9.7Susan M. Hais

After a divorce, people sometimes want to change their names. Some women, for example, might want to change their names back to what they were before. Some men, especially if they have adopted a different name upon marriage (say, a hyphenated name between their wife’s and their name), would like to change theirs as well.

A divorce decree often includes a provision that a surname reverts to the previous name as part of the decree. If it doesn’t, you can ask for a provision to be included.

Is a change of name a good idea? It depends on your feelings and the situation.

If you are comfortable with your last name, however, it’s not necessary to change it. It depends on the individual wishes and comfort level of those involved. Some people choose to keep the last name their children have. Others change both their names and those of their children. Others want to revert back to their previous (maiden) names. Others may choose to take another last name altogether.

If you decide to change your last name after the divorce decree is final, you can change your name legally. You can petition for a change of name through the Missouri courts.

Some people going through a divorce feel that keeping their spouse’s name may affect the financial settlement or custody arrangements. This may be understandable psychologically, but in fact, name changes are common during divorce and have nothing to do with the court’s ultimate awards of financial support or child custody.

There is one situation we caution against, however. If you intend to start using another name but not to change it legally, be aware that that situation could cause problems later on. If everyone knows you as Sally Smith, for example, you may encounter obstacles applying for a driver’s license, passport, Social Security card, or other official identification under that name. They will ask for identifying paperwork with your legal name, such as a birth certificate. It’s often more prudent to legally change your name than to go by one name but be legally another.

Contact us for more information.