Can I Make My Ex-Wife Change Her Last Name?

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

Can I Make My Ex-Wife Change Her Last Name?

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

After a divorce, you cannot legally force your ex-wife to change back to her maiden name. She has the right to keep your last name. Though this may be frustrating, understanding why she wants to keep your last name might help you move on from the disagreement. Additionally, discussing what name she will continue to use after your marriage is over during the divorce proceedings can be mutually beneficial.

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Reasons for Keeping the Same Last Name

Though your marriage has ended, your ex-wife may have many reasons to keep the same last name as you. Reviewing these reasons may help you accept her decision. First, if you have children, she may want to keep the name for consistency and continuity. Depending on the length of the marriage, she may identify more with your last name than her maiden name, which she hasn't used in years.

If your ex-wife has created her professional reputation with your last name, she'll be hesitant to change it. Finally, she may not want to deal with the hassle of changing her name. After all, she's the one that will have to wait in lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Social Security Administration.

There are no legal actions you can take to make your ex-wife change her name. However, there are ways that the two of you might come to an agreement or, at least, an understanding.

Ways to Negotiate

You can attempt to negotiate with your ex-wife to change her last name, although she's under no legal obligation to do so. It's best to consult before your divorce is final. After your divorce is final, although you could petition to modify your divorce decree for a name change, you're in a weaker negotiating position.

You could also suggest that she hyphenate her last name, with your name and her maiden name. Although this may not serve as the clean break you desire, she would still share a name with your children. This could potentially satisfy some of your ex-wife's concerns as well as yours.

Divorce Documents

If you do negotiate a name change with your ex-wife, whether it's a return to her maiden name or the creation of a new hyphenated name, include this change in your divorce decree. This ensures that the name change the two of you agree to occurs once your divorce is final.

Although your divorce decree will legally change your ex-wife's last name, she must then change it on her driver's license, with the Social Security Administration, with any financial institutions, and with your children's school, if applicable.

Remember, you can't force your ex-wife to change her name. If negotiation during the divorce doesn't work, then you'll need to accept the fact that your ex will continue with your name. Depending on how contentious your divorce is, a name change might not be as critical as the division of property or child support. Accepting your ex-wife's decision to keep your name may be a conciliation worth making if it eases other disagreements.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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