Judge called mum 'unfit' for using ex-husband's surname

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 18 Nov 2021, 1:03PM
The decision to keep her ex-husband's surname was not an issue until the Kiwi mum tried to adopt a young girl whom she had met while living in Fiji. (Photo / Getty Images)
The decision to keep her ex-husband's surname was not an issue until the Kiwi mum tried to adopt a young girl whom she had met while living in Fiji. (Photo / Getty Images)

Judge called mum 'unfit' for using ex-husband's surname

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 18 Nov 2021, 1:03PM

Marissa knew that adopting a child wasn't going to be easy, but standing in a court room in Fiji, going over the finer points of the process, the judge raised a concern that she never saw coming. The unexpected objection was to her surname, specifically the fact that she had kept the surname of her ex-husband, after their divorce. 

"The judge started questioning why I was still using my ex-husband's last name… he said it could make me an unfit mother," the New Zealand mum-of-five told Kidspot. 

Marissa and her husband were married for 18 years and they had four children together. The marriage fell apart when it was revealed that Marissa's husband had been having an affair. 

"We got a bitter divorced after 18 years because he had an affair," she explains. 

"I was naïve and ignored so many signs… looking back, I can't believe how silly I was." 

Ultimately, when the shock wore off, Marissa said she felt "relieved" when the divorce was final. For her children's sake, however, she decided to keep her husband's last name. 

"I decided to keep my married name as I definitely didn't want a different last name than my children. 

"Also, I had my degree and everything like my passport and bank details in my married name. I couldn't be bothered changing it!" 

Despite friends and family querying her choice to keep the surname, the decision was not an issue until she tried to adopt a young girl whom she had met while living in Fiji. 

During the adoption hearing in Fiji the judge questioned Marissa heavily on the use of her husband's surname, asked her to prove that she had custody of her biological children and told her she may be viewed as an "unfit mother". 

"He wanted to see my divorce papers and also check if I had custody of my older children, which of course I did," Marissa vividly recalls. 

"I was devastated and so frightened." 

Luckily, Marissa's lawyer was able to smooth things over with the judge and the adoption went through. 

Marissa has never regretted the decision to keep her ex-husband's surname and still uses it to this day, despite remarrying. Her current husband has no issue with her surname: "In fact, we've never even discussed it," she admits.