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New bill would make name changes gender neutral for divorces

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Some lawmakers in Lansing say the state’s divorce statute is “archaic” and needs an update.

A new bill introduced in the state House would allow anyone to change their name back after a divorce using the judgment of divorce. It essentially makes that part of the statute gender neutral. Right now, the act specifies “divorced women.”

State representative Robert Wittenberg (D-Huntington Woods) is a bill sponsor. He says the current process for someone who isn’t a woman to change their name is too complicated.

“Now you can change your name, but you have to jump through a lot of hoops to be able to do it. And we have it on the books, currently, with the divorce statute, but it’s archaic,” says Wittenberg.

He says this is about making the name change process simple for everyone.

“If this is someone who’s going through divorce, we want to make the change as seamless and easy for them as possible so they can go on living and have their own independence,” he says.

Wittenberg’s bill would make the name change portion of the divorce statute gender neutral. That would allow not only men in heterosexual couples to change their names, but people in same-sex couples as well.

The bill is waiting for a committee hearing.          

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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