MUST A WOMAN TAKE HER HUSBAND'S NAME? NO.
AND IF SHE DIVORCES, CAN HE MAKE HER CHANGE IT BACK? ALSO NO.
Although it has been traditional in heterosexual marriages for a woman to assume her husband's last name, she may retain her birth name or a prior married name unless doing so is with fraudulent intent - more on that below. Furthermore, once a married woman has adopted her husband's name, she may change her name back to her birth name without legal proceedings - not even a divorce-again, so long as there is no fraudulent intent.
What's this fraudulent intent business?
Here's one example from the Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Eudcation:The issue of fraudulent intent might arise in a personal injury case. When a married person is a party in a court action, the court must address that person by the name usually used, whether it is the birth name or a current or former spouse's surname. However, since a surviving spouse's remarriage may not be admitted into evidence to influence a damage award, a woman who uses her present spouse's surname may not ask the court to address her by another name to conceal from the jury the fact that she has remarried. Wood v Detroit Edison Co, 409 Mich 279, 294 NW2d 571 (1980); Jones v Sanilac Cty Rd Comm'n, 128 Mich App 569, 342 NW2d 532 (1983).
Or, as a second example, someone who tries to avoid creditors by changing last names frequently.
When legal proceedings are required, a woman has two options:
1. Change her name as part of her divorce or separate maintenance action - the family court judge may change the name to ANY name (not just a birth or prior married name), absent that fraudulent intent. There is no additional fee for this name change.
2. File a separate name change action - if she waits, she must file a name change lawsuit in the county where she resides and must have lived in Michigan for at least one year. There are filing fees and publication fees totally $200-$300 for this procedure.
What about same-sex marriages? Or men who change their names? At this point, the family court law (option 1) only applies to heterosexual women. HOWEVER, our law firm, Pinnacle Family Law, has authorized a bill in the Michigan Legislature to make that law gender neutral. UPDATES TO FOLLOW!