Changing your surname after significant life events is a personal- and often difficult choice, and one that carries with it certain legal implications. Understanding the legal process is crucial, whether you're taking on a new surname after marriage or reverting to your maiden name post-divorce.


Changing Your Name After Marriage

  • A Customary Practice: Traditionally, a woman may choose to adopt her husband's surname, retain her maiden name, or use a combination of both names. However, this practice is not a legal requirement and there is no automatic name change upon the conclusion of the marriage. Men can even change their surname to that of their spouse if they wish, though this is less common.

  • The Marriage Certificate: The key document required for changing your name after marriage is the marriage certificate. This certificate, issued by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is proof of your new marital status and serves as the basis for the name change. 

  • Updating Personal Documents: After receiving your marriage certificate, you will have to update your personal documents if you decide to change your surname. This includes your identity document (ID), passport, driver's license, bank accounts and any other official records. To do this, you need to visit the nearest DHA office with your marriage certificate and existing ID.


Changing Your Name After Divorce

  • Deciding Whether to Change: Post-divorce, you may wish to revert to your maiden name, but you can always retain your married name as well. This choice is a personal one that may be influenced by a number of factors. 

  • The Divorce Decree: If you decide to revert to your maiden name, the divorce decree issued by the court is the primary document you will need. This decree legally recognises the dissolution of your marriage and serves as the basis for the name change.

  • Notifying Relevant Authorities: Similar to post-marriage, you'll need to update any documents that reflect the wrong surname. You will be required to present your divorce decree at the DHA to start this process. Remember that changing your name with the DHA does not automatically update your details with other institutions like banks or the traffic department. You will need to contact these organisations and others directly to effect the name change on their systems.


Considerations for Both Processes

Time Factor: The process of changing your name can take several weeks and even months, so it’s advisable to start as soon as you have the necessary documents.

Consistency is Key: Make sure that all of your legal and personal documents reflect the same name to avoid legal discrepancies or issues with travel, banking and employment.

Professional Implications: Consider the impact of a name change on your professional life, especially if you have built a reputation under a certain name.

Children’s Surnames: If you have children, consider the implications of the name change on them. Changing a child’s surname involves a separate legal process requiring the consent of both parents.


Changing your surname is a relatively straightforward process, but one that requires careful consideration of the legal, personal and professional ramifications. If you're contemplating a name change, don't hesitate to reach out to Cawood Attorneys for assistance. Our qualified attorneys can offer the necessary support and guidance, ensuring that your name change is efficient and hassle-free. 

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