraid it would be too complicated or too costly?  However, you may be surprised to find that it’s not much more difficult or costly than changing your name when you got married.
  • Are you afraid that it’s not fair to the children?  Fine.  If they like Daddy’s name, they can keep it.  That doesn’t mean that you have to.
  • Are you afraid of change?  If you started over after a break up, you’ve already experienced a lot of change.  You can handle it if you decide it’s something you want to do.

How to Change Your Name After Your Divorce

Request it in your divorce decree

If your divorce isn’t final yet, there’s a good chance that you can include the request for a name change in your divorce decree.  If you’ve been divorced for a while, it’s not too late.  Be wary of contacting a lawyer to help you change your name.  They’re likely to charge you a lot of money to do something that you may very well be able to do yourself.  Contact the circuit court in the city or county where you live.  Someone in the clerk’s office can tell you what form(s) you need to fill out to have your name changed legally.

Make copies of your legal name change documents

Once the name change has been finalized and recorded with the court, make lots of copies of the legal name change order.  From this point, it really is as simple as it was when you changed your name when you got married.  You’ll want to start using your new name consistently and contact every person or organization that you do business with to notify them of the change.  Some will require a copy of the name change order for their records.  Others will not.

Make a list of who to contact with your name change

Contact your bank and other financial institutions, employer creditors, Department of Motor Vehicles, Social Security Administration (to request a new card – you shouldn’t have to change your Social Security number), doctor’s offices, insurance providers, Passport office (you’ll need a new passport), Voters Registration Office, IRS and state tax department (this can be done when you file your taxes), utility companies, public library, landlord or mortgage holder, and of course, family and friends.  Don’t forget to update your will and any other legal documents.  And, of course, be sure to let your family and friends know that you’re changing back to your maiden name.

Don’t be surprised if you get strange looks from some family and friends.  They’ll get used to the change eventually.  Or not.  It’s your name – you deserve to choose one you love.

Are you ready to move on? Read Dating After Divorce – 3 Things You Need to Know.

If you have any thoughts about changing your name after your divorce, please comment below.

Written by Sydney Tyler Thomas, a writer and small business owner living in Virginia. She is author of The Joy of Soulful Knitting: Reflections on the Art of the Craft. You can also visit Sydney at her blog, New Calling.


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8 thoughts on “Things to Consider About Changing Your Name After Divorce”

  1. Hello.

    I have still got my ex husband’s surname. If I remarried, can I use my maiden name as double barrelled with a new husband’s name?
    Or do I have to revert back to maiden name first?

    Thank you


  2. Hi

    If I’m changing my children’s surnames will they still benefit of the fathers inherited house


    Thank you.

  3. Hi Mary,

    You would have to legally change your name, then take the proof of your name change to the mortgage company, bank, car insurance, etc. I’d call each institution and find out what they need from you, to ensure that you don’t change your name and lose your house!

    That’s a great question – thank you.


  4. Mary Stafford-Thomas

    What if the mortgage and vehicles are still in both of our names after we divorce. How would a name change effect that?

  5. Hello Diane,

    Yes, I believe you will get your ex’s benefits even if you change your name back to your maiden name.

    Here’s more information:

    Will I Get My Ex-Husband’s Social Security Benefits After We Divorce?

    I hope it helps!


  6. i would like to know even though i was married for 21 years and i want to know if i will still get my ex-husband’s social security if i change my name back to my maiden name thank you.

  7. What a great story, Laurie. Thanks for sharing. Good for your friend… and her husband! :)

    My mom got used to my name change right away. It’s been 5 years and my dad doesn’t even try to remember my new name anymore.

  8. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    One of my friends changed her name without getting divorced first! She was married, and just felt like her name wasn’t representative of who she was. So, she consulted a “name change expert”, something to do with reading your name and personality, and he suggested a name that better suited who she was. And she did it! She changed her name.

    It was hard to get used to at first, but after about six months, it was fine. I asked how her husband adjusted, and she said he just calls her “my darling sweetie” now because he can’t remember he new name. :-)