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New law will make it easier on divorced women to reclaim names

When you're a woman, changing your last name at marriage is a social custom that's so widely accepted it's accomplished just by showing your marriage certificate when you update your driver's license and Social Security record.

If you get divorced, however, the road back to your previous name is not so simple. In fact, many Illinois women consider it downright intrusive and complicated -- to the point where they may put the whole thing off indefinitely rather than cope with the hassle and exposure.

Things may soon change. If Governor J.B. Pritzker signs the legislation that's currently in front of him (and he's widely expected to do so), women will gain the right to change their names back to their maiden name following a divorce without the hassle of publishing (and paying for) an announcement in the newspaper to alert potential creditors. That requirement is waived during a name change due to marriage -- but no such provision exists for divorce.

The new law was sponsored by State Sen. Cristina Castro, who heard about the issue from a divorced friend. She quickly realized that it was a real issue for many other women in the state. As Castro says, "When you're going through a divorce, the last thing you want is a personal experience like this to be out in the paper."

Some women have been able to avoid the public process by asking for a name change within their divorce decree. However, many women don't know they need to do that or aren't thinking about it at the time they file their paperwork. In some cases, they simply aren't ready to decide whether they want to revert to their old name until the chaos of the divorce dies down.

Small issues that can cause big complications in y our life can be easily overlooked when you don't have experienced legal advice during your divorce.

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