Nigerian Lawyers Give Their Thoughts On Ditching or Keeping Maiden Names After Getting Married

On Friday, some Nigerian lawyers argued that under the Marriage Act, there is no provision for a married woman to bear her maiden name. These lawyers suggested the need for women to change their maiden name after marriage, warning that retention of the name could lead to misunderstanding or divorce.

In a chat with News Agency of Nigeria  the lawyers spoke against the backdrop of the claim by some people that maiden name should continue to form a part of a woman’s record as it helps to shape her career.

Though some lawyers said that a woman could join her maiden name with that of her husband to form a compound name if her husband permits, others advised that maiden names should be dropped altogether immediately after marriage. They argued that since marriage is a change of status, it also implies acquisition of a new name.

One of the lawyers, Mr. Ayotunde Ologe, noted that there were legal presumptions that a woman would need to execute a change of name after marriage. He said;

“Women must have noticed that, in most forms they fill, they come across a column for maiden name. This simply means father’s name before marriage.

“This, alone, presupposes the fact that there needs to be a change of name and the name change is to reflect the fact that a woman is now married to someone.

“However, if it is permitted by the husband for his wife to continue with her maiden name after marriage, then that may suffice; but where the husband feels strongly about it, then the best approach is for the woman to stick strictly to her husband’s name’’.

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Speaking on whether children should bear their father’s name or their grandfather’s, the lawyer said that it was logical for children to bear the name of their own father. He argued;

“Why will my own son want to bear the name of his grandfather? Surname is your father’s name; so, it is very abnormal for a son to quote his grandfather’s name”.

Another lawyer, Mrs. Funmibi Adeosun, advised that change of name should be discussed and resolved before marriage. She added that lack of adequate communication between spouses contributes much to misunderstanding and divorce. She said;

“In Africa, a woman is meant to assume her husband’s name after marriage. However, there should be no problem in retaining your father’s name if it is allowed by your husband.

“I’m a Christian and it is biblical for a woman to be submissive to her husband; it is important for a woman to submit to the opinion of the man in this regard.

“However, where the husband consents to the wife keeping her father’s name along with his own name, then that can be permissible. It is, however, sad to note that things as little as this can cause problems in the home due to the absence of communication”.

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A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Chukwu Agwu, also described retention of maiden name by a woman as “a show of ego.” He added that joining maiden name with husband’s name is unnecessary.

“If my daughter is married and I join in signing the marriage register, why should I insist on her retaining my name? It is absolutely unnecessary.

The Bible does not say a woman should carry her home to another home; so, why carry your father’s name to your husband’s house?

Under the marriage Act, there is no requirement for maiden name and there is also no law which permits the children to use their mother’s maiden name”.

In Mr Agwu’s opinion, issues such as a woman’s insistence on the use of her maiden name are responsible for misunderstandings in marriages.

Photo credit: Greg Hinsdale/Corbis

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