Last Names

I changed my last name back to my maiden name when I got divorced.  I had briefly considered keeping my married name just so that Caroline and I would have the same last name, but it didn’t really sit right with me to carry Tyler’s name for the rest of my life when we had only been married three years.  I’m glad that I changed it– I sign my name all day long at work, and every time I do, it makes me happy to write my true name that I was born with.

The actual process of changing it was a pain, of course.  The name change itself was easily granted as part of our divorce, but you have to get official copies of everything and go to the DMV, the bank, the credit card company, the utility companies, the apartment rental office, the student loan lenders, and so on.  And because I look so young (okay, I am so young), the conversation usually goes something like this:

Me: I’d like to change my name on my license/credit card/bank account, please.

Them: Oh, congratulations!  When was the wedding?

Me: Thanks!  Actually, I got divorced.

Them: ::horrified look::

(Honestly, I am not bothered by the assumption at all.  I find it hilarious to see that “oh s–t” reaction once they realize they’ve put their foot in their mouth.  I usually just laugh and tell them it’s fine and that I accept their congratulations regardless.)

I’ve been slowly plugging away at getting everything changed back, and I’m almost done with it.  But although I’m very content with my own name, I do wonder from time to time if I should do something about Caroline’s.

In my opinion, there are two points of view that you could take on changing a child’s last name after divorce.  On the one hand, Tyler’s involvement in Caroline’s life is minimal.  When we go several weeks without hearing from him, I start to think that she might be better off in the long run if she carries the name of the person who raises her, rather than the name of someone she doesn’t really know.  Sure, they’re related by blood, but what does that really matter to a child?  She doesn’t care where her DNA comes from.  She cares who reads books to her before bed and kisses her boo-boos and rocks her when she wakes up from a nightmare.  And that is never him.  It is always, always me.  Would she be better off, I wonder, growing up with my name?  Will it bother her to write his name all her life, when he has never really been around?

But then there’s the other side– he wants her to keep his name, and that does matter.  It matters a lot, actually.  His involvement with her may be minimal, but I don’t want to push him further away by stubbornly insisting on something that, in the end, may not matter to her at all.  If what I want is for them to be as close as possible, then it doesn’t make sense for me to pursue anything that might be divisive.

So I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that it’s best for her name to stay as it is.  If she wants to change it when she is older, I would support her in that, and I imagine he would too.  (Side note: I did go to the probate court just to research what would be involved in the process.  I asked the woman at the desk about changing a minor’s name.  ”Oh, honey,” she said.  ”You’ll need a parent or guardian here to do that for you.”  ::sigh::)

If your child’s name is different from yours, have you changed it or ever considered changing it?  Why or why not?

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  1. by Tracy

    On August 22, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    I was 5 months pregnant when my sons biological father told me he wanted nothing to do with me or my son. Until my son was born i was constantly asked if he would take mine or his fathers last name. I’ve always been proud of my family and loved being raised with my last name but for months i thought i would give my son his “fathers” last name because that has always been tradition. It wasn’t until i was holding my son that i decided he should have my last name. It was my greatest gift to him and i thought it was the least i could do since he is my greatest gift. We have a strong family and i knew by passing on my last name i was passing on the love, respect, and honor that came with it.
    Now my son is 15 months old and his father is starting to come around. While he hasn’t asked for his son to take his last name i dread that day; if it ever happens because i still don’t know if he really wants to be around. I just know I am proud that my son has my last name and to make it even better the way my dad lighted up when i told him his grandson would be taking his last name. But like you said if my son wants to change his last name to his dads when he is older i’ll completely support him!

  2. by Stephanie

    On August 22, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    you write, “it makes me happy to write my true name that I was born with”. your ex’s last name is her true name that she was born with. she can always change it later if that is her desire, but to do it for her is denying her of something you are so proud of yourself.

  3. by Julia

    On August 22, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Stephanie– best comment on the issue I’ve ever heard. For real. I guess that’s why it hasn’t felt right thus far to me to change her name for her.

  4. by Amanda

    On August 22, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Oh my …. I wish you could understand how your blog speaks volumes to me! I too was only married for 3 years and my daughter just turned 3 this year (divorce finalized in Jan..her bday in April). I’ve often pondered changing my name back but haven’t because I’ve been told “you should have the same name as K” Well, but that isn’t my name… I, too, love the name I was born with and may one day soon look into changing it back…You want to know the funny thing ~ my daughter calls me Amanda ______(my maiden name). It’s funny how they pick up on things..

    Again thanks for sharing your thoughts…this is free therapy for me!!! :)

  5. by Nicole

    On August 23, 2011 at 4:50 am

    I was given my mother’s last name. Her reasoning was that I was HER baby. SHE carried, gave birth to, and raised me on her own. I look nothing like the person whom is my “sperm donor” (I don’t dare call him Dad), so why should I carry his name? Besides, I love my complicated, hard to spell, hard to pronounce German name. 

  6. by Kim

    On August 23, 2011 at 5:56 am

    My name was different from my parents’ growing up (my mom remarried when I was 8, I chose to keep my dad’s name). It was confusing for my friends (they always called her Mrs.Myname), but it wasn’t a big deal. She just asked them to call her Ruth, and I thought it was cool that my friends got to call my mom by her first name. It didn’t bother me. I think you’re making a good decision.

  7. by Jill Cordes

    On August 23, 2011 at 6:53 am

    I keep debating whether I should change my name in my personal life to match my daughters. The problem is, I don’t really like the way my first and last name sound when I use my husbands. Ack. But I do like the idea of having the same name as hers. I’m also lazy. It just seems like so much work. But with baby #2 on the way, maybe I’ll finally bite the bullet.

  8. by Karlene

    On August 23, 2011 at 10:31 am

    This is my first time bloggin by your article really interested me. I think I have been afraid to share my story with anyone outside my circle. But here goes.

    I was married for about a year and a half before we separated. My son was 4 months at the time. When he was born I changed the name that we had decided on together because I saw the writing on the wall and knew somehow that we would not last. So I changed his first name and hyphenated his name to include my last name. He has both our names. I have changed my name back to my maiden name. I feel free of his name and still proud to the fact that he has my name also because he is my son too. He just gave the sperm. He can always change his name later if he wants to.

    The thing now is that my ex still calls him by the initial name we chose. But my son knows his real name. I don’t even know if he answers to the other name.

  9. by CeCe

    On August 23, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Ok. SO to avoid a overly long post, I will simply ask this question. What would you do if the father was unaware of the child and WHEN he found out he wanted fought and became very active in a childs life. plus they have a great relationship. The child has a last name of another man (the mothers husband which they were married shotgun right before the first court date with the REAL father) The father is even willing to hyphenate the childs last name to the mothers maiden and his. She says she does not “like” her real family and so the child still bears the other persons name. Would you change it? and to what? He is not willing to hyphenate the step fathers and his (to me understandably) and She doesn’t want to change it because I (the NEW step mother, legally as of a couple weeks ago) and the child will then have the same name. Although I will be hyphenating my name (at least personally) Comments?

  10. by Julia

    On August 23, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts on this and your stories! CeCe I’m not sure I completely understand the situation? I guess I think that the child should bear the mother’s name, whatever that may be… if the mother and birth father were never married and the mother is the one who has raised the child, I don’t see a reason for the child’s name to be actively CHANGED to be the birth father’s name. But if both the birth mother and the birth father have equally raised the child, then it’s either/or, I suppose. The thing is that it’s pretty difficult to convince a judge to CHANGE the name, so the child’s name would probably remain whatever it is, if there is conflict. Does that make sense?

  11. by Stephanie

    On August 24, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    I’ve considered hyphenating my child’s last name because I feel I deserve some credit for being completely responsible for her upbringing. However, I also feel like this might be selfish. Plus, my name is extremely long and hard to pronounce, and I imagine learning to write a long, hyphenated last name would be painful during grammar school.

    I am glad that I found your blog because I relate to your situation so much. While I was in the middle of nursing school and my daughter was 8 months old, I realized that I could not raise her in such misery. I think it benefits her immensely that I left that horrible situation and that I finished my education. Believe me, it would have been easier to quit.

    My current situation is figuring out how to go back for my phd while enrolling her in private school and paying rent/mortgage…

  12. by AE

    On August 24, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    My older sister had a different last name from the three other kids in the family, because she was from a different marriage. It didn’t make one whip of difference to US– she was our sister and that was the end of the story. But SHE remembered before we were around, and remembered her dad leaving, and I think it was kind of a big deal to her to have a different name. Right now it isn’t really an issue…. but if you have MORE kids with someone else, that might be the time to visit the issue with her.

  13. by Nicole

    On August 27, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    I am still in the process of considering a name change. I kept my married name when we divorced just so I would have the same name as my son, but as his father has only seen him once in the last 2 years, I am seriously considering making the switch. I won’t change mine without changing his an vice versatile – I may have changed only my own if my ex had been involved but he never has been. The catch is… I have no desire to return to my maiden name, so if I do change our name it will be to something completely new ad our own!

  14. by Michelle

    On August 27, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    I’ve dealt, or rather still deal with this issue often. When I had my daughter, marrying her dad was in the works and I figured eventually we would all have the same last name,so I didn’t even bother her my last name as well (I myself, have both my parent’s last name but they were never married) Now, we are a household of two, Mia and I;each with a different last name and yes, it bothers me. I can’t help but to think of the future. If I’m ever married and lose my maiden name, Mia, would feel estranged with a last name she carries by herself. Or would she???
    While I’ve considered changing it to my maiden name, or at least adding mine as well, I fear confusing her as she has now learned to spell and recognize her current last name. Is it a possibility for it to us; Mia, myself and a future spouse, to all carry the same family name without it affecting Mia in the LOOOONNNGGG run ????? Is it even that serious??? And is it even worth it?????

  15. by Khadja

    On August 27, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    My kids took on their fathers last name and neither father is active in their lives but I really dont want my kids to share my name which I hate. This issue really never bothered me. My children are completely aware that they have different last names and why and they are perfectly happy.

  16. by Rosie

    On August 30, 2011 at 9:10 am

    My parents were divorced when I was 4 and I had his last name until I was 7. That was when I realized he wasnt in my life 100% and I decided to use my mothers maiden name. I made my own decision!! My mother remarried when I was 8 and I wanted to take my stepdad’s last name but had some complications with signing papers from my birth father due to my being not US citizen. 11 years later when I became US citizen and I was able to change my name. I decided to take my stepdad (more of a real DAD) last name. Changed my last name due to married then changed back to my stepdads last name after divorce. If I ever remarry, Im going to keep my stepdads name. Its best to let your child decided her/himself.

  17. by Roman Crivello

    On November 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Hey! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the outstanding work!

  18. by Leah Christensen

    On February 10, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    My husband and I decided that if we ever have kids, they should have my name. Afterall, it is the mother who carries, delivers, breastfeeds, the baby. The father’s name as a middle name works nicely too. I use my mother’s maiden name because it better reflects my Danish heritage than my Dad’s. I’m Canadian, born here, speak English without an accent, and live 20 miles from the houe where my Grandmother still lives, where my Dad was raised. I changed my name to Mom’s maiden name because I wanted something that reflects her side of the family as well.