Can I Make My Ex Wife Change Her Last Name?

By Ciele Edwards

Although no law in the United States requires a woman to take on her husband's surname when she marries, it is a popular tradition. Once a woman legally changes her name through marriage, the name is hers to keep. This is true even if she and her husband divorce.


Regardless of how uncomfortable it makes you, your ex-wife may have legitimate reasons for keeping your last name. Depending on how long you were married, your name may be an integral part of your ex-wife's identity – especially if all her personal and financial records appear under your surname. If the two of you have children, your ex-wife may choose to keep your last name to have the same last name as her children. You can talk to her and ask that she give up your last name, but you cannot legally force her to do so.

Divorce Decree

If your divorce is not yet final, consider negotiating your wife's return to her maiden name as part of the divorce decree. If she agrees, the name change becomes part of the divorce settlement. Once the divorce is finalized, her surname will revert back to her maiden name. Although the divorce decree legally changes your ex-wife's surname, she remains responsible for filing the appropriate paperwork with the Social Security administration and the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state to change her name on both her Social Security card and her driver's license.

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Modify Divorce Decree

Depending on your state of residence, you may be able to modify your divorce decree to include the proposed name change after the divorce is final. Because the divorce is already final, you have less leverage to coerce your ex-wife to make the request to the court. Not all states permit divorced couples to modify their divorce decrees to include a name change.


Although it is free for a woman to change her name upon getting married, changing a surname after divorce can be costly. The fees for this process vary by state, but can range anywhere from $150 to $200 dollars or more. If the cost of a name change is the motivating factor behind your ex-wife retaining your surname, offering to pay for the name change could motivate your ex-wife to begin the process.


If your ex-wife is keeping your last name for the children's behalf, offer a compromise in the form of a hyphenated last name. While adopting a hyphenated name does not erase your surname in its entirety, it does prevent her from using your name alone. A hyphenated surname also allows your ex-wife to keep the name she shares with the children.

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Can a Divorced Woman Keep Her Husband's Last Name?



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Divorce Laws in Louisiana Regarding Name Changes

Although many spouses decide to change their names when getting married, Louisiana does not require anyone to do so. During the marriage, spouses are permitted to use their spouse's last name although their name is not technically changed. After getting a divorce, women do not need to follow the typical legal requirements for a name change, but can acquire confirmation from the court that indicates they are no longer using their ex-spouse's surname.

How to Change Your Name in the State of Florida Due to Divorce

While some women are agonizing about whether to take their fiances' surnames when they marry, others wrestle with what name they wish to use after a divorce. The issue is a personal one and your own decision may turn on how long you were married and whether you have minor children bearing their father's surname. If you are terminating your marriage in Florida, you can change your name during the divorce procedure without incurring an extra dime of expense by making the request in the dissolution petition.

How to Create a New Last Name When You Marry

Although you are not required to change your last name when you marry, you may do so if you wish. The most common way is to adopt your spouse's surname when you sign the marriage certificate but other procedures and choices are available as well. For example, if you changed your name from Brown to Brown-Smith after your first marriage, you could continue to use the same name after your marriage to John Green; revert to the last name of Brown; adopt the name Brown-Green or Green-Brown; or perhaps change both spouses' names to Breen if your state allows you to create a new last name.

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