On occasion I am asked for my opinion as to what my clients should do, keep their name, or change their name. Unlike the other issues that you face in a divorce case, this issue is largely a personal preference that has little impact on the cost of the litigation and on settlement of other items.
While typically a name change in a divorce is a Wife who desires to return to her maiden name, either party may change their name as a part of the divorce case and the name change is not limited to a maiden name. I have had male clients who have simply changed their name as they have always wanted to do so and now have the opportunity, and I have had female clients who have changed their names to other family names (not their maiden name, but their grandmother’s maiden name, for example), or to a name that they have always wanted.
Over the years, I have been hired several times to represent clients who do not need a divorce, but only wish to change their names. I have helped these clients, but the process, while simple, can be expensive, often costing approximately $1,000.00 including the Court’s filing fee. The three largest contributors to the costs are 1) the filing fee, 2) the paperwork including the petition and order, and 3) the time spent at the hearing.
When I am helping clients in a divorce, a name change has minimal additional cost above and beyond the cost of the divorce that we are already working on. There is no separate filing fee, as the client must already pay the filing fee for the divorce. The request to change name can be embedded in the petition for divorce that we already are preparing and filing. If a hearing on the issue is necessary, it is taken care of during a hearing on other divorce related issues. In short, there is very little additional work to change a name if a divorce case is proceeding forward anyway.
So, if the cost is not a large consideration, and what the other party may say is not a large consideration, most clients make the decision based upon their children, and convenience. Parents who have children often wish to have the same last name as their children, even if they are divorcing the parent who also shares the same last name as the children. Again, this is a matter of personal preference.
Clients who have not had children during the marriage will more often return to a maiden name. Clients whose children are old enough to be out on their own will change their name more often, though in these cases they have had their married name for so much of their life these clients often elect to simply keep the married name as most of their acquaintances know them by their married name.
Some clients do not want the additional inconvenience of changing their name with the Social Security Administration and with the Motor Vehicle Division (on their driver’s license). It is a matter of personal preference if you are willing to spend some time dealing with some bureaucracy in order to change your name.