Can I Force my Ex-Spouse to Change Their name?

EPGD Law Family Law

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.

EPGD Business Law is located in beautiful Coral Gables, West Palm Beach and historic Washington D.C. Call us at (786) 837-6787, or contact us through the website to schedule a consultation.

*Disclaimer: this blog post is not intended to be legal advice. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*

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Eric Gros-Dubois

Eric P. Gros-Dubois founded EPGD Business Law in 2013 and is the current head of the firm’s corporate, estate planning, and tax practice, and manages the firm’s Washington D.C. office. With a JD and MBA, and a specialization in finance, Eric is able to step back and view the legal world through a commercial lens while also acting as a trusted business advisor for his clients. He does his best to be solutions oriented, and tries to think like a business owner, not just a lawyer.


*The following comments are not intended to be treated as legal advice. The answer to your question is limited to the basic facts presented. Additional details may heavily alter our assessment and change the answer provided. For a more thorough review of your question please contact our office for a consultation.

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