‘I’m furious that my husband’s ex-wife still goes by his name. Is she still in love with him?’ Five divorced writers tackle the question of when – and if – you should give up your husband’s name after you split

Whether you take your husband’s name or not is becoming an increasingly controversial issue for brides-to-be — who have to consider both their ­feminist principles and the ­potential wrath of their betrothed (and new in-laws).

But with more than four in ten marriages now ending in divorce, there’s another conundrum to consider; if you did take your husband’s surname, at what point do you give it up?

Samantha Brick, Liz Hodgkinson, Emma Parsons-Reid, Flic Everett and Tess Stimson

Spice Girl Geri Halliwell changed her name to Horner when she wed Formula1 boss Christian

Spice Girl Geri Halliwell changed her name to Horner when she wed Formula1 boss Christian

Spice Girl Geri drew attention to the issue this month when she referred to herself by her maiden name ‘Halliwell’ in a promotional film for Dior. The move came months after her husband, Formula 1 boss Christian Horner — whose surname she adopted when they ­married in 2015 — was accused of inappropriate behaviour by a Red Bull employee, an allegation that was dismissed in February. So what signal does changing your name send, and when is the right time to do it? As soon as you decide to split? Once the divorce is finalised? Or, is it now ‘your’ name, and nothing will take it from you?

Here, five divorced writers share their stories . . .

SAMANTHA BRICK: ‘I USE HIS NAME, BUT BRICK WILL BE ON MY GRAVESTONE’

Writer Samantha Brick lives with her second husband Pascal. They have been married for 17 years.

Growing up with my surname meant I had to develop thick skin. Trust me, I’ve heard all the funnies about Brick.

Yet in my 20s and working in the TV industry, I finally realised what a gift it was. It’s unique, making me pretty unforgettable, too. So when I married for the first time aged 31, my instinct was not to take my husband’s name.

Yet I’ve always been a daddy’s girl. When he said he thought I ought to take on my former ­husband’s surname out of ­tradition, I did.

And boy, I wish I hadn’t. By the time I’d changed my name on all essential official documents (and yes, it took more than a year), I was trotting out of the marriage and had to change it back again — and pay for the privilege. What a palaver that was.

I genuinely believe no woman should retain her former ­husband’s surname, no matter how long the marital union. Please! Have some self-respect and remember you were a ­complete woman before you walked down the aisle, and you can be again. And yet here I am, married for a second time, using my French husband’s name, Rubinat, in everyday life.

I do so simply because here in France it means I’m treated as an equal. I know, what century are we in? Yet using it means I ­garner more respect as a married woman — and avoid being met with the usual suspicion afforded to expats that an Anglo-Saxon name would generate.

Plus, being my husband’s third wife — and ten years younger than him — using my marital name as soon I’d said ‘I do’ rubbed out all notions of me being some sort of flighty blow-in.

But Brick still looms large in my professional life and will ­absolutely be on my gravestone. If I’d been lucky enough to have children, I would have stressed the importance of continuing my family name.

In Europe most families take on both parents’ surnames — and it’s a tradition Britain should adopt tout de suite.

'It was too painful to keep his name, it reminded me of everything that had gone wrong'

‘It was too painful to keep his name, it reminded me of everything that had gone wrong’

LIZ HODGKINSON: ‘35 YEARS ON I’M STILL USING MY MARRIED NAME’

Writer Liz Hodgkinson is divorced. Currently single, she has two sons.

In 1988, when I separated from my husband after 23 years together, I naturally wanted to remove all traces of the marriage and start again.

One thing I was particularly keen to do was to revert to my original name, Garrett. But it was not to be.

By this time I was reasonably well known as a writer, and editors threw up their hands in horror when I ­suggested it, pointing out that nobody would know who I was. ­Married at 21, I had used it for my whole working life.

In the end I succumbed and, ­reluctantly, retained my husband’s name, which I do to this day. My one, somewhat pathetic, concession to singlehood was to change my handle from ‘Mrs’ to ‘Miss’ on all official documents.

Now, more than 35 years after the divorce, I have carried my ex-husband’s surname for far longer than I carried my own — and I ­bitterly regret not holding my ground.

Back then, people would soon have got used to my new appellation. Yet now, when it really is too late to change it, the name still feels grafted on, slightly alien and not reflecting my current identity.

When our sons were little, it was convenient for us all to have the same name, but they are now in their 50s, with adult children of their own.

Hodgkinson, I feel, belongs to my distant past, not my present. Today, I have no particular connection to my ex, yet I have this lingering, and ever-potent, reminder that we were once attached.

Had I ever remarried, I would ­certainly not have changed my name a second time.

What if my ex had remarried, you may ask? Well, given we split because he dedicated himself to the spiritual life, there was never even the tiniest spectre of there being two Mrs ­Neville Hodgkinsons.

To this day, I envy my female friends who were sensible enough to hang on to their maiden names through thick and thin. I applaud my two daughters-in-law, who have kept their birth names —and never even considered changing them.

EMMA PARSONS-REID: ‘HIS EX-WIFE STILL USES IT WHICH DRIVES ME MAD’

Emma Parsons-Reid lives with third husband Kevin, who has been married once before. She has one daughter from her first marriage.

On marrying my third husband Kevin in 2006, I chose to double-­barrel his surname with my own.

What I didn’t know then was that his ex-wife had kept his name. I only found out when my daughter happened to look her up on social media. Suffice to say, I wasn’t pleased that she bore my ­husband’s name.

Yes, they were married for 17 years, but she was the one who left him. Why would you want to cling on in this way? Especially given they didn’t have children, so it’s not like she was doing it in order to have the same name as her kids, nor was she a high flyer in the corporate world.

There was no need to stay latched on to him in this way; it just gives the world the ­impression you are still in love with your ex. I can’t fathom it.

Today, 18 years on from mine and Kevin’s wedding, it makes me livid that she is still — 24 years after they split — using what is my rightful name.

'Within weeks of our separation I applied for a new passport in my maiden name'

‘Within weeks of our separation I applied for a new passport in my maiden name’

If she lived miles away then ­perhaps I’d mind less. But as we all live in the same small Welsh town, I can’t help but feel like it’s a reminder that she was with him first.

I certainly never countenanced keeping either of my ex-husbands’ names.

I married my first aged 21 and double-barrelled our names. Where I live it is the norm to take on your husband’s surname, but I’ve always kept Parsons because I didn’t want to completely give up my identity.

Plus, the double barrel sets me apart from everyone else. Because it’s a bit posh-sounding, people do treat you with a bit of ­deference; I do get better service everywhere.

My second husband had a ­ridiculously long surname. Sadly Emma Parsons-Chamberlain wasn’t going to wash (I’d never get it on a cheque) and that time around I dropped Parsons.

Yet on both occasions, when we divorced I went back to Parsons the same day. After all, his ­surname would belong to his next wife. I’m no hypocrite!

FLIC EVERETT: ‘I ONLY CHANGED MY NAME FOR MY THIRD WEDDING’

Author Flic Everett lives with her third husband Andy and has one child from her first marriage.

I may be the first married woman to change my name because ­­the new one makes me laugh. ­‘Felicity Bowden-Smith’ is surely a woman who rides to hounds, bellows at gundogs and invites the vicar for a spot of sherry.

It’s not me, a journalist who used to go clubbing till 5am. But since I married my third (and last) husband Andy, in May 2022, it’s technically my identity.

Yet, jokes aside, my choosing to take Andy’s name is particularly significant. For though this is my third marriage, it’s the first time I’ve taken a husband’s name.

I embarked on my first marriage aged just 21. My career as a writer was beginning and, as a fiery young feminist, I didn’t want to change my name to my ­husband’s. I like my own, and he didn’t object (perhaps he didn’t dare).

However, to show willing, I did change it for banking purposes, a decision that caused no end of administrative bother when we split up three years later.

I reverted to ‘Everett’ for ­everything as soon as we broke up, and was glad to be ­maintaining the family name (I’m an only child and my son has his dad’s surname).

When I married again, aged 29, I still had no intention of changing my name. For the 18 years we were together I remained ­Everett, and assumed I’d keep it for ever.

When we broke up, I was so relieved to have kept it — at least that was one thing I didn’t have to worry about changing.

But having met Andy in my 40s, it seemed odd for us to have different surnames for the sake of it. I’m still a feminist, of course, but I no longer see a name-change as giving in to the patriarchy. It’s more about being a unit.

I wanted to be a family with him, rather than a pair of ­individuals who share a house. We’d been together for eight years before we married and I felt ­having the same name would complete our later-life union.

So I decided on a compromise: I’ll stay Everett for work, and go full Lady of the Manor double-barrelled for private matters.

I’ve no regrets — although it’s perhaps a decision best made in later life, when you’re pretty sure the marriage will go the distance.

  • Murder on Stage by F.L. Everett (£9.99, Bookouture) is out now.

TESS STIMSON: ‘BETRAYED AND GRIEVING, I DITCHED IT’

Author Tess Stimson is divorced from her first husband, with whom she has two sons. She now lives with her second husband.

When I married my first husband, Brent Sadler, I didn’t want to change my name to his. Partly because he’d been married twice before — I didn’t want to become the third Mrs Sadler — and partly because I’d already published my first novel under my maiden name.

I was proud of that achievement and didn’t want my identity ­swallowed by his. But I did want to carry my ­husband’s name in some way, because I was also proud of being his wife.

So I changed my surname to ­Stimson Sadler (no hyphen, too clumsy). Six years later, when Brent and I separated, I immediately dropped his name again.

I didn’t wait for the divorce, which wasn’t finalised for another two years. Brent had already moved in with his new girlfriend and, every time I saw his name written next to mine on my bank statement or credit card, it was like a stab to the heart.

To me, my husband’s name was part and parcel of being married to him and it was just too painful to keep using it. It reminded me of ­everything I’d lost.

And it felt like a lie when we were no longer together. Names mean something and my married name was now a hollow sham.

Within weeks of our separation I contacted the bank, updated my medical records, and applied for a new passport in my maiden name.

In a whirlwind of grief, I threw out everything that reminded me of him, including his name. Now I wish I’d handled our break-up better — but, at the time, I just felt so betrayed and angry. When I married my second ­husband, I didn’t even consider ­taking his name.

I understand why some women choose to keep their married names. But honestly, I couldn’t wait to ­jettison mine. Like the man himself, it had never truly belonged to me, and I was happier off without it.

  • The New House by Tess Stimson (£9.99, HarperCollins) is out now.

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