Can I please have my name back?


Women often debate whether to take their husband’s last name upon marriage.

Shouldn’t men have a right to ask for it back upon divorce?

I’m serious. If a woman doesn’t want to be married to a guy anymore, why should she be allowed to keep his last name? It wasn’t hers before they married.

I’m not trying to be vindictive or petty. I’m genuinely wondering why the question of giving back a man’s last name never comes up.

I should disclose that this issue hits close to home. I’ve been divorced twice, and both my ex-wives have kept my name.

I can understand why Wife No. 1 did. We were married for nine years and had a son together. I never expected her to revert to her maiden name.

But I was stunned when Wife No. 2 opted to keep my name. After all, we were married for only two and a half years. We had no kids together. And we haven’t talked since the divorce was final almost three years ago.

Also, Wife No. 2 had been married before. When she divorced that time (after a longer marriage), she began using her maiden name again. So why not after our divorce?

“Why did you keep my name?”

Wife No. 2 and I have communicated only once since our split. It was via email. She asked if I’d seen any cookware she thought she might have left behind. I had not.

I didn’t know she was still using my last name until I saw her email address. It had “Housewright” in it. I was miffed. Should I be angry? Should I bring it up? I was more confused than anything, but I decided to ask her. I knew I might spark a sharp reply.

“I’m surprised,” I wrote her, “that you’re still using ‘Housewright.’ I thought you didn’t want any reminders of the marriage.”

I watched my computer screen for what seemed like an eternity. Would she even respond? Finally, she did.

“It’s the name people know me by,” she replied. “So I decided to keep it.”

“Well, OK,” I wrote back. “Just wondering.”

Her reply didn’t make any sense to me because, as I said, we were married for such a short time. But I had no desire to get into a fight. So I dropped the issue. After all, how do you ask for your last name back? It’s not like asking for a house or a car.

Still, I’ve wondered about the last-name question since. And I’ve devised some common sense guidelines, I think, on when a woman should relinquish the man’s last name and when she should keep it.

OK to keep the man’s name if:

  • It was her first marriage
  • You had a child together
  • You were married more than five years

Conversely, give the name back if:

  • You had been divorced before
  • You didn’t have kids together
  • The marriage lasted less than five years

So what do you think of my criteria? Am I being reasonable – or an ass?

At the very least, maybe I’m starting a debate.


A woman who is engaged often consults her husband before deciding to take his name in marriage. After a divorce, why doesn’t she also ask his opinion on giving it back? In both cases, she shouldn’t be bound by the man’s wishes. But the question should be fair game for discussion.

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About Ed Housewright

Ed Housewright is the chief cook and bottle washer at Single Dad House. After three decades as a newspaper reporter, he’s trying to adapt to the social media world. He’s matrimonially challenged with two divorces under his belt and is trying to do a better job at raising his 12-year-old son, Connor. Follow Ed on Twitter: @singledadhouse.


  1. Laura Seymour says:

    I think maybe it's circumstantial. Maybe she didn't like her maiden name, or liked yours better, or MAYBE is embarrassed about the 2nd divorce and didn't want people asking questions? Just a thought.

    If I were to get divorced (which hopefully won't happen), I'd keep our last name for the following reasons: I never liked my maiden name, and we have 2 children with this name.

  2. I agree with your thought. Since you and your husband have two kids together, it would make sense to keep your married name. And, like you said, I hope your marriage lasts forever.

  3. I did not keep my married name after either divorce. And, I had kids with number 2. It just didn't feel right. People still call me by the kids last name, which is fine, but the kids don't mind that I had a different last name. I say give it back, and I love your logic about it!

    • I agree with you. If a woman wants a divorce, why does she want to hang onto his name? I can see it in some cases, but seems to me most women would want their own name back.

  4. I know you didn't actually ask about this, but since this is my point of reference…I know that many same-sex couples keep the same last name, even after a split, because if your marriage isn't recognized federally, the process of changing your name is complicated and messy. In my state, same-sex couples who want to change their names are required to have their fingerprints taken and have full investigations by both the FBI and CBI (state bureau of investigation). The whole process can take 6 months. Pain in the neck to do it once, let alone twice…

  5. Mine is a little bit more complicated. When we got married, he said he didn't mind whether I took his name or I kept my maiden name…but after the 2nd year of marriage when my passport and driver's licence was up for renewal – I renewed in my maiden name and guess what? – he hit the roof and flew into such a rage…I was so taken aback and for the sake of lasting peace…so I thought hahaha! I quickly re-applied in my marriage name. I didn't bother change over my work details like NI Number and banking…and now 5 years on after divorce…I still haven't changed anything…more for the children's sake for school purposes and when we travel. It just would have been too convoluted to have different surnames to my daughters and travelling is already stressful enough as it maiden name for work and ex marriage name for official stuff…..Now I am even confused…isn't life fun :)

    • I can't understand your ex's reaction either. If he was OK with you keeping your maiden name when you married, why would he change his mind the second year? The last name question makes some people act crazy.

  6. I'm in the middle of a contentious divorce. Trial date approaching within a month. Long story short, we NEVER should have married. There was no compatibility. We unexpectedly had a baby…. (how do you unexpectedly have a baby??? Her FSH [follicle stimulating hormone] was 61 and we were assured by her ob gyn that there was "no way you could become pregnant… couldn't happen in a million years. You can stop using birth control" It took a month). That turned what would have been an 18 month marriage and turned it into a 7 year, 3 month marriage. I was determined to fit the round peg into a square hole. She was a gold digger, beyond your criteria. Anyway, with respect to the name issue, I'm a physician in a medium sized community. She has a penchant for things like marijuana and has had (I found out after the marriage) some past criminal associations and tendencies. It's probably just a matter of time before she finds herself in trouble with the law. We also have a custody battle for my 6 yo daughter in the works. Anyway, I really would like her to give up my name. If and when she gets herself in trouble, it's MY last name that may appear in the local papers. I haven't brought the subject up yet, but I've thought a lot about it. There are so many other issues right now, it's overwhelming. Yikes.

    • I'm pro giving back the last name. I'm currently in a similar situation the difference is that my boyfriend has been separated for 4 years this year and he is getting divorce this year (finaly) I met him while he was separated and the ex still parades around his last name as if they were still together , they both have 2 kids ages 7 and 9 and I have a 18 month old daughter with him. We plan to get married this year and I want to have his last name but I don't like the fact of sharing my new last name with the ex as well since the relationship is over regardless of having children together or not the last name should be given back out of respect and to move on as well . I think it should be by law and besides!!!… if the ex is over him and he is over her then whats the point on keeping the last name makes no sense!

  7. I think the last name should be given back even if they have kids together or if it was a first marriage since I think its disrespectful to have a new wife and another woman carrying the same last name ; the last name should be given to the person who you are married and thats it ad since the relationship is over the name should be over as well it should be like this by law.

  8. I am in a strange situation. I first got divorced 16 years ago from my sons father but kept my married name to have the same surname as my son. When I remarried I changed my name to my 2nd husbands. this marriage only lasted a year. I changed my name back to my first husband’s surname rather than my maiden name for 1 reason-i had been known as that surname for 15 years so it was easier for work and didn’t want the humiliation of a 3rd surname in the space of 12 months. My now partner cannot understand my reasons and thinks its because I still hold a torch for my son’s father. He cannot be further from the truth. I am now contemplating changing back to my maiden name to keep the peace and wondered what others opinions are?

  9. I agree with you Alison! I was used my 1st husband last name for 8 years (3 kids). When I got remarried I changed my name again….should never had gotten married. Now our divorce is final next week (together for 2 years, filed for divorce a year ago). I am going back to my previous married name (First husband). Everyone thinks I am crazy but I explained to them.__-I haven't used my maiden name since I was 19.__-I have 3 children with the 1st husbands last name.__-I spent 8 years with the 1st husbands last name.__-I have 2 college degrees with that name.____Plus I have talked to my ex (we get along great, and I get along great with his wife…their little boy calls me aunty..and loves to spend the night)…and they are completely fine with it.____It will be wierd because I have been at my new job 2 years and they never knew me with the old last name…so i will have to have anything changed from sign ons/passwords/emails/etc. But it will be worth it :D

  10. I like the way you think Ed and I like your criteria for either being allowed to keep or having to drop a last name. Here's a question I can't find the answer to. I am married, I do not want a divorce, but I was always a little sad that I didn't keep my maiden name. We're married nearly ten years and have two children. I know he would be devastated if I started using my maiden name again and I also know that MIL would have a fit. I'm really thinking about using my maiden name again, what are your thoughts on that?

  11. What about this…
    1st marriage, wife has no less than 8 sexual affairs in 6 months and one was with a 16 year old. We have one Son whihch she abandoned for 2 weeks and she still says she wont change back to her maiden name. How is that fair, dragging my name through the mud?!

  12. Mrs.That'smyNameNow says:

    My husband's ex has legally, in the divorce papers, changed her name back to her maiden name…but still uses it after 5 years of being divorced. They were "officially" married for more than 5 years, have a daughter together and it was her first marriage.. It truly annoys me to the bone that she still uses her name for work, mail and other things. I know it shouldn't bother me as much as it does…but it is very clear – from her behavior too – that it is a way for her to still be "part of the family" even though she goes on screaming/insulting rampages against my husband from time to time.. I wish there was a way to have her stop using his name. I am married to him. She did not want to be married anymore…so why hang on to the name??

    • I agree with you 100%. In most cases, a woman should give up her married name when she divorces. In some cases, I understand keeping it for the kids' benefit. But I don't think it would harm most kids if the mom began using her maiden name again.

  13. I’m not sure why it would be important to the man (in most cases) if his ex-wife decided to keep her married name. It’s not going to affect you. There are probably plenty of other people in the world with your last name. If any random person decided that they wanted your last name, they could legally have it changed. After a person changes their name, their new name is now theirs. It’s not yours to ask back.

    Changing one’s name is a huge pain. There are so many places you have to inform – financial institutions, social security, work places, etc., and it’s not free to replace drivers licenses and passports.

    I changed my last name when I got married because I thought it would be fun, and I don’t really care what my last name is. Now I’m getting divorced, and I do believe I’ll change it back. My reasons are that it is difficult to pronounce and my current boyfriend isn’t fond of me having it. We will probably get married after a couple of years, and I’d like to take his name. It’s too bad that I’ll have to go through the hassle of changing my name twice!

  14. I agree with Ed- well put…

  15. I'm a recently divorced woman, this was my first marriage, it lasted 15 years and we have two children together. I debated a long time about my name. I wanted my maiden name back, but I earned an MBA with his name, I built a professional network and a good reputation in my community all with his name. He wanted me to take his name when we married, it was big deal to him, why should I be forced to deal with changing passports, social security cards, emails, credit cards, and car titles just because he couldn't step up and be a decent husband? I've built a reputation with this name. I went ahead and changed it back, but it has been a lot of work that I don't think you can appreciate as someone who hasn't had to change names -therefore identity in some networks.

    • You need to get over yourself – next time,keep the name your parent s gave you and you wouldn't have these issues…who says you have to take his name? it's a little weird in this day and age, when everyone wants their freedom too, why would you take the name of someone just cause you got married? Keep your own identity and let him have his.

  16. Yet again all the discussion revolves on what the (ex)-wife wants or doesn't want, what she feels or doesn't feel, whether she might be inconvenienced or not, whether she "liked" her maiden name or not…

    At least some of the discussion should be around how the ex keeping the name affects the husband, how it makes him feel, the confusions in work and community that keeping the husband's name causes to the husband.

    But then I suppose I am asking too much that the males receive any consideration in a divorce.

    • One further point … while there may be no law to force the issue, there is nothing at all limiting what requests (or even demands) can be asserted in a divorce agreement. The request can be made during the divorce process just like a request can be made for return of the engagement and wedding rings… if things are at all co-operative that may be all it takes. From there it can become a stronger request so at least the desire for a return of the name has been clearly made.

    • Jonathan says:

      Here, here Doug, us chaps get sod all consideration, perhaps we should change our surnames by deed poll to their maiden names, wonder how that would make them feel. I totally empathise with you!! Jonathan

  17. Jonathan says:

    I am intrigued by these comments from both men and women. I am now on my third marriage and as far as I am concerned my last and the only person who is entitled to my surname is my current wife! My first marriage produced two children and can understand to a point why she still uses my surname, my second marriage produced no children, and yet she still uses my surname despite emptying the house of all it's contents, trashing my furniture, ripping up pictures of my children, leaving them scattered over the garden. I would like nothing more than to be able to force her to revert to another surname. I have contacted my solicitors regarding this and they say there is a case to do so, will keep you posted.

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  20. what the hell, where's all your dignity, it was not your name to start with – and it aint your name to end with…for god sake show some respect to yourselves and your bloody children!!!

  21. the real mrs fraas says:

    what about the new / current wife feelings??!! the ex keeping the mans last name is disrespectful! especially if there was no children involved. it’s almost like identity theft!

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