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To Change or Not to Change My Name?

When I filed my Response to my ex’s Petition for divorce, I had the choice of returning to my maiden name. Literally, there’s a checkbox on the paper asking the judge to grant the return of my maiden name. With one little check mark, I’d go from a being a Mrs, a wife, part of another family, to returning to being a Ms, a single woman, part of my original family. While this seems like both a small and personal decision, it is actually quite the opposite. It was a pretty big decision that a lot of people in my life had opinions about.

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Why was it a big decision? I love my family, and I loved my maiden name. It was a good, solid, easy last name. But I couldn’t shake the thought that there’d be all these unwanted and negative repercussions to returning to that wonderful name. First, and maybe primarily, I didn’t want people to see that my last name was different from my daughter’s and assume I was a “baby mama”. See, I grew up in a Christian family with traditional values. Accordingly, I waited until after I was married to have a child. Yet, if I returned to my maiden name, I feared no one would know that and I’d be judged. I worried I’d suffer all the stigmas and stereotypes that often come with being a baby mama. This is unfortunate but true.

Next, and almost equally weighty, returning to my maiden name would require a ton of paperwork. Sure, the judge would grant me my maiden name legally. But I’d still have to change my name with everyone - my banks, credit companies, student loans, DMV, utility companies, the list goes on and on. I had to do all of that once, and will likely have to do it again. Which leads me to my final reason…

Last, I hope to get married again. At that time, I’ll change my name to match my new husband’s name. So no need to change my name now, only to change it again later. I’ll just wait until then!

What were people’s opinions?  A surprising amount of people in my life had opinions about the matter. Some of my friends assumed I’d return to my maiden name and get rid of my married name as a way of closing that chapter. Next, some of my acquaintances figured me keeping my married name was just a sign that I wanted or planned to reunite with my ex. Then, men who were romantically interested in me, and knew my maiden name, expressed disinterest in referring to me by married name after the divorce. My family never really expressed their opinion, but I got the impression that they may have thought I was going to return to my maiden name. Finally, my ex, shockingly, didn’t have much of an opinion about it at all. I discussed it with him because it is, after all, his name. He thankfully seemed supportive of any decision I’d make, without expressing a preference.

So what did I do? I kept my married name! And I’m very happy I did. It makes me in sync with my daughter. She often justifies that me, her dad, and herself are all a family because we have the same last name. Sure, that’s not what actually makes a family. But it makes the three of us happy, and that’s what matters. The only dilemma I have is that people tend to assume I’m a “Mrs”. But I’ll tackle that in another post.

Have any of you kept your married name? Why or why not?

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