Name change tricky for working women

Well before her wedding, Lauren Abraham decided she would take her husband’s last name, Mahoney.

First, she became Lauren Abraham Mahoney, then Lauren Mahoney, confusing her co-workers at Home Depot headquarters in Atlanta. The tedious legal process of switching her name took about nine months to complete.

Finally, more than a year after her wedding, the 29-year-old e-mailed 160 friends and acquaintances to alert them to a new e-mail account and clarify her identity.

“As I was meeting people over the last year with my new name, and I gave them my e-mail address, it was my old name, which they didn’t know,” she said.

Changing one’s surname after marriage is still more common than not for women, often because they hope it will make for fewer complications in the long run, when they have children.

In the short term, however, those with careers find they must take extra steps to maintain the professional identities they worked hard to build. In a world of text messaging and online social networking, women want to keep up their personal network, too.

Both transitions often begin with a new e-mail address.

“There’s definitely a period of adjustment, as much for me as my peers and my business contacts, but I’m glad that I did it quickly and aggressively,” said Jennifer Kramer, 31, who built up the name Jennifer Connell over seven years as a spokeswoman, first in Democratic politics and now for a utility company in New Jersey.

When she got married, she switched immediately to Jennifer Kramer, and still signs her name “formerly Connell” in her work e-mail.

Leslie Levine, a health policy analyst, took a more gradual approach when she changed her name twice for two marriages over six years. She first used her maiden name as a middle name so the network of contacts she built up could find her.

Levine, 36, said the techies at work created a bounce e-mail message from her old address to her new one. And when she returned to work from her wedding, she sent out a mass e-mail — and taped a note near her phone.

“I think the most difficult part was me remembering to answer the phone correctly with my new name,” said Levine, who works for Colorado’s health department.

Still, a receptionist at her office told callers Leslie Levine didn’t work there. Traveling for work caused problems when rooms booked through her company still used her old name.

“The worst was a Canada trip and trying to go through Customs,” she said.

Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, who published a well-known study in 2004 on name changes and marriage, said there appears to be a slight increase since the 1980s in the number of professional women who take their husbands’ names.

“There are costs of keeping your name and costs of changing your name and it’s a matter of balancing the two,” she said.

Tips for changing your name after marriage include:

• Don’t throw away your old driver’s license for at least six months. It will help when traveling. Hotels, airlines or car rentals may have your old information, especially if you’re using a travel agent through work.

• If you travel internationally, make sure your passport matches your ticket. A new passport can be ordered in the mail.

• Order extra certified copies of your marriage license. You’ll need one when you change your name with Social Security.

• Change your Social Security card through the mail by downloading an application the Social Security Administration Web site.

• Remember to change the title to your car, your voter registration, bank accounts, credit cards and subscriptions. Notify your college alumni office, frequent flier programs, etc.