To change or not to change…

Posted by Rachel Giles on

I was speaking to a colleague recently, on the subject of a woman changing her surname on marriage. Being recently engaged, it is something that I will have to think about, in the not-too-distant future, and I thought that I would do some research into both law and opinion.

Perhaps surprisingly, it was only 1000 years ago that the practice of coverture – essentially a woman losing her own legal existence and taking her husband's surname - became expected. It is little wonder that, with the rise of feminism this practice became less common! As it stands, there is nothing legally that states a woman must change her name on marriage. She can, of course, choose to do so, but she does not have to. She can keep her maiden name, create a double-barrelled surname, or even use both names without a hyphen.

Interestingly, it has also become popular to do something completely different. Women are reported to have amalgamated both their and their husband's names to create a new name, ignored both names and chosen a completely new one with their partner, or simply not even considered the subject at all.

It appears that, there is again a movement in favour of women having more choice in this regard, particularly from women! There are many websites and articles concerning the women's side in all of this, but there is little that asks the men what they think. It would be interesting to see if tradition will be favoured, or if there is a level of understanding shown by modern men. There are many compelling reasons both for and against a name change, but I don't think that men need to be scared however! There is still a large proportion of women who do change their names, and indeed are happy to do so. It is simply down to personal preference. I would hope however that no one (man or woman) would seek to impose their view on anyone else!

Of course, what I haven't done yet is consider the potential consequences of any of the options above. I suppose there could be an impact on children not sharing their surname with either one of their parents, however, I question whether this will be an issue with the amount of women breaking with tradition. There of course would be an advantage on divorce; there will no discussion on whether to change back to your maiden name if you didn't change it in the first place!

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Rachel is a Solicitor in the Family team and is based in the Southampton office.

Rachel Giles
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023 8085 7222

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