How to change your surname on divorce

When getting married it is usual custom for a wife to take her husband’s surname, but if the marriage comes to an end, there’s often a question of keeping your married name or reverting back to your maiden name. Family law expert Karen Reid explores the options.

As an adult, you can call yourself by any name you choose without any official documentation. This means that while your friends and family can call you by your desired name and you can update any social media accounts to include this, official organisations including the passport office and bank will require formal proof of your name.

Do I have to keep my married name?

There’s no legal problem in retaining your married name after divorce and from a practical point of view, if all your official documents such as passport, driving licence and bank accounts are in your married name, you may not want to go to the trouble and expense of changing them back.

Any children you have are also likely to have your married name, so some people choose to retain their married surname. This is because you wouldn’t be able to change your child’s surname without either your former husband’s consent or a court order.

If you’re a married man taking your wife’s surname or if you choose to use a double-barrelled surname, which is popular in same sex marriages, then you’ll need to formally confirm a surname change by a change of name deed.

Changing my surname

For those who want or need to change their surname, a change of name deed can be prepared. Once signed and witnessed, it can be shown to all official authorities who can then record your change of name.

The change of name cannot take place for the purpose of fraud though so you can’t, for example, escape paying a debt in one name by changing it to another.

Don’t get caught out

While you don’t legally have to change your passport to your new name until it expires, you’re legally obliged to change your name on your driving license immediately, and you could get a £100 fine if you fail to notify the DVLA.

For advice on changing your name or any other family law matter, contact Karen Reid on 01254 272640 or email her at