10/07/2014 01:28 pm ET Updated Dec 07, 2014

Buying Back My Name

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No one gets married thinking that they are going to get divorced. Like everyone else, when I got married, I thought it was forever, for life. Although I wasn't planning on having children, I wanted to go the "traditional route," and so I took my husband's last name.

For the next 10 years I established myself with a name that I honestly never identified with. I missed my last name. Let's be honest, Kennedy is a pretty kick-ass last name. As a married woman with my husband's name I established a career and a presence.

Getting divorced was such a hard time for me. Not just because of the divorce but because of where I was (and more importantly, where I wasn't, yet) in my life. I met with a divorce attorney who began to walk me through the process. One day, in his office, without much forethought, I asked the question, "Can I change my name back?"

"Of course you can," he responded. I was relieved. I think I even smiled. "For a fee" he added.


I was appalled. "But it's MY name," I pleaded. "You mean to tell me that the court is going to make me pay for my name. I had that name for 30 years! It was given to me by my parents!"

And then he said it..."Yes, but you abandoned that name when you took your husband's."

Abandoned. He actually used the word abandoned. My cheeks felt flush. I stewed about it all the way home. I had abandoned my name. For me, it wasn't just about the name, I wondered, "Had I abandoned who I was? In giving up my name, what else had I given up?"

I had long been protective of my name. My father had no sons, and so I knew that when he died, the name would die with him. Even though I took my husband's last name, I moved Kennedy to the "middle name slot." I couldn't bear to do the hyphenated name, it just seemed like too much, but I always wanted to keep Kennedy somewhere in there out of respect to my dad. When he passed away, about mid-way through my marriage, I remember feeling a little pang of betrayal that I had let that name slip out of the prominent "last name slot."

Getting married didn't only result in a name change, it resulted in a change of my entire identity. I was now a wife. I was part of a couple. I became a "Mrs." -- a spouse. And then when I got divorced, I became a statistic.

When I got to work the day after meeting with my attorney, I got an email from him with the paperwork I needed to fill out for the courts. It was a petition to reclaim my name. I not only had to pay the courts, but I had to petition them. The attorney informed me that the court could decide not to give me back my name (although it was a rare thing to deny such a request.)

Now I was really pissed!

I filled out the paperwork and prepared a check to the courts. With every word and number I wrote on that check, I got angrier and angrier. I felt so wronged.

On April 15th, the day of the Boston Marathon bombings, my husband and I went to the lawyer's office and signed our divorce papers. Afterwards, we went back to my place to watch the news coverage out of Boston. He even took my bike home with him to store in his garage for me. It was over. And then, three days later, I received notification that my once-abandoned last name was being legally returned to me.

I went about the normal tasks of changing my name on everything from my driver's license to my bank accounts. I informed my employer and spent the next six months reminding people (not so subtly) when they got my name wrong.

I started to re-establish myself in the work world. I went back to school, started two businesses and wrote a book, all under my proper, given name.

Buying back my name wasn't just about how I would sign my checks and vacation request forms; it was about rediscovering who I was, who I am and who I was meant to be. And that was worth every penny I paid for it!