A divorce is a trying experience in and of itself—an ex-spouse keeping your last name can add another emotional dimension. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to legally change someone else’s name.
Why do Ex-Spouses keep last Names?
There are various reasons ex-spouses refuse to change their names, the primary one being stability for the children. A mother or father might want their children to have the same last name as them to remain connected emotionally. Jurisdictions have differing rules on whether the mother or father has the right to change a child’s last name.
If you and your spouse are still married, then neither of you may change a child’s last name without a court order. A judge might be able to decide the child’s name over one parent’s objection in the name of the child’s “best interests.” These interests include the age of the child, the strength of the relationship with each spouse, how long the child has used the name, and the impact on the child if the name change was ordered.
Another reason an ex-spouse may want to keep a name is for professional purposes. In your career development, your name is a definition of your brand and reputation. A name change can compromise connections you have made throughout your jobs, so an ex-spouse is likely to keep a name for that purpose. Your ex-spouse might also feel uncomfortable changing their name if you were married for a significant length of time.
Is it Illegal to keep your Married name After Divorce?
Upon getting a divorce, each spouse has the right to keep their married name. A spouse cannot force their ex-spouse to change their last name, unless it was specified in a prenuptial agreement.
If you and your ex-spouse do not have children, your best option might be to negotiate their changing back to the maiden name in a divorce decree. It is easier to change the name during the divorce proceeding, rather than after, as that would require a separate name change proceeding. If this is not possible, a middle ground might be to have them hyphenate their name. While your ex-spouse still partially has your name, it is a compromise.
If your ex-spouse does not concede to any of these negotiations or concessions, unfortunately there are not many other avenues you can pursue, unless your ex-spouse is keeping the name for fraudulent or scandalous reasons. Indeed, letting go of your name carries significant emotional weight, but it is possible that your ex-spouse might change their name on their own in the future.