Divorcing your spouse may mean a name change. What’s in a name? It probably depends on who you’re talking to and their experiences with that name.
Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, is about star-crossed lovers, not a divorcing couple. But names in this story are important. Let me refresh your memory a little. The Montagues and Capulets are warring families in Verona. Romeo is a Montague and Juliet is a Capulet. They’re not supposed to fall in love, but they do. If you haven’t read it then I won’t spoil the ending for you – it’s a cracker. In the story, Juliet basically tells Romeo that a name doesn’t really mean anything, it’s the person who matters.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Our names may not change us, but they are identifiers. We can love them, hate them, be indifferent to them or just put up with them. There are some which are easy to like (Row, Zhu, Washington) and others which are a bit harder to love (Crapper, Zdzinski, Pufpaff). But what happens with your name when you divorce? Now, this is assuming that you went from your ‘maiden’ name to the name of your husband when you married which is not everyone’s choice. But if they are now your ex-husband, do you keep their name or not?
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There are already so many changes that a divorce brings. It may be that you now have a changed home, child custody arrangements to negotiate, financial changes and possible work changes. Every couple is different and every divorce looks different so there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to changing your name. Some people are happy to keep it and some can’t wait to ‘move on’. About half of divorced women choose to change their name. You don’t have to go back to your maiden name – there are a few different options that you have. In Queensland, none of them is particularly onerous.
Name Change: What are the choices?
Staying with your married name is one choice. Michelle Faulkner decided to keep her married name when she divorced her husband. She kept her name for professional reasons and for the sake of her children. Many women with clientele as part of their business choose to keep their married name because it’s the name that people are familiar with for referrals. When children are young, some mothers choose to keep their married name for their benefit: they have the same name as Mummy; there is less change for them to adjust to.
Some women just like their married name better. Adriana Saurini (nee’ Dudasova) did not change her married name back to her birth name to make things easier on her daughter, and for logistical reasons. Plus, “I have no emotional attachment to my maiden name. It is my father’s name who left us when I was just 8 years old,” she explains. And, ”My maiden name is extremely hard to pronounce as I am an immigrant from Slovakia. My married name is so much simpler and it sounds great with my first name.”
One woman had her ex request that she change her name. She refused. Jessica Travaga said, “After 13 years, I was no longer Jessie Beery, I was Jessica Travaga: the warrior, the giver, the woman that endured hardships and never gave up. I realized that my full name didn’t belong to him, it belonged to me.”
It is your name. If you choose to remain with that name after your divorce then you don’t need to do anything.
Going back to your maiden name is very common. In Australia, if you’re wanting to go back to your maiden name after your divorce then all you need is the Marriage Certificate you were issued with by your state or territory’s Registry of Births. Deaths and Marriages. You don’t need to go through any kind of application process because your Marriage Certificate is usually adequate evidence to show the connection between your maiden name and married name. Sometimes different organisations may also require your divorce certificate, but these two documents are all you need to change your name with government departments and on identification documents. Even before you are divorced, you can legally start using your maiden name whenever you like – this is called name by association.
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Rosemary Frank, MBA, a financial adviser and divorce financial analyst says. “Divorce is a process of making oneself whole again. Recovery of one’s birth name is part of that restoration to their prior individuality.” It may be that you have very good association with your birth name and changing back to it is about moving on, not moving back.
It’s good to think about why you might change your name back. One woman became obsessed with changing her name back, thinking that it would take her far away from a man she now hates. But her children have that name. There are more helpful ways to deal with your bitterness and anger. Changing your name needs to be for your benefit – for you to embrace – not for running away from something. Changing your name won’t deal with your negative emotions.
Just be careful – there are guidelines for name changes and it might be wise to include some close friends for feedback as you decide on a new name.
Changing your childrens’ names is not as simple. To legally change your child’s surname you do need the consent of both parents on the Child’s Birth Certificate or an Order of the Court making Orders for a name change.
Divorce is already hard – thinking about a name change might be the last thing you want to do. There is no right or wrong choice in this regard – it is only what you prefer that matters.
To speak to an experienced family law expert then please contact us today. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation.