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Should you keep your married name after divorce?

If you changed your last name when you got married, either by taking your spouse’s name or adding their last name to your own (hyphenated or not), you’ll need to decide whether to keep that name or return to your previous name when your divorce is final.

That’s a highly personal decision. No one can tell you what is best for you. However, there are factors that you’ll want to consider as you make this decision. 

How are you best known professionally?

If you’re established in your profession and known by your married name, it may be advantageous to keep it. If you’ve hyphenated or added your spouse’s last name to yours, it’s probably easier to remove that second name than if you are only known by your spouse’s last name. It’s not uncommon for people to remove that last part of their name when they get divorced.

Do your children have your married name?

If you have children who are school-age or younger, it can present some complications to have a last name that’s different than theirs. Some parents (especially mothers) can feel a bit left out if they have a different last name than their kids and co-parent. However, that’s not nearly as unusual as it once was.

Do you need to make a clean break from your spouse?

If your spouse and your marriage brought you nothing but pain, at least in the later years, you may not want to carry around their name forever. Taking back your name can be an important step in reclaiming your life.

Which identity is yours?

If you and your spouse were married for decades, going back to your “maiden” name can be odd and jarring. It may not feel like who you are anymore. Almost everyone in your life may only know you by your married name. If it would feel uncomfortable to return to your previous name, you don’t have to do it.

Can you deal with the red tape?

If you change your name upon your divorce, there are a lot of people you’ll need to notify, and you’ll need new IDs. However, fortunately, this is easier than it used to be. You can likely Google a helpful checklist. Fortunately, here in Illinois, as you finalize your divorce, you can change your last name legally as part of the final dissolution.