A woman’s name change rights upon divorce

Upon divorce, many women decide to revert to their maiden name. This can be accomplished:

  • by Deed Poll, or
  • by using their decree absolute and marriage certificate.

It is sometimes possible for a divorced woman to revert to her maiden name without the need for a Deed Poll if her decree absolute certificate and marriage certificate (which shows her maiden name) are accepted as documentary evidence of her change of name. Upon presentation of these certificates most government departments and many companies and organisations will change their records to show the woman’s maiden name. However, many companies and organisations will not accept a decree absolute, in particular the financial institutions such as banks and building societies.

Please note, your marriage certificate may not need to be produced to government departments, companies and organisations that knew you before you were married – because they should still have your maiden name on file.

If your decree absolute and marriage certificate are not accepted as documentary evidence, then a Deed Poll will be required to change your name. With a Deed Poll, everyone will recognise your change of name without question. Of course, should you wish to change to a new name entirely or also make any alterations to your first or middle names, a Deed Poll will always be required.

Changing your name by Deed Poll is quick and simple and you can read a summary of the Deed Poll process by clicking on this link. Remember, when changing your name by Deed Poll, you can also take the opportunity to make other changes to your name. For example, you may wish to change your first name or add, change or remove middle names.

If you have children, you may also wish to change their surname by Deed Poll to your new surname or to a double-barrelled surname (your surname together with your ex-husband’s surname). However, to change a child’s name, the consent of everyone with parental responsibility is required. If your ex-husband is your children’s father, then he will have parental responsibility and his consent will be required for any name change. Please read our page Can I change my child’s name? for further information about parental responsibility and consent requirements.

With regard to your title, it is up to you whether you continue using Mrs or change your title to Miss or Ms. If you wish to change your title when you change your name, you will see a section on our Deed Poll application form where you can tell us what new title you want so we can incorporate a declaration on your Deed Poll that changes your title.

If you are currently separated and contemplating divorce or are in the process of getting divorced, please click here to read our page about your name change rights upon separation.

Obtaining a copy of your decree absolute

If you have lost your decree absolute (and you were divorced in England or Wales), contact the Principal Registry of the Family Division, Decree Absolute Section, First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6NP (Tel: 020 7947 7017). For a fee, they will access a union index to the registered court copies of decrees absolute for you, and either provide a certified copy of the information themselves (if the divorce was granted by the Supreme Court) or arrange for a certified copy to be sent to you from the relevant county court. If the divorce took place within the last 5 years, you can also contact the county court where it took place for a cheaper service.

Obtaining a copy of your marriage certificate

You can obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate by calling the General Register Office for England and Wales on 0845 6037788 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm Saturday.