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Am I able to make my ex-wife change her surname back to her maiden name?
04 March 2019  | Tiaan Du Plooy

Legally, couples can walk away from their marriage by ending it through a divorce. The law acknowledges different types of marriage in South Africa, and the divorce process and consequences depend on how a couple got married:

Civil marriages, civil unions and customary marriages can only be dissolved by a South African court.

·         Section 26 of Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1992:

A woman may assume her husband's surname, or revert to her maiden surname or a prior surname she legally bore, and since 1997 a woman may also join her surname with that of her husband's as a double-barreled surname.

No application to the Department of Home Affairs is necessary in these instances, but to enable the Department to update the Population Register, women should notify the Department of such changes in writing.

Apart from the aforesaid exclusions, no major may assume another surname unless such change of surname has been approved by the Director-General of Home Affairs and has been published in the Government Gazette. 

Applications in this regard may be lodged at any domestic Home Affairs office or any South African embassy, mission or consulate abroad.  Applications must be on a duly completed Form BI-196 and a good and sufficient reason, in writing, for the change must be furnished.

Legally a woman (ex-wife) can change her own surname back to her maiden name or her new husband’s name she may keep her ex-husband’s surname if she wishes.

Legally, a man (ex-husband) can’t force his ex-wife to change her surname back to her maiden name. He can however ask and try and convince her to do so, but there is no legal obligation for an ex-wife to change her surname.    

Reference List:

·         Marriage Act, 1961 (Act No 25 of 1961); • Regulations made under the Marriage Act,1961;

·         Recognition of Customary Marriages Act,1998 (Act No 120 of 1998);

·         Civil Union Act, 2006 (Act No 17 of 2006); and

·         Regulations made under the  Civil Union Act,2006

·         Divorce Act 70 of 1979 ·         http://www.home-affairs.gov.za/index.php/civic-                                         services/amendments

·         Section 26 of Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1992  

Tags: Divorce