To Keep or to Change: Divorce and Your Name

To Keep or to Change: Divorce and Your Name

What’s in a name? Well, the answer is – quite simply – a lot. That is why the status of names is often an important detail that can easily be overlooked during divorce. However, addressing it is an important part of the divorce that often has meaning for both spouses. Additionally, both spouses may have a significant interest in any determinations about names or potential name changes after divorce.

An experienced attorney will broach the topic of how to proceed with any potential name changes at the appropriate time. Many people already have a strong opinion on how they wish to proceed, but some others may not have even thought about it.

Benefits of Keeping the Name

There are some important benefits to keeping a marital name. One of the most important reasons for many people is that, while a name is certainly part of an identity, it does not necessarily define you. In other words, having taken your spouse’s last name does not automatically make you a different person.

Especially in cases in which marriages have lasted a significant period of time, keeping a marital name can help an individual maintain a consistent identity in both professional and personal environments. This can help prevent awkward conversations about your divorce for people that may not have otherwise known, and it can also help you maintain a consistent identity with your marital children.

Some individuals keep a marital name for business purposes. A person may have built an image, career, business, or something like these things with a marital name. Changing that name could have a negative impact on one’s reputation and ability.

In some circumstances, people choose to keep a marital name simply because doing so can be simpler. For some, the stress of divorce is enough without adding additional challenges into the mix.

The Process

Changing one’s name from a married name back to the name a person had before marriage is a relatively straightforward process. Basically, you follow the same steps that you did when you were changing your name to the marital name. You will need to change your name for social security purposes, which can be done at a social security office that handles such transactions. However, a recent article from Reuters reminds us that there are several other important concerns once the initial step has been taken.

Financial Institutions

During your marriage, you probably shared bank accounts and other financial assets. An experienced Florida divorce attorney will provide you with important guidance about how to manage bank accounts and other financial assets during divorce. Whether you are retaining ownership of certain marital accounts or have created new individual accounts during your divorce, you will likely need to change your name on them if you decide a name change is appropriate.

As the article notes, it is important to remember that one change does not necessarily apply to every single type of asset. Understanding the assets in your financial portfolio will help you create a detailed plan of what accounts need to be changed and will help you explore your options for changing them, which may vary depending on the institution and type of account.

Titled Assets

If you own any titled assets, such as a vehicle or property, you may have to refile the applicable titles and paperwork even if they were never titled in both spouses’ name. Any titled property should always reflect your current name to avoid unnecessary challenges or delays in case you pass away and wish to transfer the asset or if you simply determine to sell it.

In cases of mortgages, you want to make sure that your name comes off of any title if you are not retaining the property or an interest in it. An experienced divorce attorney can advise you on how to approach division of real estate like marital homes, and can help you understand how such assets may impact you as a result of your divorce settlement.

Assets with Beneficiaries

It is not uncommon for spouses to have a will, trust, retirement account, life insurance account, or other asset that is designated for his or her spouse upon death or if certain other conditions arise. While divorce is an important reminder that our needs as to who the beneficiary of such accounts should be may change as a result of the divorce, the process should also remind us that these are important assets that must be maintained and updated.

Making the Decision

An experienced divorce attorney can help you understand the benefits and drawbacks of changing your name after divorce, as well as how those concerns might impact you. Ultimately, the decision about how to approach any potential name change is often up to the individual considering it. It is a deeply personal journey that can involve guidance from others like your attorney, but will ultimately be up to you. Are you OK with the reminder a last name can bring each time someone addresses you? Do you want to go through the additional hassle of changing your name on countless documents? How many people will you have to remind about a name change, and how often?

These are all common questions and concerns that only you can answer. However, an experienced Florida divorce attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons of decisions like this that may otherwise be overlooked during the divorce process. If you have questions about how divorce might impact you, contact Scott J. Stadler to schedule a consultation and find out more information about what options might be available to you throughout the divorce process.