My final word of advice is this: Understand the laws of the state you live in with regard to changing your name and try to make an informed decision that isn’t rushed.
It is Juliet’s, from Romeo and Juliet, assertion that a “rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The implication being that names don’t matter.
Maybe not when you’re a Capulet or a Montague but it does matter to a lot of divorcing women. Unless a woman has retained her maiden when she walked down the aisle, if she divorces she has to decide whether to keep her married name or drop it like a hot potato. But watch out ladies, because depending on where you live, the window to make up your mind is shockingly narrow.
This seems inherently unfair because divorce is full of trauma and change. If you’re going through one, it is likely that your whole life is in upheaval. You may have to move, your whole routine has changed, you no longer have a partner to rely on so you’re taking care of everything yourself. On top of all that you’re probably a bit devastated, so let’s add the insanity of changing your name to that whole shit storm, shall we? Um, yeah, NO!
Plus when there are minor children involved, most women want to keep their last name the same as their children’s. There are many reasons that you might not be ready to change your last name immediately following your divorce, but heed my warning: In many states, if that decision is not made and followed through with immediately, it’s gonna cost you time and money!
Divorce was a painful choice for me that really didn’t feel like a’ choice. My ex cheated; I gave reconciliation a solid try, but once that genie was out of the bottle I couldn’t trust him anymore. Besides it being a very difficult decision, I also chose to move out of the marital home and start from scratch in a city 50 miles away. So when the judge asked me if I was going to revert to my maiden name and my ex added the gratuitous “You’re not gonna are you?” I just said no. Somehow I don’t think that’s what Nancy Reagan had in mind when she started her “Just say no” campaign but I digress.
Some 7 months later, when the dust settled and I stopped caring what my ex thought anymore, I realized that I wanted my maiden name back. You’d think that would be easy since it was the name I was granted at birth, but not so much.
I did some research on the internet on how to change my last name, which was not particularly helpful, but I was able to glean where I had to go and that I should bring a check book. I took half a day off from work because city courts operate from 9:30-4:00, which are roughly the same hours as the NY stock exchange, so not at all convenient. I paid $20.00 for parking and went to the family court office.
There I learned I would need to part with $200.00 but not that day because their cash box was locked so they stopped taking checks. That wouldn’t matter anyway because I was only armed with my birth certificate and my divorce decree. I also needed an original (raised seal) marriage license. I was flummoxed by this request because I didn’t want that name anymore not to mention I didn’t possess my marriage license. I would have to order one from the city which we got married in but while I was at it, they suggested I get a birth certificate with a raised seal also.
I left the courthouse, went home and prepared two letters to request my birth certificate and marriage license from the respective towns. Of course, the requests had to be ordered via snail mail with money orders because the whole process wasn’t tedious enough thus far. A week later when I received those in the mail, I took yet another half day off work, paid another $20.00 for parking and made sure I got there early enough for them to take a check. They took my application, my check for $200.00 and all my original records and told me to wait 3-4 weeks.
For what you ask? In 4 weeks I would be given a date in which my name change request would go before a judge. One week prior to that date, I would have to take an ad out in the publication of their choice to inform the general public that I would like a name change and what day the judge would consider it. Yes, you read that correctly. I had to alert the media that I was changing my last name. This gave whoever was so inclined the opportunity to object to this name change in court. Oh and that will be another $100.00 for the ad please, cha-ching!
Once the ad ran in the paper, I had to send said classified section to the courthouse to prove that I took out the ad. I was also instructed to either send it “return receipt requested” or just hand deliver it to the court. On the day of the “big event,” if no one objected to my name change, I would be granted my wish. Following that, I would receive my official notice that my name was legally changed. This would take approximately 3 more weeks.
That’s when the real fun began! With that precious document, I took a full day off from work to change my social security card, my license, my bank account, my passport, etc. Some of those changes came with an additional cost as well.
So let’s add it all up:
Filing fee -$200.00
Ad in the newspaper-$100.00
Two full days at work.
Resuming my maiden name-Priceless! (Couldn’t resist)
So my final word of advice is this: Understand the laws of the state you live in with regard to changing your name and try to make an informed decision that isn’t rushed. I feel these laws are terribly archaic and sexist to boot and believe it or not, my state is not the worst offender. There are some that are much better but there are still some that are infinitely worse.
Do your research. When all was said and done, I notified our state senate majority leader. They were blissfully unaware of how painful this process is for women and they’re looking to change the laws in our state. They asked me if I would be willing to speak to my experience and I told them yes as long as they used my maiden name!