Deciding to change your name is a very personal decision. Although I loved being a wife and (love being) a mother, my feeling was that if my ex didn’t want me, I no longer wanted to carry his name. Embarking on my own Shirley Valentine quest to try and rediscover the me I used to be, I would do it with my ‘own’ name.
One reaction I got from someone who had only ever known me by my married name was very inspiring. They claimed my own name sounded like a character from a Robert Louis Stevenson novel and told me to, “Go out and be the heroine of your own story.”
So what does changing your name actually involve? When I married in the late 70s it was easy. I had one bank account, a driver’s licence and a passport. Done and dusted.
Now, 40 years later, it’s more complicated. Some of it is costly, some of it’s not. So how do you go about it?
No matter where you live, the most important thing to start with is to collect ALL of your ORIGINAL documents; birth certificate, marriage certificate and divorce certificate. (Some people are tempted to dispose of the latter. Don’t!)
After that, it will depend where you live. I live in Canada, so this is how I proceeded.
- Driver’s Licence. I took along all 3 certificates and got my new driver’s licence at my local AMA office. (Free)
- Once I had my driver’s licence for ID, I was able to change my provincial Health Care Card. I also did that at the AMA office. (Free)
- I then visited the bank with my new ID and all three original certificates and changed all my account info including credit cards etc. (Free.) I also have a bank account in the UK, so I needed to visit the bank with all three ORIGINAL certificates to have that changed. (Free – except for the cost of getting there!) This applied to my bank, it may not be the same with others, so check out what you need with your branch.
- Social Insurance Number. This is where original documents are so important, especially if you were born or married overseas. This was done at my local government office. (Free) They assured me the change would automatically be transferred over to the Taxation Agency, but it’s a good idea to…
- … contact your Taxation Agency and confirm that has been done. Especially before you file your annual taxes. (Free)
- Passport. Ironically I needed less ID for my passport than my Social Insurance Number – they didn’t need my marriage certificate. Fortunately my passport was up for renewal anyway, so it only cost me the normal amount.
- House title. I’ve still to do that, so I’m not sure what the cost will be.
- Then come other important considerations: car ownership, car insurance, house insurance etc. These were all free and done at my local AMA office.
- Then the minor things – library cards, loyalty reward cards, membership cards. Most of these will be free.
- Time share property. I co-own an overseas timeshare property with my daughter – who is also my executor. They need original documents AND it will cost approximately $300 to change my name on our joint title. I will do that on our next visit to the property.
There are probably other things which I haven’t factored in, but I believe these are the most common. In general, it’s not an expensive undertaking, but it is time-consuming, and here I am, two years after beginning the process, still catching things every so often.
Was it worth it? I have friends who kept their married names and are perfectly happy about their decisions. But for me, changing my name has helped me move forward.
One of the last scenes in Shirley Valentine is when her husband passes her on the beach. She calls out his name and he stops, surprised.
“I didn’t recognise you,” he says.
“I know,” she replies. “I used to be The Mother. I used to be The Wife. Now I’m Shirley Valentine again.”