I haven’t posted on this topic since October 18, 2008. My fellow blogger, Attorney Dick Price, publisher of the Divorce and Family Law Blog in Tarrant County, Texas, wrote an interesting post about trying to “force” a soon to be ex-wife into taking back her former name. The analysis under Ohio law would be the same as his under Texas law. Here is what Dick wrote on April 11, 2009:
A question that comes up occasionally is whether a husband can make his ex-wife change her last name so that she no longer uses his last name. The short answer is NO.
While adults can change their own names either as part of a divorce or as a separate action, the Texas Family Code does not provide a means to force someone else to change her name.
So, if you can’t force her to change her name, can you talk her into it? Maybe, but there are some difficulties associated with the name change. She would have to change her driver’s license and Social Security card. She would need to change over credit cards and loans. In other words, your ex-wife may not want to put up with the aggravation of changing everything just to make you happy.
One other factor is the presence or absence of children. If you and your wife have children together, and they have the same last name as you and your wife, she may not want to change her name. On the other hand, if your wife does not have children with your last name, she may be less tied to your name. Or, if your wife has children with a last name different from yours, she might be interested in changing back to that name.
Another factor is that if a husband is pushing hard for his wife to change her name as part of the divorce, she may decide not to go along with it just to annoy her husband. (Imagine such behavior during a divorce!)
Finally, everything else being equal, husbands should be aware that wives who have used another last name for a short period of time often will be more inclined to change their name.
Conclusion: You just don’t have much control over someone else’s name.
I took a bit of a different approach to the topic. Here is what I wrote:
Don’t forget to discuss with your lawyer before the final hearing if you want to be reinstated to a former name. This is the time to accomplish the name change with ease; and typically, without any additional costs! Procedures vary from court to court whether the name change can be submitted as part of the Final Decree or by way of a separate Court Order. Either way, it is easy, and the wife has the right to decide whether she wants to keep her married surname. No, husbands, you cannot require your ex to relinquish your surname. Ex-wives cannot pick a new surname; they can only be reinstated to a maiden or former name.
If you decide months after the divorce that you want to go back to a former name, it may be too late to have the Domestic Relations Court enter the name change for you. In that event, one would have to file a new action through the Probate Court to accomplish the name change. That Probate action would likely take several months and add filing fees and more costs.
Also remember, if you do change your name, be sure to report the change to the Social Security Administration. Otherwise, your earnings may not be recorded properly and you may not receive all the benefits you are due. Not changing your name with Social Security can also delay your income tax refund. It’s easy to do this by making a trip to one of their local offices. It usually takes about two weeks to have the change verified and the new card issued. The form is available on the Agency’s website, by calling toll free 1-800-772-1213 and at local offices. To accomplish this you will need to fill out an application for a Social Security card (form SS-5). For more information about this, including the documentation you need to bring, click here.
I think between the two of us bloggers, we have this topic pretty well covered. To take a look at Dick Price’s excellent blog, click here.
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog. Mr. Mues has also been a dog owner for 55+ years, and just recently, he and his wife are the owners of "Ralph", a rescued mixed Wire Hair and Jack Russell Terrier.