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Will your divorce include a name change?

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As celebrity reporters have scoured Angelina Jolie's divorce petition for insights into the breakdown of her marriage with Brad Pitt, one detail doesn't seem to have surfaced yet: whether she'll be dropping the Pitt name.

Name changes in divorce may be a no-brainer for some people, but for others the decision can be quite complicated. Here are some issues that may weigh in the decision.

Professional reputation

You don't have to be a movie star to have significant professional achievement attached to your name. Anyone who has built a professional reputation under a married name might hesitate before giving it up. If you've been in business for yourself or published under your married name, you may feel like your personal brand could suffer under a name change.

Children

Children can also make name changes more complicated. If you took your husband's name so that you could have the same name as your children, this may also be a reason to hold on to it even after divorce.

If you change your name to your birth name after divorce, it may also be possible to change your children's last name as well. Your attorney can advise you on how likely a court is to consider this to be in the best interest of your children.

Other concerns

Name changes are easiest when you're reverting to the name you used before marriage rather than taking a new name entirely. In this case, you can usually receive a court-order name when your divorce is finalized. If you think you'll probably want to change your name back after your divorce, your attorney can help you make the process as smooth as possible.

Once you have your court-ordered name change, you can change your name on your driver's license and financial accounts - and begin the next chapter of your life.

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