Like Victoria Fritz, We Changed Our Names After Divorce. It's Empowering

BBC Breakfast presenters Jon Kay (left) and Victoria Valentine (right) as she appeared with her new name on Wednesday. (Photo: BBC Breakfast via PA Media)
BBC Breakfast presenters Jon Kay (left) and Victoria Valentine (right) as she appeared with her new name on Wednesday. (Photo: BBC Breakfast via PA Media)

BBC Breakfast presenters Jon Kay (left) and Victoria Valentine (right) as she appeared with her new name on Wednesday.  (Photo: BBC Breakfast via PA Media)

To change, or not to change? That’s the question couples face regarding their surnames when they get married. And let’s face it, in 2022, it is still predominately women facing this conundrum.

But what do you do if you’ve taken the plunge, only for the marriage to end in separation or divorce?

On Wednesday, BBC Breakfast presenter Victoria Valentine appeared on screen with her new name. And in a blog post shared via Twitter, she revealed why she decided to change her surname from Fritz after her marriage broke down.

“Here’s the rub. It no longer fits. It doesn’t fit the person that has emerged nor does it truthfully describe the future ahead of me,” she wrote. “In the re-casting and the re-crafting, I’ve discovered my name matters. And so I am changing it.”

The presenter said she’d be using Valentine both personally and professionally from now on, explaining that for her, reverting to her maiden name didn’t feel right.

“Going back felt emotionally regressive, stunting, depressing and quite frankly, anti-feminist,” she said. “So I’m taking my Dubliner mother’s name. I’m taking it in tribute to the Irish strength and solidarity that has scaffolded me as I quietly rebuilt.”

Her heart-felt words have struck a chord and led to other women sharing how – and why – they chose the names they did after divorce.

I felt like I had lost a piece of my identity when I had married and taken my then husband's name.Victoria Tretis

Like Valentine, Victoria Tretis, 41 from Nottingham, opted for a new name. But Tretis – which she adopted by deed poll before her divorce even came through – is actually a shortened version of the double surname she was given at birth, Charalambous Tretis.

“I am hugely proud of ‘Tretis’ and all it represents about my dad’s heritage – he left his home country of Cyprus to start a new life here in the UK in the 50s when he was in his teens,” she says.

“My sisters are married with children (new surnames) and my brother doesn’t have children. I wanted to keep the surname going. If I get married again, I want to double barrel the surname for my daughter (who’s nine) – and she’s cool with that.”

Tretis, who works as a coach supporting neurodivergent employees, says she felt like she lost “a piece of [her] identity” when she took her ex-husband’s name.

“But not many people double-barrelled or kept their maiden names in the early 00s, plus I’m more of a feminist now,” she says. “I wore ‘Tretis’ on my London marathon cap with pride earlier this month!”

Victoria Tretis with her London Marathon cap. (Photo: Victoria Tretis)
Victoria Tretis with her London Marathon cap. (Photo: Victoria Tretis)

Victoria Tretis with her London Marathon cap. (Photo: Victoria Tretis)

Francesca Henry, 33, from Gloucestershire, also says reverting to her old name felt like the right choice.

“I felt like I was taking my identity back, and that it was a chance to start over again and get my life back on track,” says Henry, who runs a business helping women to improve their finances.

“It felt like I’d lost a piece of myself in the marriage and divorce, and I wanted to get back to feeling like ‘me’ again.”

Francesca Henry, who chose to revert to her old name. (Photo: Francesca Henry)
Francesca Henry, who chose to revert to her old name. (Photo: Francesca Henry)

Francesca Henry, who chose to revert to her old name.  (Photo: Francesca Henry)

But Jan Cavelle, an author and entrepreneur from Sussex, points out that some women end up keeping their married name for purely practical reasons.

The 66-year-old, from Sussex, got divorced in her early 30s but by then, she’d already set up her own interior design business with the name in the title.

“By the time the divorce came through, the business had grown to a fair old size and it would have just crashed the entire brand by changing,” she says.

Her teenage children were “determined” to change their name from their father’s and opted for her maiden name, but she felt she couldn’t follow.

“For me, it was really hard to watch: a) it meant not having the same name as the kids, which was horrible, even if it was my maiden name. And b) I had moved on and would have loved to have that official ‘I am a different person with a name change’ [way of] disassociating myself,” she says.

“But it couldn’t be done – I couldn’t change the business, and couldn’t stand in the children’s way on something so emotive to them.”

Jan Cavelle kept her married name for the sake of her business. (Photo: Jan Cavelle)
Jan Cavelle kept her married name for the sake of her business. (Photo: Jan Cavelle)

Jan Cavelle kept her married name for the sake of her business.  (Photo: Jan Cavelle)

But for some women, keeping the name they adopted when they got married feels like a more proactive choice – and that’s just as valid. Zoe Lacey, who runs a stationery company based in Islington, is content to stick.

“After growing up with a mum whose last name was different to mine, I really wanted to have the same name as my son,” she says. “Once he’s out of school I might double barrel it, but for now I’m happy to keep it as it is!”

Just like when women get married, there are a lot of opinions surrounding what women should do with their names when they get divorced. But clearly, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Want to keep your married name? Great. Fancy having your birth name back? Go for it!

Or, if like Victoria Valentine, you fancy a new name altogether, we highly recommend choosing one that makes you feel awesome.

“I’m also taking it because it sounds epic,” she said. “And ‘epic’ sounds pretty damn good as loose plans for the future go.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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