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Does my name automatically change when I get divorced?

This is a question that we are commonly asked, as it is easy to assume that, because your surname changes when you get married, equally when you get divorced, it will revert to your maiden name. However, this is not the case.

Changing your name when you get married

Upon marriage, the marriage certificate or civil partnership certificate is evidence of a change of name. For women who wish to adopt their husband’s surname, they do not have to do this via Deed Poll or a Change of Name Deed, they can simply apply for a new passport, driving licence and change their name on their bank accounts etc. by producing the marriage certificate and asking to be known by their husband’s surname. However, for husbands who wish to change their name to their wife’s surname, or for those who are double-barrelling their surnames, it may be necessary to do this by Deed Poll or a Change of Name Deed.

Changing your surname after divorce

On the flip side, the rules are similar when changing your name after divorce. It is a common misconception that a Decree Absolute (the document which is legal proof of the divorce and replaces the marriage certificate) automatically reverts any changes of name on marriage to what they were previously, without the person having to do anything. This is, in fact, not the case, and changing you name after divorce is entirely your choice.

(You may also be interested in our article on How to Get Divorced)

How do I change my last name back to my maiden name after divorce?

To change back to your maiden name, or a single barrelled name, it is necessary to undertake the same process as above, by sending off the Decree Absolute with any requests to change back to the previous name. it is also an option to do this by Deed Poll, if that is preferred.

How hard is it to change my last name after a divorce?

There are additional requirements for changing a name upon divorce that make it more difficult than changing a name upon marriage. For example, to obtain a passport in a previous name, the Government will also require the following to be submitted:

  • Birth certificate;
  • A signed statement providing that there is an intention to revert to a previous surname ‘for all purposes’;
  • A document that shows the use of the new name. For example, a payslip or a letter from the local council);
  • The Decree Absolute; and
  • The marriage or civil partnership certificate showing both names.

The latter is a difficult requirement as, once the original marriage certificate is sent to the court alongside the application for divorce, it is not returned. Therefore, if the Passport Office insist on this being include, it would fall upon the person applying to also order a further copy from the General Register Office.

This may seem onerous and bizarre, but the reason why the Decree Absolute on its own is insufficient is because it does not reference the previous/maiden name, only the married one. On the other hand, the marriage certificate does show the previous name and also includes the other party’s surname so that it is clear what the married name would be. Prior to 1971, a Decree Absolute would include both names and so would have been sufficient evidence on its own to revert the name.

In most cases, couples are advised to delay obtaining Decree Absolute until the matrimonial finances are settled. If one party does not wish to wait until this is obtained, they have the option of changing their name by Deed Poll prior to this time. Furthermore, some organisations will accept the Decree Nisi (the initial stage of the divorce, and not a final declaration that the marriage is dissolved) as sufficient evidence for the change of name – such as the DVLA.

Recommended Reading: The Difference Between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute

To change to a name that was not the name you had prior to marriage, it is necessary to do so by Deed Poll.

What documents do I need to change after a divorce?

After you have changed your name, you need to notify various companies, organisations and government departments of the change. Some of these institutions may want to see the original Change of Name Deed or Deed Poll document, but most will accept a photocopy.

Below is a list of the most organisations and companies that you need to inform, but this is by no means an exhaustive list and there may be others that you need to notify:

  • Employer
  • Inland Revenue
  • School / College / University
  • Doctor
  • Dentist
  • DVLA
  • Passport Office
  • Bank
  • Building Society
  • Mortgage provider
  • Utility companies
  • Telephone company – landline and mobile
  • Local authority
  • TV Licensing office
  • Credit card company
  • Store cards
  • Investment companies
  • Premium Bond office
  • Pension companies
  • Insurance companies
  • Mail order companies
  • Motoring organisations
  • Professional institutes and bodies
  • Clubs, societies and associations
  • Internet provider
  • Social media platforms

Can I keep my married name when divorced?

Many women choose to change their name back to their maiden name after getting divorced, and as explained above, this is entirely possible. However, there are a variety of reasons why you may decide to keep your married name. These include:

  • You may not want to go through the process of filling out all the forms and notifying multiple organisations of your change of name;
  • If you’ve been married for a long period of time, you may be known by your married name by your friends/peers;
  • You may want to keep the same surname as your children – it is understandable why you would want the same surname as your children. Aside from the emotional aspects, it can make communications with nurseries and schools, as well as travelling abroad, easier if you all have the same surname. However, it is becoming increasingly common for women to have a difference surname to their children – blended families, getting divorced and then remarried, not taking their husband’s name when getting married or cohabiting couples who have children together are all examples of why a mother’s surname may differ to that of their children. It is up to you if you decide to change your name, and with the right paperwork in place, it shouldn’t cause any problems.
  • For business / work purposes – if you have been known by your married name at work for a long time, it may be simpler to keep this name. However, you can go by one name for work purposes, yet go by another name outside of work. Equally, if you set up a business using your married name, it doesn’t need to be a barrier to changing your name – you can keep the name your business trades under whilst having a different name. It is legal for you to be known by more than one name.

It is important to remember that there is no law in England or Wales that means you have to change your name back to your maiden name following a divorce. If you want to keep your married name, that is your choice.

Should you keep or change your last name after a divorce

Whatever you decide, it is important to think things through. Although there is no limit to the number of times that you can change your name – so long as each change is genuine and not for fraudulent purposes – you don’t want to go through the process and notifying everyone that you have changed your name, to then change your mind and have to go through it all again. That said, the decision is entirely yours.

Useful resources when changing your name after divorce

Hawkins Family Law are family law specialists, which means we have years of experience with cases regarding divorce, family matters and more. Our divorce solicitors are on hand to provide you with reliable advice in relation to the best course of action to take if you want to change your surname after a divorce. Just speak to one of our team today.

Having graduated in July 2017 with a first class honours degree in law from the University of Bedfordshire, Holly has since been exploring her interest in Family Law. She is currently undertaking her postgraduate LPC and masters course to qualify as a family solicitor. Holly joined Hawkins Family Law in August 2017. She has previously volunteered with public legal advice services and currently is enjoying a new challenge having recently begun a paralegal role at Hawkins Family Law.

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