I am routinely asked what rules apply to the use of married and maiden names following separation. Interestingly, around half of separated women choose to revert to their maiden name at some stage following separation.

There is often some very good reasons for retaining your married name. These include maintaining professional reputation, and the benefit of being known by the same name as your children. Obviously, in some instances there is a desire to distance yourself from a previous relationship, or establish a new-found independence by reverting to a maiden name. I am unaware of any case where a party has been prevented from the ongoing use of their married name by injunction, and I query whether a Court would find jurisdiction to make such an Order. Ultimately the decision is a personal one.

Technically, as a married woman you have a right to be known by both names, you only `lose’ the right to revert to your maiden name, if there was a need to change your name by formal registration (often called `deed poll’) in order to effect the change (something routinely required where marriage has taken place overseas). A formal name change will be required in that instance to revert to your maiden name.

Where you have simply assumed your married name (which occurs in the majority of cases), you can revert to your maiden name prior to divorce with the use of your birth certificate and marriage certificate (documents which effectively establish the origin of the previous name change and the basis for the reversion). There may be some institutions that will require a divorce order before facilitating any change, but the Australian Passports Office, Medicare and Queensland Transport will not require proof of divorce. As three core identifying documents, most other institutions will thereafter alter your name on their records upon production of your passport, drivers licence or medicare card (or alternatively simply your birth certificate).

Extracts from your birth and marriage registration can be requested from your local Magistrates Court (who in turn will liaise with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages). To notify each organisation of your name change, simply call them or go to each institutions website in order to determine what is required by the agency. If documents are to be lodged by post or fax, please ensure that copies of your original documentation are certified by a Justice of the Peace or Legal Practitioner.