Reclaiming your identity: The power of changing your name after a divorce

During your marriage, it is easy to feel like you have lost a sense of who you are. Your identity, for better or worse, can get wrapped up in the divorce and you can be made to feel like you are not even the same person anymore. In some ways this can be freeing- if the marriage is going well and you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to important subjects like family, children, money, religion, etc. However, if you are losing touch with yourself and the marriage is failing then that is a completely different set of circumstances. Then, you risk running into a situation where you lose confidence in being able to act independently. This means that you may find yourself staying in a failing marriage simply because you lack the confidence to do so.

That brings us to the topic of today’s blog post. Do I think that changing your last name to your maiden name will forever alter the trajectory of your life? No, I don’t. That sort of change requires more than simply swapping out a few letters in your last name. Rather, changing your last name can be indicative of your mindset. Having the confidence and the chutzpah to say that you are going to plant your flag that from this day forward your last name will not be attached to your marriage is saying something. What it is can depend upon you and your circumstances. Not letting another person speak for you and not allowing your name to define you and what you think about what you identify yourself really can be indicative of your mindset and attitude towards life in general.

In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to walk through what it means to change your name after a divorce. As opposed to a highly contentious divorce case, your ex-spouse will not be able to have any say in whether your last name is changed because of the divorce. There is a specific process to follow when it comes to trying to change your last name. We will go through what the process looks like to change your name as far as the law is concerned. We will also talk about what it means on an emotional, psychological, and relational level to decide to change your last name.

If you have any questions about divorce, name changes, and anything in between after reading today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our attorneys are dedicated professionals who serve southeast Texans just like you in family law cases daily. We take a personalized approach to each of our clients and their cases. There are no two people or two families who are exactly alike, so we do not treat clients and their cases in that way, either. A free-of-charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys is a phone call away. We can meet with you in person, over the phone, or via video.

Changing your name as part of a divorce

As we were just alluding to, the process involved with changing your name is not necessarily difficult. You can have your maiden name restored by requesting that in your divorce petition when you first file the case. Or, if you were the spouse who is the respondent you can ask for the name change in your answer or counterpetition. Once your divorce comes to an end your final decree should include the name that you are seeking to have established as your legal name when the case is all said and done. Once the final decree of divorce is signed off on by the court then you would need to see to it that the final steps of the process are followed. This is where you will need to do some legwork as far as preparing for the name change.

Once the judge approves the name change that does not automatically change your name on any of importance. Sure, it’s nice for a Texas family court judge to approve your name but that doesn’t do any good for you until you go into the different places and have your name changed. You can start on your Social Security card and there is a process which you can look up to do that. Any other place like your driver’s license, etc. can be investigated once your divorce is over. You would need the divorce decree to do this and possibly a certified copy in some cases. In any event, once you get your name changed it is only the beginning of the process as far as the name change is concerned.

A name change after a divorce is still possible after a divorce even if you have been convicted of a crime. If you are a registered sex offender you would need to attach a completed sex offender registration certificate to your petition. Any offenses above a class C misdemeanor would need to be listed in your petition plus any case number associated with a criminal court proceeding. Felonies are a different matter. You would then need to show that it has been at least two years since the date you were released from jail/prison or that you were pardoned or released from probation.

For most people reading this blog post, however, I imagine that you are not going to need to perform these additional steps listed here after the first part of today’s blog post. However, any married person can get a divorce in Texas, and we wanted to be sure to provide as much information as possible to help folks in your position. If you have questions about the name change process, then it is best to discuss that with your attorney before the conclusion of your divorce. Fairly simple things like making sure your name is correct in the final decree can avoid problems down the line for you in your post-divorce life.

What does it mean to change names after a divorce?

One of the issues that many people face in completing their divorce is that they are unprepared for the experience of completing the case. We spend so much time preparing for hearings, mediation, negotiations, and the rest during the divorce that we sometimes neglect to go through all of the baggage that can build up over time. Whether you were excited to go through the divorce because of what the marriage had deteriorated to or if you were hesitant to begin the process, it does not matter. What matters is that your divorce will come to an end at a certain point which means you need to be prepared for that.

With so much negativity surrounding a divorce, it can be easy to lose track of what happens when your case comes to an end. I think a natural response to the fear and trepidation that people have with the divorce process itself is to completely shift that around and instead assume that life is going to be nothing but sunshine and rainbows once the divorce comes to an end. This can be true, no doubt about that. However, it is usually the case that a divorce ends up being favorable for both parties when planning occurs. When you do not think ahead and plan for what your life will look like after the divorce you run into all sorts of trouble. That sunshiny world of rainbows and contentment does not just appear on its own. Rather, you need to put some effort into creating that life for yourself and your family.

A name change can factor into this discussion, absolutely. However, if all you do is ask a judge to change your name then you will find yourself unfulfilled. Instead, why not consider what changes you need to make to your life to find true contentment and begin the journey toward being happy with where you are and what you have accomplished? For instance, have you considered attending therapy for any of the issues suffered in the divorce or during your marriage? Many people can avoid a divorce altogether by attending therapy during the marriage. If that is not something that you were able to take advantage of in time to save your marriage it may be something you should investigate to help yourself now that your divorce is coming to an end. Ease yourself into a post-divorce life by discovering what issues have gotten you to this point. Therapy can be a way to self-affirm those qualities and characteristics of yours that are positive while learning how to root out those characteristics that may not be helpful to you in a post-divorce world.

Next, where are you with your career? Some people who go through a divorce have an established career track with which they are happy. These folks can take on challenges associated with their lives and a post-divorce world more readily than others because they have contentment with their job, an eye for advancement, and an income that allows them freedom and flexibility. Consider where you are with your employment situation. If you have what you would consider to be a job rather than a career, now may be a good time for you to change that (if you would like). Going to school does not necessarily mean taking out loans to complete or begin a four-year degree. Those of you with four-year degrees may not need a Master’s Degree to advance in your field. A good rule of thumb when it comes to education is: that unless the “next” degree is the best or only way to advance in a certain field, it probably is not worth the money. Taking out loans to “prove” to yourself that you can do something is not a good idea.

On the other hand, let’s consider a situation where you are someone who has been out of the workforce for many years or perhaps has never worked outside the home. What we hear from people all the time is that life as a homemaker and stay-at-home mother is not fulfilling or that it stifles your ambition or otherwise does not allow you to prosper as highly as women who work outside the home. Everyone on an individual level experiences these situations uniquely. However, what that does not mean is that if you have not worked outside the home you should not feel that you served your family well and that you were not a productive, capable member of society. The role of caregiver, nurturer, and mother is critical to our success as a collective whole. Even if you were not the primary breadwinner in the household this is true.

Additionally, even if you have not worked outside the home in the past that does not mean that you have no accumulated skills which are transferable into areas of the job market where you can earn a living. There are online career coaches, websites, blogs, and word of mouth in your community that can help you identify jobs that can be a springboard to a career. With the internet, you can utilize your skills and experience in ways that would have been unimaginable before. The world is at your fingertips, and you just need to know how to apply yourself. This may not be a skill that you can learn from a divorce itself, but you can certainly position yourself well to be able to do so by being intentional in the divorce. This means having a game plan and learning how to roll with the punches of a case. A famous athlete once said, very directly, “Everyone has a plan before a fight- until you get punched in the face.” The point of this quip is that it is easy to have a plan before fists start to fly. However, the true mark of a competitor and the true strength of a plan is shown by how well you and your plan stand up in the face of adversity.

What is your plan for your divorce? How are you going to approach the case itself? Are you going to succumb to your emotions over and over and pursue every opportunity presented to you to fight with your spouse? Or are you going to look to try and meet in the middle where possible and then only stand your ground in situations where it is essential? Many people enter a divorce with the idea that they are going to right all the wrongs of their marriage in the divorce. All the times they felt like they were stepped on or taken advantage of were going to be addressed in the divorce. While this is a completely human instinct it is not necessarily the best way to address the issues of a divorce. What can end up happening is that the case can get drawn out, fees and expenses increase and little substance is accomplished in the long run.

However, this does not mean that there are not issues in your divorce that are valuable enough to you that you should not consider fighting for. Your principles are important, and you do not need to back down from what you know to be right or wrong to “speed up” the case. This is a mistake that some people inadvertently wander into during a divorce. Their goal to get the case over with is so strong that they end up pushing past issues that need more attention just to get to the end. Again, this is an understandable emotion to have during a divorce, but it will not serve you well in the long run. Sit down with your attorney at the beginning of the divorce and help him or her understand what matters most to you in your divorce. You will find that the attorney can help you create a game plan for how to approach those issues much better when he or she knows what matters most to you in your case.

Can a name change be a defining moment in your life? Absolutely. However, it is usually the case that the name change is most impactful when it comes alongside other changes to your life that you make after the divorce. Those changes require more effort and planning than the name change. If you can make a concerted effort to better your life after a divorce by developing a plan for your divorce you will find that the positive impacts of a name change are enhanced a great deal. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to help you gameplan for your divorce so you can hit the ground running after your divorce.

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