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Ashby de la Zouch

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I am divorced, can I force my wife to change her name? Plus what will happen to the children’s names now?

When a couple marry, it has traditionally been typical for one of the couple to assume the other’s surname (although this is not an actual requirement of the law). When they do so, the only evidence that they require of the change of surname is the Marriage Certificate which proves that the marriage has taken place. In contrast, when a couple divorce, the Certificate of Decree Absolute (which confirms the divorce) does not prove that the name has reverted back to the original name. That is because this does not happen automatically through operation of law. As such, if a person wishes to return to their original name then they will need to execute a document called a Deed Poll confirming their wish to be known by another name.


The Deed Poll is a relatively straightforward document but there is no way in which one individual can oblige another to execute such a document. Broadly speaking, any individual is allowed to go by such surname as they wish to. The only evidence that will be required will be the Deed Poll. As such, there is no way in which, say, a husband, can insist that a wife change the surname that they had adopted on marriage when they divorce. If they wish to retain that name (as they often do for the benefit of the children) then they are free to do so.


Where a couple have been married, they share Parental Responsibility for any children of the marriage. As such, they must make any significant decisions for the children together. In view of that, it is not possible for an individual parent to change the surname of their children on divorce without the other parent’s express consent. In the event of a dispute, the person wishing to change their child’s name may make an application to the court for permission to do so but they should be aware that that permission will not be lightly given by the court. It would need to be clearly demonstrated to a court that the change of name was in the child’s interest because, otherwise, a child’s surname would be seen to be an important part of their identity and heritage and something that should be retained.


Again, issues relating to change of name are often complex and expert advice should always be sought.


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