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What's in a name? Not enough to make a marriage last, apparently

Texas residents who regularly troll the "news of the weird" section may remember the story of a couple who got married after discovering they had the same name. Kelly Hildebrandt, a man from Lubbock, met Kelly Hildebrandt, a woman from Coral Springs, Florida, after she contacted him on Facebook.

From there a whirlwind romance developed, and the couple's engagement led to nationwide headlines, talk show appearances and magazine covers. They married in October 2009, when husband Kelly was 24 and wife Kelly was 20. And for a time, the couple was happy. But last year they filed for divorce, stating irreconcilable differences. The two remain friends and said they gave it their best shot. But perhaps -- just perhaps -- it takes more than a common name to make a marriage last a lifetime.

One thing they won't have to deal with is a name change. Many spouses will want to revert to their original last names after divorce. Fortunately, the process for doing this is fairly straightforward.

A good first step is to ask the judge hearing your proceedings for a formal order to get your maiden name back. From there, you should get a certified copy of the order, which you can then use to change your name on all of your ID cards, bank accounts and other documents listing your formal name.

In most cases, that is all that's necessary. But if your divorce decree doesn't contain an official court order restoring your original name, your family law attorney should be able to help you get the paperwork changed. If for some reason you can't get the court record changed, you may still be able to do this with documents that have your maiden name, such as a birth certificate or passport.

What about changing your children's last name? Most courts would say that if the father continues to fulfill his parental duties, your children should keep his last name. But in some cases the courts will consider the best interests of the child by examining his or her age, the relationship to each parent and what impact a name change would have on the child.

Of course, you could make the process simpler by marrying a non-relative of the same last name, but as the Hildebrandts might tell you, it's hardly worth the trouble.

Source: NBC Miami, "Husband and Wife, Both Named Kelly Hildebrandt, End Marriage," Jan. 11, 2013

  • Our firm handles divorce and a wide range of other family law issues for Texas residents. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Dallas divorce page.

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