Some lawyers in Lagos on Friday said there was the need for women to change their surnames after marriage, warning that retention of maiden names could lead to misunderstanding and even divorce.
The lawyers spoke against the backdrop of the claim by some people that maiden name would continue to form part of a woman’s record as it helped to shape her career.
Some lawyers said that a woman could join her maiden name with that of her spouse to form a compound name, but others advised that maiden name should be totally dropped after marriage since marriage was a change of status and implied acquisition of a new name.
Mr Ayotunde Ologe, a Lagos-based lawyer, said that although there were presumptions that a woman would need to execute a change of name after marriage.
“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 they are 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,’’ he said.
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.
“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,” he argued.
Mrs Funmibi Adeosun, also a lawyer, advised that change of name should be discussed and resolved before marriage.
She said that lack of adequate communication between spouses contributed much to misunderstanding and divorce.
“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,” she said.
“I am 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, and it is due to absence of communication,” she said.
Mr Chukwu Agwu, also a Lagos-based lawyer, described retention of maiden name by a woman as a show of ego.
He added that joining maiden name with husband’s name was 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,” he said.
According to Agwu, issues such as a woman’s insistence on the use of her maiden name are responsible for misunderstandings in marriages.