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What’s in a name?

Holby City actress Nicola Stephenson married her long-term partner Paul Smith last weekend. Interestingly, the groom decided to assume his bride’s family name, and became Paul Stephenson.
The reason given was that, as the couple already have children together who were given their mother’s family name at birth, it seemed sensible for Paul to assume Stephenson as his family name too.
And why not? Not everyone has the kind of surname that is easily double-barrelled, and for an increasing number of women it is important to preserve the autonomy that comes with keeping your own surname after marriage.
Men changing their surname to that of their new spouse is more common nowadays, especially where children come along before a couple decide to marry. The term ‘maiden name’ is rather emasculating however, and many men refer to their former surname using the French word ‘née’ meaning ‘born as’ which is more gender-neutral. Women are increasingly using this too, as ‘maiden name’ is (let’s face it) rather old-fashioned.
In the UK there are no legal requirements for men to change their surname on marriage, although that is not the case is other jurisdictions such as the US, where only a handful of states allow this without proper legal process and associated fees. Women can change their name on marriage freely both here and in the US.
Perhaps we will start to become more continental in our approach, and simply choose which name we like best when getting hitched.

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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