For the Supreme Court, the husband’s surname can be kept after divorce when there is an interest worthy of protection. Article 143 bis of our Civil Code establishes that the wife adds that of her husband to her surname and keeps it even during her widowhood until she passes to a new marriage.

However, this rule does not specify that the wife does not have the obligation to take the husband’s surname, but it is a prerogative only. On closer inspection, the wife is identified with her maiden name and not with that of her spouse and therefore the attribution of the husband’s surname is optional.

Well, it is clear that under Italian law the wife can use her husband’s surname by adding it to her own only in social relations and not for administrative deeds and documents where the signature with her own surname is sufficient. However, are there cases in which it is necessary for the wife to use her husband’s surname, and in these cases, when does she lose the right to use it?

Surname of the husband in case of separation and / or divorce 

While, in case of separation of the spouses the wife retains her husband’s surname (as the marital bond does not lose its effects) but the judge can prohibit its use, when this is detrimental to the husband. Otherwise, the law on divorce (l. 898/70) in article 5 establishes that the woman, in the event of the dissolution of the marriage, or the cessation of its civil effects, loses the surname she had added to her own following the marriage, definitively dissolving the marital bond. 

When the wife can keep her husband’s surname after divorce?

The wife, in the divorce proceedings, can ask the judge to be able to keep her husband’s surname in addition to her own, if there is an interest for her or for the children which is deserving of protection (e.g. when this is functional to her career of professional developments).

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