What's in a Name?

In traditional marriages, when a bride married, she took the last name of her husband. Today, a bride may marry another bride or a husband may marry another husband. Whose name should he or she take then? Or can spouses retain their own names?

In California, both spouses have many options regarding their married last names.

-Either spouse can take the last name of the other spouse (regardless of gender)

-Either spouse can add the last name of the other spouse to his or her name, such as Kim Kardashian married Kanye West is now known as Kim Kardashian West.

-Either spouse can hyphenate his or her last name, such as Mary Jones becomes marries John Smith and becomes Mary Jones-Smith, or he becomes John Smith-Jones.

-Either spouse can combine their pre-marital name with their spouse’s name, such as former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villar married Corina Raigosa and he became Anotnio Villaraigosa. (Notice how he didn’t quite combine the last names by dropping one of the Rs in his new last name? He also continues to use the last name Villaraigosa, even though he and Corina divorced over 10 years ago.)

-Either or both spouses can retain their last names prior to marriage.

-Either or both spouses can retain their last names prior to marriage and use the last name of the other spouse, a hyphenated last name or a combined last name for their personal lives (or visa versa use their pre-marital names for personal reasons, and their decided-upon married names for business reasons).

For an adult to change his or her name, he or she must file a request with the court. There are many web sites available to help you with this task. To find one google name change forms in California, and look at the sites. Fill out the forms, and follow the other directions.

If you wish to return to a former name prior to a marriage, the easiest way is to check return to former name box on the petition or response for dissolution of marriage form. Otherwise, follow the procedures above via a website.

A few additional notes worth mentioning:

The names of children from a marriage or a relationship do not have to have the father’s name. Some retain their mother’s names or a combination of both. Or if one parent places his or her last name on the birth certificate and the other parent wants his/her name on the form too, a court will approve the request.

Some parents use a completely different last name than the parents for their children. Jane Fonda (who retained her pre-marital name during marriage) and her then-husband Tom Hayden named their son Troy O’Donovan Garity. They were both concerned that their last names carried too much baggage for the child.

Categories: Family Law
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