My Public Divorce – The pain of reverting from ‘Mrs’ to ‘Ms’

As if separation and divorce wasn’t bad enough hey?

For a woman, deciding whether to keep or change a married surname is more than likely going to swing towards the latter; statistically unless she has children who share the married surname of course.

Wedding website suggests no fewer that 24 places to remember to change your name following your happy day of nuptials. That’s 24 places to change back again if you divorce – along with your marital status. Combined with a simultaneous move to new accommodation in many cases, it’s enough to send even the most level-headed woman completely bonkers.

Heartbreakingly, Brittany Wong’s article for the Huffington Post gave two of the 11 reasons for not reverting to a maiden name as: ‘The hassle’ and ‘The shame’.

The top reason given was ‘My married name felt more grown up’. And why would a woman in her fifties and sixties perhaps want to become a ‘Miss’, or use ‘Ms’ with all its potential connotations?

An understandable reason to stick with the married name might well be ‘the cost’ seeing as the price attached to changing a passport is £72.50.

Comments sent to the Go Title Free team have included dozens of stories from women who are still reminded of their marital past twenty years after their separation, sometimes even prompting them to change mobile numbers and research call blocking services specifically because of incorrect use of a previous title which they don’t want to be reminded of.

Many of the stories talk about those awkward moments when customer services or call centre staff ring and make bungling mistakes, including:

Calling older women ‘Mrs’ because they’ve wrongfully decided that ‘Miss’ is too young a term for the person on their database.

Calling a ‘Mrs’, ‘Ms’, because they are worried that their database might be wrong, or that she doesn’t want to be identified as ‘married’.

Calling a ‘Ms’, ‘Mrs’, because their database IS wrong, and the person is now divorced and goes by a different name entirely.
Men escape the receiving end of this struggle. Every part of it.

Let’s consider the fact that marital titles are not actually a legal part of your name. They are social titles and are not listed on passports.

If the passport office can decide that titles are not important, surely so can the electricity company and the broadband provider?
Arguably, if titles are not part of our legal identity, then there can be no justification for businesses to continue to use them.

Perhaps well-meaning customer service trainers like to avoid using ‘First Name, Surname’ because it feels over familiar? Or impolite?
Sadly, evidence shows us that all too often, customer services are getting it woefully wrong. The use of marital status titles is too personal, with too large a room for error because of the wide range of personal preference.

Stella Sutcliffe

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