It is not a legal obligation for a woman to take her husband’s surname after marriage. Many women these days prefer to retain their own surname for professional or family reasons. However, many older women will have chosen to take their husband’s surname as a matter of course.
It is understandable that a woman might want to revert to her maiden name after a divorce, thus losing her husband’s surname.
Men, too, may wish to return to their sole surname if they adopted their former partner’s surname as part of a double-barrelled surname.
You can, of course, just let friends and relatives know that you’d prefer to be called by your maiden name and retain your married surname to avoid the fuss (and expense) of changing passport, bank accounts etc. If you have young or teenaged children, too, then a change of surname might only add to the trauma they’ve undergone during the divorce procedure.
If you have children under the age of 16 then the other parent must give his/her written consent.
Changing your bank account name
If you do decide to change your surname, this is done in one of two ways: by presenting a combination of your marriage certificate (which shows your maiden name) and your decree absolute certificate when dealing with government departments, banks (opening an account in your ‘new’ name, for example), etc. However, sensitivity to issues relating to fraud and money ‘laundering’, banks in particular are reluctant to accept a decree absolute as identification.
The policy at the Lloyds/Halifax/Bank of Scotland group, for example, is that an existing customer would need to provide divorce papers/decree absolute together with any ONE of the following:
- Marriage Certificate
- Birth Certificate
- Deed Poll (or for Scotland a copy of entry in the Register of Corrections)
For a new customer to the bank, additional identification (as well as the above) would be required in line with their usual account opening procedures. This includes verification items such as a UK Driving Licence; UK Passport; ID card, as well as supporting evidence of proof of address. If these items are still in the ‘married name’ they are acceptable, if produced together with the items listed in the above (first bullet).
One thing to note is that, although now divorced, your credit rating could be impacted if you held a joint account, or took out a mortgage and/or loan and payments were missed or mismanaged, even though it was no fault of your own; not even if the financial mismanagement was a contributory factor in your divorce.
Find out how to protect your finances during a divorce.
Changing your name by deed poll
The other, more watertight, way is to change your name by deed poll. This is a simple, straightforward process than can be done online or by paper forms.
Anyone over the age of 16 has the right to change their name (not just surname), though there are restrictions and obligations for those with a criminal record, the self-employed and under the Mental Health Act.
You can also choose the title by which you wish to be known – Miss, Ms, or retain Mrs.
At the end of the deed poll application, you will be given a legal document, rather than a simple certificate. This establishes your name change by law.
You do not need to wait until the divorce has been finalised before changing your name. If you are separated, you are well within your rights to revert/change your name. This will have no bearing on the divorce application/proceeding itself, although you are advised to tell the other party and their legal representatives of the name change to save unnecessary complications later.
If you intent to remarry soon after the divorce is finalised then you may not think it worthwhile going through the process.
There is a fee of £33 for the service.
Visit deedpoll.org.uk/ for further details or call 0333 444 8484.