On marriage UK women usually change their name.
However legally, they do not have to. Many women now change their names back to their maiden name, post-divorce. Recently one of my clients asked if she could change her name before her Decree Absolute. I answered: ‘Of course you can. Call yourself whatever you like’.
It made me wonder whether our custom was worldwide.
In much of the English-speaking world, including Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Gibraltar, The Falkland Islands, Ireland, India, Philippines, the English speaking Canada and the United States, newly married persons need only produce their marriage certificate to evidence their wish to change their name.
A 2004 Massachusetts Harvard study found women, with college degrees, were 2-4 times more likely to retain their surname than those without one. They objected to the inequality of the tradition and didn’t wish to lose their identity. The American Suffragette, Lucy Stone, made a national issue of the right to keep one’s own surname.
Until 2007, in The U.S., only 6 states allowed a man to change his name through marriage with the same ease as a woman. California joined these 6 with The Name Equality Act of 2007. Florida followed in 2013.
In Canada both spouses and ‘common law’ couples may assume the other’s surname.
In England, however, ‘common law’ couples require a Deed Poll or Change of Name Deed.
In France, since the 1789 Revolution, the name remains the same as on the birth certificate. In 1983, Greece followed, and Italy and the Spanish speaking countries are the same.
In Germany, since 1977, either party may adopt the other’s surname, as is the case in Russia. Until 2014 it was compulsory for women in Turkey to take their husband’s surname.
Interestingly in China and Taiwan women keep their surnames after marriage while their children inherit the father’s.
In Japan, the law only recognises the marriage if the parties share the surname, so 96% of married Japanese women feel compelled to take their husband’s name.
While UK women don’t NEED to take the husband’s name, they usually do. Women often sacrifice equality for romance! Then if they wish to change back before or after Decree Absolute, a legal document is needed.
Please don’t go down the lengthy and expensive Deed Poll route. Simply ask Fleming & Co to prepare a Change of Name Deed. Easy, speedy and inexpensive.