Reverting to your maiden name

Life is full of twists and turns, and not all relationships are forever. Most women, when they get married and their romance is all sunshine and roses, choose to take on their new husband's name. If that love fades and the relationship falls apart, then most women will seek to sever this symbolic tie. No one wants to be reminded of a painful situation every time they pull out a driving licence, or sign for a delivery.


If you are currently going through a separation or a divorce and want to revert to using your maiden name, the good news is that you still can. When you got married and changed your name, that name-change wasn't a legal process, you were just assuming your husband's name. At any point you could have chosen to use your prior name instead – as, of course, many women do. So now that you've split up you can simply go back to using your maiden name and, for most companies, the only proof you'll need to get them to change their records is a copy of your marriage certificate, which shows both your husband's and your own name, and of your birth certificate and government-issued photo ID. If, for whatever reason, you do not have copies of your marriage and birth certificates then you can get new ones from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.


In some cases, however, it might not be this easy. Some organisations may ask to see a copy of your divorce order. If you are still waiting for the divorce to go through, or you want to switch back to using your maiden name for any other reason, this puts you in a quandary. One avenue you could try is to change your passport and driving licence first, and then use these as supporting evidence alongside your marriage certificate and birth certificate in support of your application.


Another alternative is to change your name legally through Births, Deaths and Marriages. You should never feel you have to do this – it is not necessary by law and companies are obliged to accept your name prior to marriage – but you might feel it is worth doing for the sake of speed and convenience. If you do change your name legally, remember that your passport and driving licence, which normally you can put off altering until they come due for renewal and so save yourself a significant chunk of money, will need to be updated straight away.

One difficult issue that may arise when a relationship breaks up is what name any children should take. If it has been agreed that a child should change to your pre-marriage name – and bear in mind that that child's consent may be required if they are over 12 years old -  then you will have to lodge an application with Births, Deaths and Marriages. In most cases, and particularly where the separation has been amicable, children will keep their names.

When you revert to your maiden name there are a whole host of people and organisations, from banks to child minders, that you will want to contact with your new information. In some cases this will be a tedious process – for example, you will probably have to go in to the local branch of your bank so your signature can be witnessed – while in others it might be a case of a simple phone call. You will, of course, know what's involved after having changed your name once already, but remember that there are certain bodies that you may have to give higher priority to this time round. If you now receive government benefits, for example, you will need to inform Work and Income of your new situation as this may affect your payments.

The whole process can become incredibly complicated, particularly at a time when you've got other things on your mind, and you may find yourself being called different names in different places as you try to get everything sorted out. This can throw up practical problems if, for example, your passport and credit cards are in different names and you try to book a flight, or you forget which name a particular company knows you by and an order or payment doesn't go through. Luckily, there is a website that can help you manage this process: sell personalised kits that include contact details, letter templates and application forms, as well as a checklist to help you keep track of how far you've got. After all, going through a divorce or separation is difficult, and having to inform everyone of your change of name can be a hassle that you just don't need. Best to make the process as easy as possible and concentrate on getting on with your life.

You don't need to be divorced or even separated to start using your maiden name again.  We explain how.