Taking Yourself Back: How to Change Your Name After Divorce in your 20s

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Trash the Dress private online divorce support group member Rachel is officially divorced and in the process of legally changing her last name.  Here are her story and tips for you when it’s your turn to go through the process!

I began the process of changing my name back last week.  I forgot how many phone calls and errands are involved with this!  But something I didn’t count on is how liberated I would feel, seeing my full name written out again.

With his last name, I was a different person.  I had a list in my head of the things I thought being a “wife” meant, and I subconsciously began to mold myself to reflect those traits.  On the surface, I was doing everything “right.”  I cooked dinner and washed dishes and made grocery lists.  I made an effort to like the TV shows and movies and video games that he liked.  (In fact, I have him to thank for my love of geeky things, which I will always be grateful for.)  We did all the “couple” things together — church, parties, weddings, funerals.  We even worked together!

But from day one of our marriage, I began to change.  In my head, husbands and wives were not separate entities, they were a unit.  That meant that no independent decisions were made, no event was attended solo, and everything was shared.  Understand that I was not thinking these things overtly, they were core beliefs about the way things “should be” that I had acquired throughout my life.  These ideas came from watching romantic comedies and reading books and observing the “outside face” of the marriages of people I knew.  If I’m being honest, I didn’t really think about it at all…it was just the way things were in my head.

Seeing my name for the first time again, I began to realize how many of these things I associated with the name that has been my identity for the last 5+ years.  And I realized that now, I am able to give all that stuff up.  I can go back to being the “me” I am meant to be.  I never intentionally became someone else, but now I can intentionally come back to who I am.

Are you taking your maiden name back after your divorce?  If you are, I’ve included a starter list of places you’ll need to visit to get your name change process under way!

1.  Social Security Office.  The only thing you need to get your name changed here is a certified copy of your divorce decree, provided that it includes both your old and new names.  If you ask to be restored to your maiden name, it will be on there for sure!  The whole process takes about five minutes (not including wait time…get there right when they open and you probably won’t be stuck there all day!).  You can do this by mail, but I think it’s easier and faster to do in person, personally.  Print the application here.  This process doesn’t cost you anything at all…bonus!

2.  DMV.  Once you get your new SS card in the mail (7-14 days after you apply), you can go get your new driver’s license.  Take your new SS card, your current license, and your divorce decree.  It’ll cost you a fee to change this (in Ohio, it’s $24.50).

3.  Bank.  With your shiny new license in hand, you can begin to change your name with all the major institutions you’re a part of.  Start with your bank!  You’ll probably have to wait for a new debit card in the mail, which will take a few days, but you can still use your old one while you wait.  Make sure to activate the new one when you get it, and cut up that old one!

4.  Job.  Make sure you let your job know about your name change, duh.  You will probably have to fill out some forms (your tax information has changed too, since you aren’t married anymore).

5.  Insurance.  This includes any insurance you might have: homeowner’s/renter’s, auto, health, life, etc.  I get my auto and renter’s from the same company, so that’s one less phone call to make!  I get health insurance through work, but it is up to me to call them to change it.  Make sure to ask your HR department if they take care of it or if you need to do it.

6.  Titles and deeds.  Speaking of insurance, you should also make sure your name change is reflected on your car title, house deed, or anything else you might own!

7.  Credit cards and loans.  I don’t have a credit card, and my only loan is through my bank.  But if you have cards or loans from multiple places, make sure you call them all!  Most of these can be done over the phone.

8.  Landlord or mortgage company, utility companies.  It’s probably helpful for them to know.

9.  Doctor’s offices.  One simple phone call to each!  Plus if you need to schedule an appointment, you get to knock out two birds with one stone.  Bonus points if all your doctors are based in the same office/network and you only have to call one of them!

After you hit these major ones, start working your way down the list of any and every other company or organization that has your name.

Here are some other examples:

401K

Passport office

Professional licensing boards, unions, etc.

Voting registration (sometimes you can do this at the DMV when you do your driver’s license)

Charity organizations

Tax office

Social media

Personally, I changed my social media accounts first.  Love seeing my new/old name on there again!!

What other places did I forget to mention?

Are you changing your name back once your divorce is final?  Why or why not?

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