The family law team at Barnard Inc was approached by YFM recently, and asked to explain the legalities and requirements for changing a surname, taking on a spouse's surname when getting married, and the procedure for changing a last name in the event of a divorce.

Associate, Isabel van den Ende (who is also just getting used to having a new surname after recently getting married) explains the process in a recorded voice note for the YFM team. You can listen to it below:


There are no legalities to not changing your surname when you get married, meaning that, luckily in South Africa we are not obliged to assume our spouse's surname. Which is a good thing, since you have the choice whether you wish to change your surname certain surnames are very difficult to pronounce (believe me) I am still struggling to get used to my pronouncing my new surname in English which is van den Ende. So think twice.

However, if you do not want to change your surname after getting married it is extremely important to inform your marriage officer (or priest or reverend) when you sign the official documentation on the date of the marriage. And make sure that he makes a proper note of your decision.

The marriage officer will be responsible to register your marriage at the Department of Home Affairs. When he/she is at Home Affairs, he will register the marriage and simultaneously write down the name and surname of each spouse. This is where he needs to concentrate, if you do not wish to change your surname he should simply write down your maiden surname. Then, the department of home affairs should register it accordingly.

But, you will still be required to go to the department of home affairs to apply for a new identity card and you will have to explain why you want to change your surname.

In terms of the legalities of double-barreling your surname after you get married and removing it when you get a divorce.

Again, there are no specific legalities if your surname was double-barreled when you got married and you wish to change your surname to your maiden surname. You will follow the exact process that you follow when you change your surname after getting married. You will approach home affairs complete certain forms and motivate why you wish to amend your surname and they will attend to the necessary.

As a family law attorney, I know that there is a backlog at the Department of Home Affairs when it comes to registration of divorces. So when you receive your decree of divorce from Court, it is advisable to attend the Department of Home Affairs and provide them with the document. This will ensure that your divorce is registered.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.