Wife wants back maiden name

Dear Mrs Macaulay,

Can a woman who changed her name after marriage (double-barrelled) revert to her maiden name without getting a divorce? In the same way that I went to the tax office to change my taxpayer registration number (TRN), then subsequently changed my IDs and bank accounts, etc, can I go through the process to change my name back? Or will I need to do a deed poll? I'm still happily married and I am not divorcing, I would just prefer to use my old name instead of my husband's.

As you must have discovered, there is no legal requirement in Jamaica, as one of our Commonwealth common law countries, for a woman, upon her marriage, to change her surname to that of her husband or to add her newly joined legal partner's surname to hers afterwards. You will recall that for the signing of the register after your exchange of vows and marriage, you had to sign with your maiden surname.

In our legal system, the decision of a wife to adopt her husband's surname after marriage, either as her sole surname or to create a double-barrelled one, is her sole decision to make based on social practice and not on any legislation or legal regulation. As you stated, when you made your decision to add your husband's surname to yours, you merely had to go to the tax office to change your TRN and then change your driver's licence, passport, and other usable IDs, as well as your name in your bank accounts and/or certificates of deposits, etc.

You have asked whether you can revert to your maiden name without getting a divorce. Well, the answer to that is quite straight-forward. Because your change of name was not made pursuant to any law or legal regulation, but by your free choice to follow a social practice, you certainly do not need a divorce in order to revert to your maiden name. In fact, there is no legal requirement in any law in Jamaica that a married woman, even after the dissolution of her marriage and subsequent divorce, has to revert to her maiden name if she previously took her husband's. In fact, the reality is that a divorced woman who adopted and used her husband's surname after her marriage can continue to do so, and the majority of divorced women do this. No law requires them to desist from doing so. Again, it is their choice and they can choose to revert or not.

Having decided to follow the social norm or practice and change her identity by using her husband's surname, the woman, therefore, must, when she wishes to revert to her maiden name as you do, go through the process again, which you did when you decided to add your husband's surname to yours. Through this amendment, you would have announced to the world that this is your new identity, which became your legal identity. You must, therefore, go through a legal process to change to another identity, even if it is to revert to your own maiden surname.

The direct legal process is by a deed poll. This would ease the process of making all the changes which you would need to make following the willing adoption of your husband's surname, to revert to the sole use of your maiden name.

I trust that you would have discussed your reversion to your maiden name with your husband.

I wish for you continuing wedded happiness.

Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public, and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to allwoman@jamaicaobserver.com; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. All responses are published. Mrs Macaulay cannot provide personal responses.


The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.

Margarette MACAULAY

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