From ‘Overwhelmed’ to ‘Over It’
How to decide whether to name change after divorce
Shakespeare’s greatest romantic heroine hit the nail firmly on the head when Juliet asked her star-crossed lover, Romeo: “What’s in a name?”
When the time comes that you’re not so much star-crossed as just plain cross and not so much lovers as two people who can’t stand the sight of each other, the burden of whether to carry your married name can feel heavy.
While many brides trip happily down the aisle on their big day, surrounded by friends and family who celebrate the creation of a brand new Mrs X, the decision of what to call yourself after a divorce often feels like a decision to be made more privately.
Divorce can be a particularly lonely time, and many women find themselves struggling to make a heartfelt and emotional decision about their surname.
If you find yourself trying to think about your own decision, hopefully our tips will help you weigh up the options:
1. Always Move Forward
The end of a marriage can feel very much like the end of an era. Yet as one chapter finishes, the next one is just beginning and, once the emotion of the ending subsides, the thing most women crave is a feeling that they are moving forward.
Thinking about whether to keep or change your name at this point in your story often boils down to which name feels most like positive progression but it’s important to recognise that this may not be the same for every woman.
An obvious conclusion is that shedding the name you shared with your ex-husband and reverting to your own birth name is the best way to move forward, but for some women, reclaiming their maiden name can actually feel like going backwards.
Especially for those that married young, going back to their maiden name feels like reverting to a younger, less mature version of themselves. A seemingly minor distinction between Miss and Ms can often represent a bridge from your younger self to the woman you are today.
If you’ve been married for a long time, you may have taken ownership of your married name and you don’t want to relinquish your identity. For some, the social standing of remaining a Mrs can offer a sense of security to outside perceptions. It could be that you’ve built a professional reputation with your married name and you want the consistency as you move forward.
Some women want to shed all connection with their ex-husband as quickly as possible and, for them, the name and title of Mrs does not reflect who they are anymore. Revert their birth name is an act of independence and reclamation their former identity where they feel grounded to their own roots and heritage
Whatever decision you want to make, it’s important to understand that different options feel like forward momentum for different women. Choose the option that makes you feel like you’re making progress towards reclaiming the life you want to lead.
2. Take Your Time
Going through a divorce is never painless. The range of emotions you’ll go through over the period of splitting up with a partner can feel like a rollercoaster from relief, freedom, guilt, failure, shame, elation, fear, uncertainty – the list is endless, but the one emotion that often overarches the rest is a feeling of being completely overwhelmed.
It’s a confusing, difficult time and one where you will be forced to make some big decisions regarding your relationship, your children and even your home. The one thing you don’t need to decide right away is what to do with your name. There is no legal timeframe to keeping or changing your name.
The issue of children is one of the biggest considerations in the name-changing conundrum – having a different surname to your children can be a difficult one to get your head around – and possibly for your offspring too. Change is a funny one for people big or small. Many can adapt easily, some children may not even notice. Some women opt to double-barrel - keeping their married name to ‘match’ with their children and adding their maiden name or even new married name to mark the distinction of their newer self. Have a ponder and when you’re ready, perhaps follow a few discussion forums (mumsnet has a few threads) or talk through your options and considerations with someone you trust to really know you and have your best interests at heart.
Deciding what to be called is a big decision and there’s no harm in giving yourself time and space to work through the range of emotions and make your choice with the benefit of a clear head.
You are in charge of your destiny. If you want to change – then do it at a pace that makes sense to you.
3. Make the Decision for YOU
The name you keep, shed or reclaim is yours and yours alone so make the decision that feels right for you – and for the right reasons.
There are likely to be a number of considerations that will swirl in your mind – the children, the paperwork, potential future relationships and timing to name but a few.
While you obviously need to consider your children in the decision, ultimately the right choice for you will be the right one for them in the long run. If you stick with a name you feel negatively towards because you want to have the same name as your kids, but wince when you hear it said out loud or feel like you’ve been punched in the stomach every time a piece of post arrives addressed to a name you no longer want to bear, your children will soon pick up on your negativity and it may even colour their own perception of their name.
4. Be Kind to Yourself
Divorcing can create some difficult obstacles for you to overcome, from adjusting to parenting solo, to moving house and creating a new life, so it stands to reason that you should make life as simple as possible for yourself wherever you can.
Should you make the decision to change your name, the paperwork involved in notifying the relevant organisations can be enough to put you off altogether so this is the ideal time to cut yourself a little slack and use the NameSwitch service to make the process as painless as possible.
At NameSwitch, we recognise that you want to invest your time an energy in the positive, which is why we’ve done the leg work for you – we’ve researched hundreds of company policies, processes and forms which we’ve aggregated into a neat, simple and secure online service. You simply choose who you want to notify of your name change, fill in one form and out pops all your pre-populated letters, forms and instructions ready for you to download, sign and send off - as and when you are ready to.