Do You Have to Take or Keep Your Spouse’s Name?

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Name Changes on Monday, December 28, 2015.

What’s in a name? A lot. Last week the Supreme Court of Japan upheld the constitutionality of a law requiring married couples to use the same last name after marriage. What about after divorce?

A statute requiring Japanese spouses to choose which single family name – the husband’s or the wife’s – to adopt in legally registering their marriage. The family law dates from the Meiji Era (1868-1912).

96% of couples in Japan choose the Husband’s last name

The plaintiffs argued this amounts to gender discrimination because being forced to choose a single surname infringes on personal dignity and the freedom to marry.

Presiding Justice Itsuro Terada said sharing a single family name is a system “deeply rooted in our society” and is meaningful in that it “enables people to identify themselves as part of a family in the eyes of others.”

Although admitting that being pressured to forfeit a maiden name often works to women’s disadvantage professionally, Terada said such hardships can be mitigated, since women are free to use their maiden names in daily life.

Noting that the law gives couples the freedom to decide which surname to adopt, Terada said it is not discriminatory in itself.

Florida is different.

Just because you’ve married, and decided to change your name, doesn’t mean you’ve officially changed your name, or have to by law.

Before you can change your name after you’re married, you’ll need the original (or certified copy) marriage license with the raised seal and your new last name on it.

In order to change your name after you marry, you will then need to update your name with the Social Security Administration first, and then with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Changing your name after a dissolution of your marriage is a little different.

Rather than a marriage license, after a divorce you’ll need a certified copy of your divorce final judgment. Make sure it includes a provision that grants your name change.

If it does, this document will serve as your legal proof of name change. If it is missing, you may need to amend your final judgment or possibly file a petition for a change in your name.

Like a marriage license, your divorce decree lets you change your name, but you will need to notify SSA and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

The Japan Times article is here.