Q: I divorced five years ago, after 26 years of marriage. I took my husband’s last name, and we have three children (now grown). I kept my married name after the divorce to have the same name as my children and because that was the name I became known as professionally.
Now I am getting married to a man who has been married three times; I will be his fourth wife. I really don’t want to just take his name and be the fourth Mrs. P. I am considering changing my name to a hyphenation of my maiden name with his surname, and he is even considering changing his name to that as well. The hyphenated name is 18 characters, including the hyphen.
I’m wondering about the practical and social ramifications of this name change, for both of us.
A: It’s good ex-etiquette to do anything you want. There’s no rule that states you must take your husband’s name when you marry. It’s based more on custom than legality.
It’s understandable that you may not wish to take your husband’s name in that there are already three other women using the same surname, but I wouldn’t let that stop you if you will feel uncomfortable without the change.
A name change isn’t the dilemma it once was. Many divorced moms opt to keep the same surname as their children and then don’t change it when they remarry. Some mothers — and now fathers, as well, hyphenate their last names, combining past and present. Those who do not marry and have children often use the hyphenated last name for their children.
Years ago having a different last name from your kids’ posed a huge problem at school. I remember when my bonus daughter’s mom went to pick her up — their last names were different — and the school would not release her. They called my home to verify because we had the same last name. Her mother was livid. Now there are so many parents with different last names from their children’s it’s hardly a problem. Keeping parent contact cards up-to-date is an easy remedy.
Your concern about a name change professionally also is understandable. Any change in your last name may confuse things, particularly if you are in sales or have formed a professional reputation that is dependent on name recognition. And, it’s true — the length of your name will make a difference. Some will just drop one of the names when referring to you if they feel it’s too long.
Bottom line, it’s up to you, but the fact that you are looking at this from every angle is excellent ex-etiquette.
Jann Blackstone is the founder of bonusfamilies.com.