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Should You Keep Your Ex's Last Name After Divorce?

3 Reasons to Keep Your Ex’s Last Name (and 3 Reasons to Lose It)

When my first marriage ended in divorce it didn't even occur to me to put the right to take back my maiden name in the divorce decree. I had hyphenated anyway and I had two children who share that hyphenated last name. As time went by though, having my ex's last name bothered me more and more, and when I eventually remarried I was thrilled to drop the hyphenate and take my new husband's last name.

When you have kids it's not as easy as it may seem to change back to your maiden name. Some readers say you should keep your ex's last name while others feel you should lose it as soon as you can. To help you make the decision for yourself, here are three reasons to keep your ex's last name and three reasons to lose it.

Reasons to Keeps Your Married Name

    1. For the Children

The top reason readers cite for not changing their last name after divorce is that they want to have the same last name as their children. Mom Michelle R. not only kept her ex-husband's last name so it would be the same as her three sons', but when she had a daughter in her new relationship, she gave her daughter a hyphenated surname that combines that name with her daughter's father's last name. That means everyone now has her ex's last name!

    2. To Maintain a Consistent Identity

For some women, keeping an ex's last name is matter of identity. Dianne M. explains her justification for holding onto her ex's last name, "People had known me by this name for the previous 11 years.
In my case, my degree and all my certifications were in my married name. I'd been married for so long that everywhere I went, former students called me Mrs. "X."

    3. It's a Hassle to Change It Back

Mom Cortnie R. remembers all the trouble she went to to change everything when she got married in the first place, and didn't want to go through it again. As she points out, from Social Security cards to driver's licenses to banking information, every single document needs to be changed. She simply didn't want the headache of it all.

Three Reasons to Change Your Married Name

    1. To Reclaim a Sense of Identity

Interestingly enough, many women make the same argument for reverting to a maiden name as choosing not to – affirming their identity. "[It] just felt right to go back to being me," says Kathy M., who was only too happy to give up her married name. Amy C. echoes this sentiment, explaining that taking back her maiden name made her feel whole again.

    2. There's No Choice

Mom Megan R. couldn't have kept her ex husband's last name even if she'd wanted to! He made sure the divorce decree stated that she had to take her maiden name again. Another member, Leslie A., may not have had it spelled out legally, but when her ex husband told her that as long as she had his last name she would belong to him, she knew she had no choice but to change it. She didn't want to "belong" to anyone.

    3. Remarriage

A number of women are like me: they kept their ex husbands' last name for continuity for their children, but are only too happy to give it up when they remarry. As mom Deborah U. jokes, "As luck would have it, I eventually remarried so my name would [be] different anyway."

In the End, It May Not Matter Too Much

Whether you change your name or not, to some people it's not going to matter. Just as I still encounter former students (now young adults) who call me Mrs. "X," there will probably always be people who still call you by a name you've long since left behind as well. Chief among them, as Nicole S. amusingly points are, are those too young to appreciate just how maddeningly complex these issues can be for moms: "Just remember that no matter what you do, your children's friends will refer to you by their last name."

Image Source: Pexels / Rio Kuncoro
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