Fla. Man Takes Wife's Last Name, Accused of Driver's License Fraud - Legally Weird
Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Fla. Man Takes Wife's Last Name, Accused of Driver's License Fraud

When Lazaro Sopena married Hahn Dinh, he took his wife's last name so that her family name would continue. His wife, you see, has no brothers to continue the line. What a great husband, right?

To make it official, he went through the appropriate process of changing his passport, Social Security card, and bank account information. Then he got a new driver's license. Or so he thought.

Lazaro Sopena -- now Lazaro Dinh -- received his license with his new last name. But a little more than a year later, his license was suspended.

Florida DMV officials contacted Lazaro Dinh to accuse him of fraud and tell him his license would be suspended as a result.

When he called the office, they stated that he had to go to court to change his name and pay a $400 fee. The DMV official noted that changing a name after marriage, which avoids the court process and fees, "only works for women," reports Reuters.

It's true that traditionally women are more likely to take a husband's last name than men are to take a wife's. But that doesn't mean men aren't allowed to do it.

Changing your name as an adult takes some effort. You have to fill out some forms, have a court hearing to ensure you aren't trying to avoid legal proceedings or otherwise break the law, and pay a fee.

But because many couples take the same last name after marriage, the process is streamlined if you have a marriage certificate.

Some state laws specify that the process only applies to women, but even if that's the case it would be hard to enforce. Not allowing men the same benefits is a kind of discrimination barred by federal law and the Constitution.

But Florida doesn't even have a law on the books that specifies who can benefit from the streamlined post-marriage name change process, reports MSN.

That means the right comes from case law, or may just be a DMV rule. Either way, it's hard to justify punishing a man who wants to take his wife's last name.

Turns out Florida couldn't do it.

Dinh's story was only in the news a few days before Florida DMV officials contacted him again. They admitted it was a mistake and lifted the suspension -- though he still had to go to the DMV to get his license.

Lazaro Dinh's case sets a precedent that either a man or a woman can change his or her last name on a Florida driver's license after marriage. But is that enough to protect the next big-hearted husband from a similar hassle? We'll have to wait and see.

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