Changing name or surname

After a divorce wives often wish to revert to their former name. Many do not because, for instance, there are children and the children already bear the family surname. Nevertheless, it is very common for a wife to wish to revert to her former name after a divorce and it is much easier than most people imagine.

In fact these rules apply to everyone of the age of majority – husbands as well as wives – although the question typically arises when a wife wishes to revert to her former name after a divorce. The truth of the matter is that there are very few rules about what one can call oneself and there are very few formalities even though solicitors are often asked about changing a name by “deed poll”.

The latter procedure does exist and usually involves registering the change of name at the High Court and advertising the change in the London Gazette. However, there is rarely any benefit in this for most people.

In fact, in all but exceptional cases it is sufficient simply to tell everyone – employer, bank, utility companies, friends, acquaintances etc – that one has changed one’s name. That is about all there is to it and there isn’t usually any need even to incur a solicitor’s charges. It is something anyone can do and there are no “legalities” necessary.

It is true that sometimes this is not quite sufficient and one has to go slightly further – especially now that everyone is concerned about ‘identity theft’ and money laundering. Typically this arises where one wants to, say, renew a passport in the new surname. In such a case the Passport Agency will almost certainly ask that you provide what is called a Statutory Declaration explaining the change of name formally. There is nothing especially complicated about that and it is something that almost any solicitor should be able to do for modest cost.

The Statutory Declaration in these circumstances is basically a document in which the person declares that he/she used to be called by the surname of X but is now known by the surname of Y. It is sworn formally in front of a person such as a solicitor who is authorised to do such things but essentially it is a very simple procedure.

For most purposes this is not necessary or required. It will only be a relatively small number of organisations such as the Passport Agency that might insist on a Statutory Declaration. Most people such as an employer or utility company will change the name upon request and all they need is some sort of written request and explanation. Changing a name is by no means as difficult as most people seem to imagine.

There is one reservation. You will not be able to change the name on a birth certificate. There is one main exception to that. It is the case in which a child is born to a couple who are unmarried and they subsequently marry. In that case it is possible to chnage the birth certificate to indicate the married surname. However, in most cases changing what is on a birth certificate is not possible.


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