When I was going through my divorce, deciding to go back to my maiden name was a no-brainer. It was also a no-brainer for Mary Wright. However she decided to keep her married name.
My married name is Wright and when my husband and I split up he actually told me I was not allowed to keep his name, that I had to take my maiden name back. We’d been married 23 years so I’ve been Wright for 23 years. That’s how I’ve been known for my entire professional career. All my clients know me as Mary Wright and I have two children. I don’t want to have a different name than my children. We’re still a family but I want to share our last name and not have that be confusing for them.
My ex felt that if I was divorcing him, I was divorcing his entire legacy and his last name was part of his legacy. But I was part of his family. His mother and father are both deceased now but I was very close to them. They were my family too.
I was Leake before I was married. I wasn’t going to be Leake-Wright – that wasn’t going to work for me. It wasn’t that I don’t like “Leake” because that’s what I grew up with and I knew what it felt like. But it’s been a long time since I’ve been Mary Leake.
I was actually a different person then. I was 19 when I met him. I was a child. I’m now a professional woman, I’m 50, I’ve had two children, I’ve been active in the community, I’ve taught at the university for 16 years under the name of Wright. My whole adult identity has essentially been developed as Mary Wright and I am a very different person at 50 than I was 19. I identify myself as Mary Wright. That’s me. It’s not his wife or his identity. It’s my identity.
I chatted with my divorce attorney, Judy LaBuda, about name changes. In her experience, the women who didn’t change names after a divorce were women like Mary, with long term marriages or who had children and didn’t want their children to have a different last name. Judy said hyphenating their name was popular solution.
Perhaps naively, it hadn’t occurred to me that a man might demand that his wife change her name. I asked Judy if the law provides for this. “It happens fairly frequently in dissolutions where they’re adversarial particularly where the husband has been the person who has controlled the marriage,” Judy said. “Often times that’s the reason for the dissolution and the husband will be very adamant that you must change your name. But the husband gets no choice. It is completely at the wife’s discretion as to whether she wants to keep or change her name. She has sole discretion to decide that.”
You can read more about changing your name after divorce in this online article, “Should you keep your married name after divorce,” by Lisa Riggs.
Did you keep your married name when you got divorced? Why was that important to you? Would love to hear the male perspective too – should a husband be able to require his wife give up her married name after divorce?