Divorced woman finds her name is not her own

July 12, 1991|By Dirk Johnson | Dirk Johnson,New York Times News Service

SALT LAKE CITY -- Wendy Jean Alldredge says she knows that life can sometimes be galling. But this took the cake.

After her divorce in 1988, she went to the Utah Driver License Division to change the last name on her driver's license from Jorgensen, her former husband's name, to Alldredge, the name she was born with.

She was told she would need her former husband's permission.

"This rubbed me the wrong way," she said, "to say the least."

When license officials told her to call her former husband, she retorted, "What my ex-husband thinks is irrelevant." Instead, she called a lawyer.

She filed suit against the Utah Driver License Division, charging discrimination against divorced women. A Utah court and a federal appeals court have rejected her claim.

Ms. Alldredge, a 36-year-old unemployed cashier and the mother of three children, said she had never before considered herself a feminist.

"But this whole thing has made me look at things a little differently," she said. "If a poor woman like me has to fight just to get her own name back, I think we're in a sad situation."

Utah, like other states, allows a change of name at the time of divorce. But the Driver License Division says a woman cannot unilaterally change her name after the divorce; it requires an amendment of the divorce decree, which means getting the former husband's consent.

Ms. Alldredge noted that with copies of her birth certificate and divorce decree, she has been able to change her name on her tax records, Social Security card and bank checks.

She said that the license division allows a woman to take her husband's name after marriage even though the marriage license does not specify a name change.

"But that's different," said Brian Gough, a spokesman for the division. "It's a tradition to take the husband's name in marriage."

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