Divorce Advice: Should You Change Your Name Back After Divorce?



By Jackie Pilossoph, Divorced Girl Smiling Editor-in-Chief

Many people have asked me for divorce advice about changing your name back after divorce. Should I do it? Should I keep my married name? What’s the right thing to do?

Let me answer it by saying, if you’re a woman, you’re born with a name, and you have that name your whole life. It’s all you know. It’s your mom and dad’s name, and your sister’s and brother’s and some of your cousin’s names. It’s your grandparents name.

And then one day, you get married and you change that name because you are taking your new husband’s name.  It’s exciting and fun and new, and you get to buy glasses and towels with your new initials on them! And you go on your honeymoon, and at the hotel they call you Mrs. So and So. It’s the best feeling.

I think that is so wonderful. I really do! Yet things sometime change. They change to the point where you and your husband end up divorced. AND, you still have your new (or not so new) name. So, do you keep it? Or do you change it back to your maiden name?

Some people keep their married name forever, some change back, and some people change from husband number one to husband number two. (Not that I’m judging, I swear.)

I wanted to give my best attempt to answer the question “Now that I’m getting divorced, should I change my name back?”

Before I get into that, however, I want to give the best piece of advice I think I can offer. For anyone who is getting divorced, make sure that your divorce decree gives you the option of changing your name back to your maiden name.

I recently met two women who both told me they had been divorced for a long time (years.) Neither one changed their name back, and it wasn’t because they didn’t want to. They both stated that their attorneys didn’t put the option in their decrees. So, now they have to get an amendment to their divorce decree which means spending more money on attorney fees and a court appearance.

So, make sure it is in the divorce agreement. Most ex husbands don’t really care, in fact, I know a few who are extremely enthusiastic about having their ex go back to her dad’s name, either because they already have another Mrs. So and So lined up, or they just don’t want the woman they feel is milking them for every cent in court sharing their same name.

So, here are my thoughts on whether you should keep your married name for the rest of your life, or whether you go back to Ms. Maiden, which by the way, is a word I really dislike.

The definitions of “maiden” are 1) Young, unmarried woman,( which I’m not anymore), 2) Virgin, which I’m not going there 3) horse yet to win, meaning I’m a loser?! And the worst one of all 4) a guillotine, insinuating you are a criminal who should be executed because your marriage didn’t work out.  Maiden also means “first” which makes sense.

The biggest thing I can tell women is that changing your name back or sticking with your married name is a personal choice and everyone is entitled to do whatever she wishes.

I don’t think it is wise when people say, “But I don’t want to have a name that’s different than my kids.” Know why? Because if your kids’ friends call you Mrs. So and So, you don’t have to correct a third grader and say, “I’m sorry, can you please call me Ms. Maiden?” That would be ridiculous. Just don’t say anything. Allow them to call you Mrs. So and So. What’s so bad about that? It’s like if you are Jewish and someone says “Merry Christmas.” Why correct them? Just accept the sentiment and move on. Just my opinion.

Another person might hate their ex so much, that all she wants to do is change her name back to get away from him, because she thinks it’s going to help her get over him. BAD IDEA. Don’t do it for that reason. Find other ways to deal with your hate and your bitterness. Changing your name back isn’t going to help.

If you do change your name back, do it for yourself. Do it for your profession. Or do it because YOU want that name back. I did it because I LOVE my name and I LOVE my father and I wanted his name back.

Incidentally, I know a lot of women who are still happily married who never changed their name in the first place, either because they liked it, or they wanted to remain with that name for their profession. I respect that. Always have.

But, I also respect those who want to keep their married name. If you just feel comfortable and this is who you were, and you wish to stay that way, than you have the right to keep it. No one should judge that.

Lastly, there are women who are just lazy about it, and don’t want to change back because they think it will take a ton of time. I feel I owe it to you to tell you, I just went through it and it was soooo not a big deal. Sure, it takes a little bit of time, but for the gratification and pride I feel having my name back, it was so worth it.

I do want to mention that a friend of mine who is divorced recently changed hers back, and it totally motivated me to follow suit. I don’t know why. I’d been divorced for awhile, but something just clicked when I saw that she changed hers back and it just felt right. It was the right time for me. I’m glad I waited, though, until it felt right.

In closing, just remember this. No matter what name you have, you are you, and your initials, your signature, and what name people refer to you as makes so little difference in the big picture. What does make a huge difference is the person you are, what’s in your core, what’s in your heart, and what you give to the world.


Sincerely (and legally)

Jackie Pilossoph

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11 Responses to “Divorce Advice: Should You Change Your Name Back After Divorce?”

  1. lisa thomson

    Interesting points you make, here. I changed my name about 1 year after my separation. I ended my marriage and it didn’t feel right keeping his name. I found out a few years later that one of my children were slightly offended by my name change. Suprising? Yes, but he understood as he got older. But that’s one thing I didn’t really consider ‘Will my kids be offended?’ I was so busy worrying about the kids in numerous other ways, i didn’t realize this simple change would have an impact.

  2. shawna

    I just received my finally decree, and my ex is requesting I take my maiden name back. I’ve had his name longer than my own and don’t want to change as of yet. I’m really stuck on if this is something I HAVE to do!?

  3. Wendy

    I’ll tell you right now – it isn’t as simple as going to the DMV and the Social Security to change my name back to my maiden name. I have to go to court and make a legal name change because my request to use my maiden name wasn’t put in my divorce decree. And, every time I go to the DMV, I have to show my birth certificate and my marriage certificate to show how I segued from one to the other. The judge told me that I could use my maiden name anytime, but that simply isn’t true. I kept it because my kids were very young. I didn’t care what their friends called me. I cared that the school knew I was their mother and, even then, I was asked if my name and the kids’ names were the same. But, I have also been assumed to be Hispanic when I’m not and, in some cases, the recent anti-Hispanic hysteria may have been at play in delays in services for myself. People see the name and made assumptions – such as looking literally over my head to find the person whose name they’re calling instead of realizing that the short freckled redhead in front of them might be her. I’d love to use both names WITHOUT a hyphen, but there seems to be an obsession with hyphens and I am unable to stop people from using it even though I never put one in. So, in response to your post on HuffPost, it ISN’T as simple as going to the DMV and then Social Security to change your name back.

    • Jackie Pilossoph

      I am sorry you are having so much trouble. That really stinks. But, if you read the blog post, it clearly states that it ISN’T only going to the DMV and changing your license. That in fact, you must have it in your divorce decree that you have the right to change it back.

  4. Jill

    I am really struggling with this decision. A) My lawyer did ask me and at the time, I wanted to keep the name because I have small children and had no intention of ever remarrying. B) The aforementioned children C) The cost to change it. I, myself, want my name back. My married name is not my name. In fact, I think if i were ever to remarry, I would stick with my maiden name. I did find out that I am able to bypass lawyers to make this change for a considerable cost savings, but I was lucky to have someone help me navigate the legal system. It’s my kids that keep me from taking the plunge. They are too young to understand. In fact, my 3 year old is more concerned with what his last name is– I am certain he won’t care about mine. I think it is this stigma that is keeping me from doing it. That somehow, I am not a good mom or a failure, when in reality, I am a better mom sans divorce. I just hope I make the right decision…..

  5. Name for Facebook

    Confused as to proper way to change my name. I am divorced with grown children. I don’t know whether to keep my maiden name, my birth name, or use my birth name as my middle name which I do for social security but use a different name for DMV. I have been divorced for many years and yet don’t want to give up entirely my maiden name. Social Security Card says something different as well. Help?

  6. V. Nicharico

    My concern on this issue is that my entire professional life is tied to my married name. My divorce is only just now in the process, but I can’t seem to get a straight answer as to whether I can go back to my maiden name but continue to use my married name professionally. I’m an artist and writer, so I don’t want to confuse my clients by suddenly changing everything, but neither do I want to go back through a 20 year old catalog of work and try to change signatures. Would I need a DBA for that? Professionally, I will always be associated with his last name, but personally, I don’t want it.

  7. Susanna

    I’m going through a divorce, and changing my name back to my maiden name, which is “Keister”. I don’t really want to go through life again being called Keister. Then again, should I just get over it, it’s not like I was mistreated by my father or mother, it’s just the sound of the name and what it means in german. So I’ve asked my attny if I can change my last name to my middle name (which was my grandmother’s last name!), but she thinks I’d probably have to do a legal name change. And also, I don’t know what I’d tell my dad about not wanting to be a “Keister” again.

    • Jackie Pilossoph

      Wear your name proud or don’t take it back. In other words, don’t do it unless you really want to do it. Another option: you could change it to something similar to Keister. “Kester” or something like that. Just be happy and proud. That’s the most important thing.


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