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Viewpoints > Taking your husband's name?

Is a married woman required to replace her maiden name by her husband's family name after marriage?

The 6 Fructidor an II law specifies that "no one can have another name than that which appears on the birth certificate" and the 1946 Constitution specifies that "the law guarantees to women all rights equal to that of a man and in all domains".

As a result, by marrying, the woman keeps her maiden name (" nom de jeune fille "). She can use her maiden name for all needs of daily life: opening a bank account, obtaining an identity card, signing checks … and even more important activities such as signing legal documents.

However, marriage does give a woman the possibility, if she wishes, to take her husband's name. It is a simple usage and there is no legal provision on this subject. It is only stipulated in article 264 of the civil code that "following a divorce, each of the spouses takes back the use of his or her name".

The married woman can also attach her maiden name to her husband's name. You only need to inform the administration.

Source : http://vosdroits.service-public.fr/particuliers/F77.xhtml

Are banks doing something illegal?

You are married. You decide not to use your husband's name (and you are right :-)). You and your husband are going to open a bank account and what a surprise when you receive your check book, your name has disappeared. Instead of "Ms Jones and Mr. Smith", it's simply written "Mr and Mrs Smith".

Know that this banking practice is extremely common if not the general rule ... and it will be extremely difficult to get your way and your name on a joint account. They will of course explain to you that the software cannot provide 2 different names, or some other nonsense.

It is up to you to defend yourself and explain that a bank cannot favor usage over rights.
The law is on your side. Threaten legal action ... and, miraculously, they find a solution so they can respect the law!

The name of her owner

I am always surprised that married women accept (appreciate?) taking their husband's name, the name of their owner in a way (in any case, it is at the same time an act of submission to another person and the renunciation of a part of one's identity), as it only refers to a tolerated use and that the law and the civil status do not recognize and only use the maiden name ("nom de jeune fille"). Women that are still in doubt only have to look at their voter registration card.

How many women have had to change their name twice? The first time when they got married and once again when they divorced ... although it would have been so simple not to have changed anything at all, right from the start.

Of course, often if not the majority of time, women take their husband's name in ignorance of the law, convinced that it's the law and not simply a custom, in the guilty silence of the chauvinist culture who is well informed on this point ...

Reflect upon the fact that the search for control over a woman and a hold over her is the exact objective of masculine domestic violence and is reinforced by this social fact which is not as minor as it appears at first glance ...

Choosing to take your husband's name does not contribute to equality of the sexes.

You didn't know all this? Make sure your daughter knows.

The viewpoint that I am developing here, in this last part called "the name of her owner" is quite ... radical. I am not looking to hurt anyone. I do realize that the vast majority of married women use their husband's name. This only attests to the strength of this tradition ... but age-old traditions are not the best for women. Generally speaking, the question of family names and their transmission to children is a touchy subject at least, but without a doubt, isn't there a way to find solutions which harm no one and conform better to the equality of the sexes ... without conflict ... in a harmonious way. In any case, I hope so!

Yves Lambert
August 2003

Following the publication of this page, several correspondents quite rightly brought to my attention the fact that even if official documents (national identity card, voter registration card, resident alien permit, ...) do indicate the maiden name, it also systematically includes the words "married name X" and that this event was discriminating in the sense that this practice is only imposed on women: in fact, no man's identity card refers to his wife's name while there is no law that forbids him from using it ...

YL - September 2004

National Assembly - 12th legislature - Questions to the government
Question N° : 48207 by Mr. Patrick Beaudouin (UMP - Union pour un Mouvement Populaire - Val-de-Marne ) QE
Minister questioned : Justice
Minister appointed to respond: Interior
Question published in the "Journal Officiel": 12/10/2004 page : 7890
Response published in the JO: 01/02/2005 page : 1108
Date of change in attribution : 23/11/2004
Section: foreigners
Heading of analysis: resident alien permits
Analysis: required references. Women
Text of the QUESTION: M. Patrick Beaudouin calls the attention of his honorable Keeper of the Seal (monsieur le garde des sceaux), Justice Minister, to the obligation for women of foreign origin to have the name of their spouse appear on their resident alien permit. In fact, wives of foreign origin who get a private life and family life resident alien permit must compulsorily attach the reference " wife of " to their family name. This obligation provokes several interrogations. On the one hand, men of foreign origin married to a French woman do not have this same obligation, which brings up the question of equality between men and women. An even more important question as guaranteeing this equality is one of the fundamental principles of the French Republic. On the other hand, this inequality, which prevents wives from freely choosing whether or not to take their husband's family name, stems from a legal hole which it would appear is still unfilled. He asks him if this legal hole will be filled and this obligation will be removed.
Text of the REPONSE: The honorable Assemblyman calls attention to the obligation of women of foreign origin to have their husband's family name appear on their resident alien permit. The application used by the police services to register and manage resident alien permit requests of foreign nationals' files in France (AGDREF) allows the possibility of giving resident alien permit without the reference " wife of " appearing, even if it is noted in the file that the person is married. For this, the user must note the reference " INC " in the box " spouse of ".

I have been married for 16 years, I have redone my identity card since I have been married and NONE of them have the reference "husband of X"... simply because on the forms requesting the establishment of identity documents, I did not fill in the box spouse's name. If the name of the spouse is filled in, the administration considers (rightly so) that the woman wishes to use it.

C. Guégueniat ... born Guégueniat! 18 November 2004

Circular of June 26, 1986 concerning the application of article 43 of law n° 85-1372 dated December 23, 1985. Use of the name of a parent which is not transmitted. Denomination of persons in administrative documents

JO dated 03-07-1986

The Prime Minister to the ladies and gentlemen, Ministers and State Secretaries.
I remind you that article 43 of the law n° 85-1372 dated December 23, 1985 (JO dated 26-12-1985) introduced the following provisions into our laws:

"Art. 43. - Each adult person can add the name of the parent which has not been transmitted to him or her to his or her name as an assumed name.

"Concerning minor children, this right to modify is given to the person who exercises parental authority."

This text will come into effect next July 1st (art. 56 of the previously cited law).

More generally speaking, the problem of the name under which a person should be identified, as well as those others designations that might be used, sometimes presents itself when establishing administrative documents and the management of personnel files or for users of public services.

It therefore seems necessary to me to remind you of the principle rules which should be followed in this matter.

1° The legal name and assumed names

1. 1. The name of all French citizens is that which was transmitted according to the specific rules of each relationship and which is on his or her birth certificate. It is this name that should be used to establish identity documents, legal documents as well as administrative files (law of 6 Fructidor an II).

It should be noted that this name should not change, except in very specific circumstances; either by a legal name change in application of the law of 11 germinal an XI, or by legal decision (name change of a natural child, establishment or modification of a relationship before an incidence on the name), or by a joint declaration before a juvenile court judge (for minor natural children).

These modifications are always added as a reference in the margin of the birth certificate.

Marriage implies no change in the names of the spouses.

1. 2. In addition, the family name should be distinguished from the names that a person can have the right to use. Assumed names are established as follows:

a) For a married woman or widow, by addition or by substitution to her family name or her husband's family name or the name he uses (decree dated June 26, 1986, Journal Officiel of July 3, 1986) ;

b) For a married man or widower, by addition to his family name of his wife's family name or the name she uses (decree dated June 26, 1986) ;

c) For a divorced woman, by keeping the right to use the ex-husband's family name either by full rights in the case of divorce by abandonment requested by the husband or with the ex-husband's agreement, or by judgment (art. 264 of the Civil Code).

However, once a divorced woman who has kept the use of her ex-husband's name or widows and widowers get remarried, they lose the right to use the family name or the assumed name of the preceding spouse, no matter what the outcome of this new union;

d) Starting July 1st, 1986, for all adult and minor persons, by addition to his or her name of the name of the parent which was not previously transmitted. (art. 43 of the law dated December 23, 1985).

It results from the cases cited above that a single person can have the choice between several assumed names because the people mentioned in a, b or c cited above can also take precedence over the right mentioned in d.

In this hypothesis, the person must choose between the assumed name mentioned in a, b or c, on the one hand, and the assumed name mentioned in d, on the other.
No accumulation or combination between the different assumed names is possible.

2° Reference of the assumed names

2. 1. The interested party has full discretion to start using the assumed name he or she has chosen.

Reference to the assumed name on documents is also at the discretion of the interested party. He or she must make a specific request for this.

In this case, to avoid confusion between the family name and the assumed name, each of the names must be noted in a distinct manner on the document. Examples are given in Annex I.

However, in any correspondence exchanged with the interested party, the administration must designate this under the assumed name that she or he has indicated.

2. 2. It is the responsibility of the applicant to provide the legal justification of his or her right to use someone else's name. The required justifying documents in the different cases are indicated in annex II.

When the interested party is a minor, the person authorized to present the request is indicated in annex III.

2. 3. I add, in order to avoid any difficulty of interpretation, that :

1° The legal nature of an assumed name excludes all reference to the civil status and in the family book (livret de famille);

2° In the absence of a specific disposition, the order in which all the family names are used is free;

3° The interested party can renounce at any time the assumed name indicated to the administration.

In order to assure taking into account under satisfactory conditions for users of the new right created by the law dated December 23, 1985 and to preserve the proper functioning of the administration, would you please assure the diffusion of this bill to your various services and assure its exact application.

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