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After divorce, a new name symbolizes a new life

Some American women choose to invent entirely new surnames when their marriages end.

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During Meg Bertini's divorce in 2002, she faced a dilemma. She did not want to keep her married name, but she wasn't eager to revert to her maiden name, either.

"It was 'heavy' and just didn't reflect who I was any longer," says Ms. Bertini, president of DreamTime Publishing in Las Vegas.

She solved the problem by making up her surname of Bertini. She created it by using the last part of her father's first name, RoBERT, then adding INI at the end in a nod to her mother's Italian heritage.

"Generally I tell people it's family-derived from my mother's side, and that tends to work," she says. "I just shrug off the jokes that I must be in the witness protection program to change my name in that way."

When couples undo their "I do's" and go their separate ways, women who took their husband's name when they married may find themselves with complex decisions to make. These involve children, parents, careers, and a sense of identity.

"Most of the time women with children like to keep their married name so it's consistent with their children," says Sharon Sooho, a family law attorney in Newton, Mass., and a partner with Divorce.net. "Some women, even without children, prefer to keep their married name because it sounds better, or it's the name they use professionally." A few add a new last name and use their previous last name as a middle name.

Those who, like Bertini, want to start fresh have many options. But they can also face obstacles.

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