September 29, 2016

Monthly Misconception for September – “My spouse says since I want the divorce I have to give up his last name.”

Both male and female clients often ask me whether a divorcing husband can force a divorcing wife to give up the husband’s last name as part of a divorce.  

Unlike many aspects of family law, the law here is clear and definitive.  The answer is “no”.   The husband has no legal right and basically not even legal input into whether a wife wants to keep the husband’s last name after a divorce.  It is solely the wife’s decision.

And as more and more same sex couples marry and divorce, the rule stays the same – neither spouse can force the other to change his or her last name as part of the divorce.  Period.

If you are considering divorce and changed your name upon marriage, before you can complete the divorce, you’ll need to make this name decision.  Here are some points to remember:

  1. You have a legal right to keep your married name.                          
  2. You have a right to request that your name be changed back to your birth name or a former name as part of the divorce.
  3. Consider the potential practical impact of a name change, for example, the consistency of  important legal documents like passports and driver’s licenses, or how your kids will feel having a different last name.
  4. Even if you choose to retain your married name at the tine of the divorce, any time later you can, typically with a minimal amount of effort, time and expense,  seek a name change.  The family court can process a name restoration request post divorce .  In addition, the probate court has the power to officially change an applicant’s name not only to a birth or former name but to a completely new name.

Trying to decide how to handle your name as part of your divorce? Or have you been divorced for several years and only now are ready to change your name?  I’d be happy to help you consider the legal and practical consequences of your name options and implement your decision.

Call me at 203-271-3888.

« Back to all news