Legal Stuff





  Pre-nuptial agreements didn’t have much power in the United Kingdom until recently. They are slowly being taken more seriously. Unlike in the United States where prenups are legally binding. In fact, if a couple gets married in California, and then divorces, their assets get split 50/50.


 Deciding Whether To Change Your Name.


  It is entirely up to you whether or not you change your name. Many women don’t and sometimes men do. Some older relatives and in-laws might pressure you or might make a dig but just be firm and polite with them and make sure your husband has a gentle word with them if it gets too much.

  Many newspapers and magazines may still make comments when a woman doesn’t change her surname to her new husband’s and Tatler may still call the women in the Bystander section solely by their husbands name (!) but it helps to ignore such stupid sexism.

  A woman’s surname does not automatically change just because she marries. Nor do you have to legally change it. In fact, an estimated 36 per cent of woman now keep their maiden name after they marry.

  This was my wedding diary entry on women changing their names after marriage.

  We live in modern times and tradition is something ever-changing. Some traditional things last, and some just don’t. Others, like a woman taking her husband’s name after they marry, actually become controversial. My favourite motto to live by in life is, ‘live and let live’. But, yet, it seems we can’t.

  Some women see submission or sexism when a woman changes her name. But where did that woman get her name? And where did her mother get hers?, and her grandmother? To stop it now feels like closing the stable after the horse has long bolted.

  All of this does make me sound pro changing my name, I know. I am in a bit of a muddle with it to be honest. Part of my thinks it is something to do if you have children, so you can be a family unit, the stories of women being stopped at airports because they have a different surname from their children are common. If I have children I certainly don’t want to have a different surname from them. It would just be too weird. This means I have to take my fiancé’s name, he has to take mine or we have to double-barrel our names. That is if we have children. If we don’t, does it really matter? Part of me thinks not.

  There is a part in The Crucible when John Proctor has two choices: change his name or die. He chooses to die, ‘It is my name,’ he says, ‘I cannot have any other’. This is a pretty extreme example but I remember watching TV with a friend. There was a woman with a double-barreled surname. My friend commented on the ridiculousness of her name; “Oh, just lose your ego woman!” But it is not just ego is it? It’s your identity. My name is me. Well, actually, my name is a stage name, albeit one that I use for everything now. It belonged to my grandmother, a British-Lithuanian who died when she was only 40 of kidney failure.Not surprisingly, I would like this to live on. I am only a handful of people in the world with the surname ‘Balavage’. An Anglo take on ‘Bullovich’. You see? Surnames, they change. As does identity. I even pronounce my surname differently than she would have: Ba Lav age, with a quiet ‘V’. At my friends Nick Cohen’s book launch, the amazing writer Francis Wheen complimented my on my surname, ‘Like a glamorous French actress’. I have pronounced it the way he said it ever since.

  So when I marry I have a few choices: change my real name and keep my stage name, change my name completely and just keep Balavage for acting, or double-barrel my name. I have until next year to decide, but I am already in a pickle. What to do?

  It is not about feminism or inequality. If a woman wants to take her new husband’s name, she should be able to, if a man wants to change his, he should and if a woman wants to keep or double-barrel her name, she should be able to without rudeness: it’s her identity after all: Live and let live.

  Options On What To Do With Your Name After You Marry.

  The bride takes the groom’s name.

  The couple double-barrel their names.

  The bride double-barrels her name.

  The bride keeps her maiden name

  The groom takes the bride’s name.

  The bride takes her husband’s names but keeps her own surname for professional purposes.

  The bride and groom meld their names together.

  The bride and groom take on an entirely new name.


  If you do change your name do consider that it might have consequences for your career. By the time many people get married they have usually built up their career in their chosen industry. Whilst I changed my legal name to my husband’s surname it would have been career suicide to change my stage name this late in my life. I am not saying it would not have been possible but I have built up a name as a writer and actor and that wasn’t something I was going to throw away just because I got married.

  Another thing to keep in mind is that if your new spouse has debt then you might want to wait until it is paid off until you change your name. Otherwise you might get debt collectors harassing you. 


  If you do decide to change your name, whether male or female, here is how to do it.

  Who To Notify And What To Do.

  It is tedious and expensive but you will have to notify the following people. All identification and accounts will have to be changed.


  You will have to notify HM Revenue & Customs. They will then automatically update  all your details for tax and benefits. This includes national insurance, child benefit and self-assessment or pay-as-you-earn.


  Unfortunately you will need to pay for a new passport. Very annoying. You can apply for a new passport with your new surname three months before you get married in case you are jetting off straight away. Your old passport will be cancelled during this time. Your new passport will also be postdated so you will not be able to use it before the ceremony.

  You can get a form from your local Post Office, by requesting one from or applying online. At time of going to press it costs £72.50, or £81.25 through the Post Office’s Passport Check and Send service. Time left on an existing passport is added to your new one - up to a maximum of 9 months. Which is a bit annoying if your passport has a lot of time left on it. It should take about three weeks to get your new passport.

  Remember to book your holiday in the name of your new passport, or your old one if you are not changing your name until after. The name on your passport should match the name on your ticket. I had a bad experience after a friend booked a ticket but accidentally did it in my stage name. Ryanair charged me £100 to change it. Ouch.

  Driving Licence.

  To change your licence you will have to get a form from the Post Office

  This is what the DVLA say about renewing your licence due to a name change:

  Applying at a Post Office

  A list of the closest Post Offices where you can renew your driving licence will be on the renewal form (D798) you receive in the post.

  You can also find your nearest suitable Post Office on the Post Office website or you can call them.

  The Post Office

Telephone: 0345 722 3344

  You can’t apply via the Post Office if your name has changed.

  You need to take:

  ◦ the completed renewal form D798

  ◦ your photocard licence and paper counterpart if you have them

  ◦ the fee of £20


  The Post Office will charge an extra £4.50 fee to process your application.

  Your driving licence should arrive within 3 weeks. It might take longer if your medical or personal details need to be checked.

  You can’t download a copy of form D798, but if you don’t get your renewal reminder you may still be able to renew your licence at selected Post Offices. You need to have the photocard and paper counterpart of your current licence.

  Applying by post

  You need to fill in the licence renewal form D798 and include:

  ◦ a new passport type photo taken within the last month (don’t sign the back of the photo)

  ◦ the photocard and paper counterpart of your current licence (you need to tick the relevant box on the D798 form if you’ve lost either part)

  ◦ a cheque or postal order for £20, payable to DVLA (no fee is needed if you have a medical short period licence or you’re aged 70 or over)


  You also need to include identity documents if you’ve changed your name.

  Send the application to:



  SA99 1DH


  If you don’t have the reminder form.

  If you don’t have the D798 reminder and want to apply by post, fill in form D1 ‘Application for a driving licence’, available from the DVLA form ordering service and selected Post Offices.

  Your driving licence should arrive within 3 weeks. It might take longer if your medical or personal details need to be checked.

  More information and the option to request a form here:

  Other Records To Update.

  Bank accounts. Don’t forget a new cheque book.

  Credit cards.

  Insurance policies.

  Retirement accounts.

  Work records

  Business cards (if applicable)

  Electoral roll.

  Email address.


  Frequent flyer programmes.


  Phew. Quite a task and very tedious. Most companies will let you change your name over the phone or by email. Banks will want a written request however and possibly even a copy of your marriage certificate.

  If you are doing anything official it might help to carry your marriage certificate with you until you have your new passport and/or driving licence.

  Deciding Not To Go Through With It.

  Breaking off an engagement is an awful thing to have to go through and many people will be disappointed. However it is much better than going through a nasty divorce or marrying someone that you don’t actually love. Don’t be scared to call off an engagement if it is the right thing to do. It will cause less pain and heartache than going through with it, even if you lose some deposit money.

  The first thing to do is to notify the venue, caterer and any other wedding suppliers that you have hired. Attempt to get all or most of your deposit back. If suppliers give a firm ‘no’ then you can dispute it via your credit card if you paid that way or you can contact the Citizens Advice Bureau.

  If you took out wedding insurance, and you are covered for cold feet, then you are laughing.

  In regards to guests: you must return their gifts to them.

  If things with your now ex start to get messy, seek legal help.

  You will have to return the engagement ring. There is some debate to this, legal and otherwise. Also, many feel that if the man broke off the engagement then the woman should be able to keep the ring.

  Postponing The Big Day

  Things will be easier to sort out if you are just postponing the wedding day for various reasons (illness, a death in the family, losing your job). It will be easier to negotiate with wedding suppliers if they know that they will still get your custom further down the line.

  Marrying Abroad

  Marrying abroad is obviously going to be more complicated than marrying in your own country. Some guests may not be able to make it however, or may resent paying the airfare.