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Reader J has a good question about changing your name after your divorce — it seems like a good follow up to last week’s conversation about gender-neutral names (and the commenters’ discussion of Miss, Ms., and Mrs.).
I was hoping you could address (and gather some opinions about) the issue of how one should go about transitioning a return to her maiden name during and after a divorce. I’m by no means a “Name” superstar or anything like that, but it does seem like a bit of daunting process to jump in with a new identity, particularly after I’ve been in practice for about 10 years. Should I start using my maiden name in conjunction with my married name to ease the transition? My maiden name is technically my middle name but I have only ever used my middle initial for professional purposes. Also, I’m wondering how best to explain the new name. I really do not want to hold on to my ex’s name, however.
First: I’m sorry; I’m sure divorce isn’t easy. And as someone who’s been through the name change process once, I don’t envy you for having to do it again. (I used the services of MissNowMrs. when I did it; they have a state-specific collection of government forms and draft letters for your credit card companies and the like — it might be helpful to you now in this situation as well.) (Pictured: Broken Heart, originally uploaded to Flickr by miguelpdl.)
Second — the professional name change. Whew. I’m interested to hear what the readers say, but my advice would be to start using your maiden name in conjunction with your ex’s name. For example, if your full name right now is Jane Doe Smith, with Doe being your maiden name and Smith being your married name, the easiest way to do it might be to begin using “Jane Doe Smith.” But then if “Smith” falls away, you will definitely get questions as to where it went. For that reason, I might suggest using “Jane Smith Doe” instead — Doe will soon be your legal last name again, and for people who don’t know you well they’ll assume you got married. Furthermore, you can switch your email address to be email@example.com and have it be consistent both during the transition and after. (Make sure that your tech people know to keep firstname.lastname@example.org up and running for at least a year or more, forwarded to email@example.com.) After a suitable period (3 months? 6 months? a year?) drop the Smith from your name.
Honestly, the only other options I see are to a) hold onto your ex’s name until you marry again — but this only makes sense if you expect to be engaged/married very soon after the divorce is finalized, or b) drop the use of any last name (which, I think, was Roseanne Barr’s solution when she divorced from Tom Arnold). (I’m kidding, honestly, unless you are a) a performer and b) have a distinctive first name.)
Readers, what’s your advice — either on name changes or on divorce in general?