General Question

M1952's avatar

Can a judge force you to change your last name during divorce?

Asked by M1952 (301 points ) 1 month ago from iPhone

I have just started a new job, I have a social and all my credit cards, ect. Are in my married name, I was only married one year. My husband filed divorce, in the petition there is a question that says does the respondent wish to use or go back to their maiden name? (Or something like that) and my husband or his sister wrote my full name but with my maiden name so I am assuming he wants me to stop using my married name but in my response I requested to keep it, can a judge force me to change it and how can I convince the judge to let me keep it?

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64 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

No one can force you to change your name. Why aren’t you getting some legal advice for yourself? What county in FL are you in? I’ll do the research for you.

M1952's avatar

I just got home from work, I work all week, only off weekends. I am in pinellas county

hearkat's avatar

No, it is an option. Sure, it’s an inconvenience to change all your ID cards and whatnot back, but since your child is not born yet, you may want to give serious consideration to whether you really want to be associated with the ex for the foreseeable future.

You don’t have to go back to his name, and you don’t necessarily have to go back to your maiden name, either. You could even choose a new last name for yourself and your child, to make a fresh start. A part of me wishes I had done that.

M1952's avatar

Thank you @hearkat why is it even a question then? I mean why do they ask the petitioner? Sorry if you don’t know I’m just curious.

gailcalled's avatar

https://www.justia.com/lawyers/divorce/florida/pinellas-county/legal-aid-and-pro-bono-services

Whatever your husband and his benighted family thinks about your name is irrelevant. You are legally entitled to his since you married the creep. It is certainly an issue that should not be high on your list now

Look at the link I found that lists legal-aid and pro bono legal services for Pinella County.Call someone, please. None of us are attorneys.

Is the tather of your daughter around? Paying child support? Involved in his child’s life?

M1952's avatar

@gailcalled her father (she is 4) filed custody about a year ago, he does not have any timesharing at this moment due to a situation we are going through involving the court and cps but he does pay child support, thank you for the link

gailcalled's avatar

By timesharing, do you mean time he spends with his daughter?

You are in the middle of another court case with CPS? Yoicks.

M1952's avatar

Yes I am, that’s another reason my husband is just completely heartless ): I really and truly feel so stupid even still hoping it works out ! but yes she has said some unusual things to me and my husband (when things were still good obviously) and she spoke to cps and her therapist, it’s sad. it’s sad my husband made this a convenient time for him to leave, I don’t think I ever needed him as much as I do now.

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janbb's avatar

Only you can decide what name you want to use. They cannot request a name change for you. I chose to go back to my birth name and it was part of the divorce decree; you have the option to keep his. You can change it later at any time but it will cost you then.

You are sounding very passive in all this; you need to start looking out for your best interests better. As many of us have said here and on other threads, you need some local legal advice.

M1952's avatar

@janbb I’m just confused, I know he is a horrible person that is no good for me but at the same time I really wish we could of been a family and stayed together considering the circumstances. I asked this question because I want to keep my current (married) last name, I will be giving the name to our baby too, and I didn’t know why they put that question in his petition if he has no say in the matter?

jca's avatar

He’s going to have nothing to do with the baby but the baby is going to have his name?

M1952's avatar

@jca yes it’s my last name too.

jca's avatar

Gotcha.

When I had a baby, I found out that you can make the baby’s last name be anything you want it to be. Any name out of a hat, pick it. Smith, Jones, McGillicuddy, you name it, literally. It doesn’t have to be the mom’s name or the dad’s name. You write on the birth certificate what you want the name to be. Amazing. Who knew.

M1952's avatar

@jca I would like to share my child’s last name, picking a random name seems quite stupid.

jca's avatar

I understand, @M1952, just pointing out an interesting fact that I found mind boggling.

chyna's avatar

As several above have said, no the judge can not force you to change your name. I agree with you on wanting to share the child’s name and even if the father is a jerk, and may never want to see the child or help support it, the child has every right to know who its father is.

M1952's avatar

Thank you @chyna glad someone agrees (:

janbb's avatar

I don’t agree or disagree; the point is that you have the power to decide what you want. I too wanted to stay a family when my Ex left after 37 years of marriage but that wasn’t my decision. You have to find out what is in your power to decide and what isn’t. It feels like you are being led around by the nose which is what happens if you don’t get savvy and learn things.

M1952's avatar

@janbb 37 years? I can’t even imagine how painful that must of been ): that’s a lifetime. I’m sorry.

janbb's avatar

It’s been a journey as they say – but I’m all right now. It was actually 40 years by the time the divorce was finalized.

M1952's avatar

well I’m glad you overcame that, I don’t think I would be strong enough.

jca's avatar

@M1952: I think I am speaking for the Collective when I say we all wish you good luck and a positive outcome, but we would like you to get some good legal advice and not be taken advantage of.

M1952's avatar

Thank you @jca I appreciate that, I would like to I just never have the opportunity but I do have 2 months until the divorce court date, hopefully I can find time.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Legally speaking you can use any name you wish. Any name at all. No body can force you to do otherwise.

M1952's avatar

Thank you !@Darth_Algar but does anyone know why they ask the petitioner this question in the divorce petition if they have no say in the matter ???

gailcalled's avatar

hopefully I can find time.

What could be more important.? Take a 15-minute break at work and call one of the numbers listed on my link. Call and ask if they do business after 5:00 pm.

You certainly seem to have time to spend on fluther.

M1952's avatar

At night ! It’s 8pm where I am lol but yes you’re right, I suppose I’m just avoiding the divorce as much as possible. ): @gailcalled I will use the link thank you

janbb's avatar

@M1952 You have to start taking really good care of yourself for you and your new baby. Taking the time to see a lawyer is part of it. What could be more important than getting all you can in the divorce?

Darth_Algar's avatar

@M1952

It’s probably just a standardized form. On standardized forms not every question is going to be relevant to every person filling the form out. That’s why “n/a (not applicable)” is a common thing on forms.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

I don’t believe that any state’s laws can compel you to revert to your maiden name. If you like your married name, and if your baby will have that same name, why not keep it? I think it’s usually a good thing if a mother has the same last name as her child.

You really do need some legal help. I know that an attorney’s advice isn’t inexpensive, but your husband’s mean and petty. You have to protect yourself and the baby.

gailcalled's avatar

^^ Legal aid and pro bono attorney services available in the OP’s county.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

No. He can’t force you to change your name. I used my ex-husband’s name for a couple of years after we separated. Think hard about whether you do want to keep his name and why you’re keeping it. In the end I decided I didn’t want his name and changed back to my maiden name. Even though I had birth certificates etc. to show that was my name, I had to go through a legal name changing process. Getting everything changed can be fairly involved so if you’ve only had his name for a year, think about whether you really do want to keep it. I hear what you’re saying about your child and sharing the same surname, but my children have a different name and it doesn’t cause us any grief.

Since your ex isn’t interested in the child, you could and perhaps should use your own surname. That doesn’t mean the child won’t know who its father is or his name, but spend some time thinking about which name you really do want to use in the long term and why. This is another thing to ask a counsellor and to obtain legal advice about. Right now you’re very emotionally so you may need an objective ear to help you make an objective decision based on what’s right for you rather than what feels right at the moment.

hearkat's avatar

You can share the same surname with your child, but it does not have to be the same surname as the biological father. If the father chooses to be a positive part of the kid’s life, they will know him as their father regardless of their names; if he chooses to continue to be a jerk, the child won’t feel some odd attachment or obligation to him because of the name. I’ve known many kids whose parents were not married for one reason or another, and in the case where the kid has the name of the absentee father, there has almost always been an awkwardness.

dappled_leaves's avatar

To be honest, it sounds like you want to keep your husband’s last name for yourself and your baby because you hope he will come back and you will all be a happy family together. I can understand wishing that this could happen, but based on everything you’ve told us here, it simply cannot happen – and frankly, it shouldn’t happen. Your husband is a disaster, and you will be better off once you are free of him.

It might be hard to imagine this now, but once you are free of him, carrying his name around with you (as @Earthbound_Misfit already said so eloquently) will seem crazy to you. You will probably wish you had changed your name while it was easy.

Furthermore, you have an opportunity to give your baby your own name immediately. I can’t imagine why you would make any other choice. Plainly, you will be his only parent for some time. Your husband will never be a parent to the child. Why would you name the child for someone who wants nothing to do with him?

M1952's avatar

I just really like his last name, my maiden name is long and German his is Italian and much shorter, and it’s more of a common name. I know that sounds petty but I really like my current last name.

janbb's avatar

I’m not trying to convince you one way or the other, but there was something very powerful for me in taking my own name back. And I wore his name for 40 years.

M1952's avatar

Keeping his last name would have absolutely nothing to do with him, I know he isn’t coming back. I just really like my last name and I want to give it to my daughter, it’s a beautiful last name.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@M1952 If you like your husband’s name and want to keep it, that’s your prerogative. If you decide otherwise in the future, it’s really not very difficult or costly to change your name. You go to probate court, submit an application, and pay a small fee.

You already have enough pain and turmoil in your life, with more to come. To be honest, your last name should be the least of your worries right now. Down the road, after the dust has settled, you can revisit the issue. At present, your concerns are marital property distributions, child support, not being bullied by this jerk, and other things that truly matter.

janbb's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul That makes a lot of sense.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@M1952 it doesn’t sound petty to want to change your maiden name. If you like his name and that really is why you’re making the decision to keep it, then keep it. It’s just a pain in the butt to go through the process of changing back again later if you decide to do that and you’ve also given that name to your child.

I have remarried, but I’ve kept my own name. I use my own name professionally and I don’t want to go through the ‘I’ve changed my name’ thing again. My (now) husband’s parents divorced and his mother remarried. After that marriage failed, she returned to her first married name rather than her maiden name which she hated. It’s up to you. Just make the decision for the right reasons.

M1952's avatar

Thank you @Earthbound_Misfit I believe I am making the right decision and I can always change it, it’s just a name, and if I choose to change the baby’s last name later on I doubt he would care or have any say in the matter due to the custody arrangements he wants.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I don’t know how easy or difficult it is to change a child’s name. I’m not sure you’d want to do that from the point of view of the child’s emotional welfare though. Your name is your identity in many ways so the decision you make for the child, should be for the long term. If they want to change their name later, fair enough but I think you should be careful of that decision up-front. Again, take some legal advice on the options to change later.

You have time to consider this. Don’t make rash decisions.

gailcalled's avatar

One of my nieces, after her father died, legally changed her last name to her then middle name. So she is now “first name, “middle name.”

syz's avatar

Do you not have a lawyer?!? This is the 7th question you’ve asked about your upcoming divorce, and it seems to me that an important subject like this is something that you need to discuss with your lawyer. If you don’t have one, you should look into your state Legal Aid office.

gailcalled's avatar

^^ Six in the past four days.

janbb's avatar

@syz What we’ve all been saying to her.

JLeslie's avatar

Please use @gailcalled‘s link to help you get started with getting some legal advice. I live in Pinellas and I have walked right into the building department in Clearwater to ask some questions and everyone was very nice and helpful. Motor Vehicle is always efficient. I see no reason why the county would not be as helpful as possible in your situation also. This is the most densely populated county in Florida and with that we have quite a bit of services.

I don’t see how or why a judge would force you to change your name back. From what I understand it is in the divorce paperwork, because it is the cheapest and easiest way to change your name back. If you do it after the fact you will need to get the proper paperwork for name change, likely have to wait several weeks, and pay filing and court fees.

If you like the name go ahead and keep it. What does your daughter think about changing her last name to the name of the man that hurt her mother so badly? Maybe pick a different name altogether for you and your daughter.

jca's avatar

The name is a personal decision, but realize that with a child, a name change will be something that may cause confusion and emotional turmoil. It may also be the subject of inquiry from the child’s friends, which will add to the confusion and questions from both your child and his/her friends.

JLeslie's avatar

Story time:

When my SIL was getting a divorce she really wanted her maiden name back. Her lawyer told her to keep her married name for the kids and I told her I think she should keep her married name because it will make things easier having the same name as her kids. She gave in and kept her married name. Years later I really regretted what I told her, because it meant so much to her. I wished I had been supportive for her and what she wanted. When she got married a second time she shockingly took his name. I gave her a look when she told me. I said I thought she might go back to her maiden name at that point. She said she gave in, because it was i portant to her new husband. Fast forward a few years and she is divorcing the second guy and finally went back to her maiden name.

Here’s the thing. It came up at a family dinner and I told her I had regretted not supporting her during her first divorce, and she said in retrospect it was better she kept his name. Her kids both chimed in and said it would have upset them if she had changed her name to be different than hers. At this point they were 18 and 21, but the first divorce was when they were 4 and 7 more or less.

Hard to know how children will react. I think some kids would take in stride, others not so much.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I agree @JLeslie. My children do not have a good relationship with their father. His choice. When I changed my name back to my maiden name, the two oldest considered changing their surname to mine. I didn’t suggest this and I deterred them. I was worried they might regret their decision later and in the future if they found a way to have a good relationship with their father, I felt them having changed their surname could cause problems. They listened to my advice and they’ve stayed with their father’s name. We can’t say how our children will respond to things that happen in our lives. My children had had a relationship with their father and were older when all of this occurred.

JLeslie's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit I think it’s good you discouraged them from a hasty decision, but even if they had changed it they could have switched back later. I can see why kids would think it unfair their mother can change her name if she wants to, but they can’t.

jca's avatar

@M1952: Fluther is a great site for advice and ideas, but please please please get some free legal advice per the link provided by @gailcalled. It may help calm some of your anxieties about the separation and financial issues.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

They didn’t think it was unfair that I deterred them @JLeslie. They were looking to show their allegiance to me I think. Also, they were and still are angry with their father. I didn’t want them making a decision about their name out of support for me or because of anger with him.

It’s their name as much as it is his and they weren’t little children. It also isn’t so easy to change your name back and forwards. It wouldn’t have been too hard for them at that time as they didn’t have credit cards and the like, but the damage it could have potentially caused to any future relationship with their father was very real. I think he would have been incredibly hurt. Even if I can see why they might want to hurt him, and that he deserves the pain they might inflict, in the long-term I hope they will all find a way to just accept he is who he is and have at least some sort of relationship with him.

They’ve never raised the subject since.

JLeslie's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit I didn’t say you thought it was unfair, I said I can see how children might perceive it as unfair. I do agree they probably wanted to show allegiance to you and maybe also they knew it would hurt him, maybe they had not thought that far into it hurting him. Kids shoulder the burden of seeing their parents in pain and if they thought changing their name might make you happy that certainly could be part of the reason they wanted too.

In most states it isn’t that difficult to change your name. If children are under 18 it might take both parent’s signing off, and that would have been sticky.

janbb's avatar

We are way off topic here, but my kids, who are adults, both have my birth name as their middle name and were very supportive of me going back to it in the divorce. It is kind of a pain because you have to change all your official documentation but for me it was very important. I would not change my name to someone else’s again even if I remarry.

jca's avatar

@M1952: Did you seek the free legal advice in the link/phone number provided by @gailcalled?

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