THE CONSUMER Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Jones

If you want to hold on to your last name, you ’d better be prepared to cope with these problems.

The soap opera “All My Children” recently posed the question: Should Kristina keep her own last name when she marries Geoff?

Having made its debut on daytime television, the issue has probably passed the peak of controversy. But the woman who retains her own name after she marries still encounters problems. You can prepare for them in advance with the following quiz, developed from interviews with six Dallas women: a restaurant owner, two publishers, a university instructor, an entertainer, and a lawyer.

1. A married woman’s legalname is the name that appearson her:

A. birth certificate

B. social security card

C. marriage license

D. Master Charge card

2. The most common reasonfor a woman’s retaining a lastname different from her husband’s is that:

A. her name is a part of herprofessional identity

B. her name is a part of herpersonal identity

C. her personal property and accountsare more easily maintained under herown name

D. she likes her name as it is

3. When introducing her husband at a cocktail party, a wife will find which pattern most successful?

A. Hello, I’m Jane Doe, and this isSam Smooch

B. Hello, I’m Jane Doe, and this is myhusband Sam

C. Hello, I’m Jane Doe, and this is myhusband Sam Smooch

D. B or C as determined by the intimacy of the crowd

4. If a wife and husband do not share a last name, their children take what surname?

A. a hyphenated form of both parents’last names: Doe-Smooch or Smooch-Doe (the British system)

B. the father’s last name (the patronymic system)

C. the girls for her and the boys for him(the polynymic system)

D. any of the above

5. The easiest way for a woman to convince the world of doubting receptionists and gas station attendants that she is married to a man whose last name is different from hers is to:

A. carry a copy of her marriage licenseat all times

B. wear a wedding ring at all times

C. wear her husband at all times

D. take the employee’s name and ask for his/her superior

6. To maintain credit cards in her own name, a married woman must:

A. get permission from her husband todo so

B. add her husband’s name to all accounts

C. close her accounts, then reapply indicating a change in marital status

D. none of the above

7. To maintain independentloan credit with her bank, amarried woman must:

A. add her husband as cosigner in all post-marriagetransactions

B. be stubborn and persistent

C. request independent loanstatus from the FDIC

D. find a loan officer under thirty

8. When filing a joint incometax return, a woman who doesnot share her husband’s lastname must:

A. take her husband’s namefor filing to accommodate the computer

B. file a separate form withher husband’s name inparentheses

C. move to Canada wherethe appropriate forms areavailable

D. indicate both first andlast names according to aspecial IRS formula

1. C – The name a woman puts on her marriage license is her legal name.

According to Dr. Dolores Ferrell of the Women’s Law Center, a woman’s only legal name is the name that appears on her birth certificate. However, since most law surrounding name-taking derives from custom, and since the custom of a wife’s taking her husband’s name is so well rooted in the social garden, a woman’s name legally changes via the marriage license. However, all a woman need do to retain her birth name is to decline to fill out a change of name card when she and her husband apply for a marriage license at the County Records Office. Unless a woman acts to change her name, in other words, it remains as it is on her birth certificate.

2. A – All of the women we interviewedhad professional reasons for keeping theirmaiden names.

Names are the chief marks of identification, inseparable from the reputations of the people who bear them. One builds a name; one builds a reputation. To abandon a name means starting over as someone else. Most of the women we interviewed had built reputations under their maiden names; they considered keeping their names to be simple good business.

3. C – All of the women we interviewedagreed that an introduction offering boththe name and the relationship works best.

However, they – and their husbands – also agreed that introducing a spouse with a different surname requires a special sort of intuition. Introduction A leaves some question as to the relationship between Jane Doe and Sam Smooch: Nothing in their names says MARRIED. However, if marital information is irrelevant to the introduction, then introduction A may provide some refreshing cocktail anonymity and independence.

4. D – There are no strict rules dictatinghow a child must be named. The parentsmust only be sure that the desired name iscorrectly written on the birth certificate.

Entrepreneur Barbara Buck and her husband Jimmy Lee Johnson decided they would use the patronymic system of naming if for no other reason than to give their children a fair chance against forms and applications. Because part of Ms. Buck’s business involves the devising of clearer forms, she knows that standard forms and applications rarely accommodate two parental names and always assume paternal dominance. A child’s sharing a father’s name is simply easier.

5. D – Be prepared Co demand to see the boss.

The important thing for a woman to remember is that if she is denied service because she does not share her husband’s name, she is fighting custom, not law. Not that custom is easy to fight. For example, among the questions that a doctor’s receptionist asks a new patient is “What is your husband’s name?” Barbara Buck’s husband’s name was different from hers, which moved the receptionist to cancel her appointments and the doctor to inform Barbara later that he was taking no new patients. Apparently, both the doctor and receptionist were afraid that if Buck and Johnson would not share a last name, they might not share the liability for the bill either.

Liability for a spouse’s spending extends to almost every kind of service. How does Annette Allen convince a gas station attendant that Ozzie Wiggins is her husband and that he will not mind if she uses his card? According to Annette, the simplest solution is to find a station or two to patronize regularly: Familiarity lessens suspicion. In fact, if a couple is firm in their initial encounters with service people, they will establish themselves as a liability-bearing unit that incidentally sports two last names.

In general, a newly married couple with two last names (and, perhaps, two incomes) is well advised to plan their service connections rather than to chance random acquisition. Initial and joint introduction to doctors, grocery store managers, gas station managers, plumbers, and electricians relieves one partner or the other from bearing the sole burden of marital proof. Furthermore, joint introductions introduce small business people to a naming system with which they might not be familiar. If patience fails, then complain – loudly.

6. D – There is nothing to keep a married woman from holding credit cards in her maiden name.

Just be consistent: A world that requires two major credit cards for check-cashing identification may exhibit acute symptoms of mistrust if presented with a check from Jane Doe and a Visa card from Jane Smooch; better to carry cash than split an identity.

Companies issuing credit cards can be more or less helpful to couples who wish to share credit numbers but not names. For instance, Barbara Buck requested a card from American Express for her husband. The card was issued with Buck’s number on it, was billed to Buck, but carried the printed name and signature of her husband. In contrast, when Annette Allen requested a Sears credit card with her husband’s name on it, the request was denied. The best she could do with Sears was to have her husband’s name listed as a certified charger.

7. B – When dealing with banks, be persistent.

One local woman owned three restaurants before she married: She had kept bank accounts, taken out loans, and acquired a significant amount of personal property. Nevertheless, after she married, the loan officer at her bank requested her husband’s signature on a new loan application, although she was putting up 100 percent of her own collateral. She reported the request for her husband’s signature to the bank’s president. The president accepted the application.

The property a woman brings to a marriage is not a dowry and is not automatically community property (although new profit accrued from that property is). Understandably, a bank may request both signatures on a loan backed by community property. However, when a woman wishes to back a loan with her personal property, no such request is justified and need not be tolerated.

8. C – The IRS has devised a formula by which a husband and wife with different last names may file jointly.

None of the couples we interviewed was sure how to put two sets of names on a joint tax return. Yet if what the IRS says will work does work, the procedure is uncharacteristically simple.

According to IRS representative Mary Ann Beach, if Jane Doe and Sam Smooch file a joint return, they should enter their names as follows:

Sam & Jane

Doe & Smooch

Ms. Beach concedes that the system is notproblem-free and that the computer willoccasionally reject an entry until its validity can be checked. Such rejection is rareexcept with the returns of newly marriedcouples. Newly weds should probably bekind enough to give the computer oneyear of grace.


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