- Melinda Gates updated her Twitter name to include her maiden name, Melinda French Gates.
- Officially changing your last name can be a difficult, emotional and bureaucratic process that takes up to six months.
- Insider asked divorce experts the most common reasons people change their name.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Bill and Melinda Gates announced they filed for divorce last week. Soon after, Melinda added her maiden name back to her Twitter profile, Melinda French Gates.
Changing your name after a divorce can be a very personal and difficult decision to make, according to Nate Zorich, certified divorce coach and co-founder of Avail Divorce.
While there is no singular reason people opt to change their names back after getting a divorce, Zorich said the decision can signify the end of an era.
"A name change can be more about completion and closure – a passage," Zorich said.
Here's why people choose to change their name post-divorce and the legal steps it takes to make the update.
People may switch back to their maiden name to mark a new beginning
Zorich told Insider one of the most common reasons people decide to change their name back after a divorce is for a sense of closure after the end of the relationship.
"Just as the wedding ceremony is marked by the introduction of the new couple and sealed with a kiss, a divorce that closes with the pronouncement of a woman's new name is fitting," Zorich said.
While changing your name back to your family name isn't a guarantee you will get over the divorce immediately, it can provide a tangible marker to a new chapter.
Sometimes, people opt to not change their names for outside factors, like their children
While changing your name after a divorce can be cathartic for some, other times there are practical reasons that keep people from doing so like time, energy, or children.
Jennifer Ciplet, certified divorce coach and co-founder of Avail Divorce, told Insider one of her clients thought she would change her name after getting divorced but decided against it after her nine-year-old son asked her not to.
"She realized the impact of changing her last name at this time would reach beyond only her. Her son rarely made such requests," Emily Tracer, a spokesperson for Avail, said. "So, she changed her mind and kept her married last name after the divorce - at least for now."
Changing your name after a divorce can take anywhere from a few days to six months
Zorich said officially changing your name can take 10 days to six months depending on your state and county. However, reverting to your maiden name doesn't end there.
"Once a name has been legally changed, the process is only just beginning," Zorich said. "You'll have to change passports, vehicle titles, and registrations, bank information, credit cards, etc. - the list goes on."
He recommends putting together a spreadsheet to keep track of all of the documents that need to be changed.
Legally, there are very few reasons you wouldn't be able to change your name such as doing so to avoid debt or if there is an outstanding warrant for your arrest.
Despite the bureaucratic and emotional difficulties, more people are keeping their family names when they get married
In recent years, more people have opted into hyphenating their two names together when they get married, or they keep their family name entirely, rather than taking on their partner's name.
"An additional 10 percent or so chose a third option, such as hyphenating their name or legally changing it while continuing to use their birth name professionally," Zorich told Insider.
"Every ending is a new beginning, and this is especially true of divorce, which is a death, of sorts," Zorich said. "Choosing a new last name is both symbolic and tangible, marking a fresh start."