What’s in a name?
The name has been changed to protect the innocent.
“Shoshanah Good Teruges,” an American married to a Frenchman for more than 26 years, living in “La France Profonde” with three children from the marriage until the last few years (having moved back to the U.S), has been in the process of divorce from her husband for the last several years — in a battle for her rights, her life, custody of her children, a financial settlement, etc. Anyone who has ever gone through such a process knows that it is difficult, emotionally painful and expensive.
Shoshanah is an accomplished individual in the arts who runs a specialized school in one of the Southern states and has edited more than 10 books in her field. Her name is important to her in her career, as she has built an important reputation.
Her divorce judgment has finally been pronounced after six-plus years of what she calls “purgatory,” and the judgment was 100 per cent in her husband’s favor, zero per cent in hers. She was awarded no “prestation compensatoire” (financial settlement) despite the long marriage and children, no retirement benefits, etc., and worst of all, the French courts has denied use of her own name, despite the fact that it has now been hers for half her life. Using the name of Teruges, she has signed close to 100 articles and books using this name, has a new book coming out in November under this name, and uses this as her email, Facebook, LinkedIn ID, and so on.
This is where I went into a tail spin when hearing the story. Like the French authorities thinking they can tell a woman to wear or not wear a bikini or a burkini on the beaches of France, they think they can tell a woman what she can call herself or not.
Messieurs de France, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” but it’s still a rose. You might recall that in William Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, Juliet argues “that it does not matter that Romeo is from her rival’s house of Montague, that is, that he is named ‘Montague.'” But alas, he is still a Montague and as a result, they die in each other’s arms.
Shoshanah’s loss of financial compensation is tough enough to swallow, considering she contributed to the purchase of their house, their livelihoods, their children’s needs and total household…but what right does the French court have to deny her the use of the name she has had for 26 years?
As it turns out, France has a whole set of rules about names…and it’s very specific. In the U.S. there are very few laws governing given names. In short, you can be called anything you like…Rose, for example, works well. Shakespeare liked it and I like the smell of it.
In France, when you marry, you are given the choice to use or not use your spouse’s name, however, you cannot use the name of a partner or PACS partner. When you divorce, your name automatically reverts to your maiden name or your former spouse’s name can be used only if the former spouse or court authorizes it.
Excuse me? He’s no longer the spouse but he’s still dictating whether she must wear a bikini or a burkini?
There are names you can’t give a child by law, too. Until 1993, your baby’s name had to come from a list of “acceptable” first names, as dictated by the authorities. President François Mitterand outlawed that law and allowed parents to have a bit more creativity, however, the courts can still ban the name if they think it’s detrimental to the child. A few that have been denied are: Manhattan, Mégane and Nutella! (Source: The Local)
When I divorced 19 years ago, I kept my ex-husband’s name, Leeds. Not only did I simply prefer it to my maiden name (Beerman), but it was who I was after 17 years of marriage and a daughter (who has since dropped it for professional reasons — Erica Simone [Leeds]). I never thought twice about keeping it, until having to sign legal documents in France.
I’ve signed on hundreds of legal documents on behalf of our clients purchasing property and for a very long time, the document would state:
“Le BENEFICIAIRE n’est pas présent mais représenté par Madame Adrian BEERMAN, Consultant en marketing, divorcée de Monsieur David LEEDS, demeurant à PARIS (75003)…”
(“The recipient is not present but represented by Mrs. Adrian BEERMAN, Consultant in marketing, divorced from Mr. David LEEDS, living in PARIS (75003)…”)
I got tired of seeing my ex-husband’s name on every document and BEGGED our Notaire to remove him. Now, after years of complaining, it says, “Le BENEFICIAIRE n’est pas présent mais représenté par “Madame Adrian BEERMAN-LEEDS…” That was the best I could do, but at least the Ex wasn’t there any longer.
Shoshanah’s legal advocates appealed to the courts for the legal use of her name, but the request was rejected and stated that she should have anticipated this happening in the event of divorce. I question if she even has the need to battle it? By U.S. standards, where she now resides, she can be called Rose for that matter.
My advice? I bet you can guess it.
If she continues to use her married name in the U.S., what will the French authorities or her ex-husband do about it? She has French citizenship, so even if she were living here, they can’t deport her. Should she have the need to sign on a French legal document, her name on that document would mean nothing to her public reputation, so they could call her Rose if that’s what they choose. And if her ex-husband sues her, I say let him spend his time, money and negative energy in the name of revenge to make him feel better.
Rose, by any other name you would smell as sweet.
Special note: Any American man or woman about to enter into marriage with a French person should not do so blindly. Be careful to protect yourself and your assets on every level, regardless of how much you love and trust each other. (Take it from those who know. Have you read Diane Johnson’s “Le Divorce?”)
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(By Susi Gott Séguret)
P.S. I did it. You MUST do it. Even if you don’t LIKE who you will be voting for, a NO VOTE DOESN’T COUNT. Be counted, one way or another. You do NO SERVICE to your country, your friends or your family if you don’t vote. Cast your ballot from wherever you live TODAY!
P.P.S. I will be in New York City in September and am welcoming personal consultations September 21 through 24th on the subjects of working, living and investing in France for the special price of $330 for up to two hours (normally 330€. That’s a $42 savings.) If you are interested, please email me at [email protected]
P.P.P.S. If you’ve missed it before, here’s your chance to catch myself, daughter Erica and niece Shari on Tiny House World’s episod of Petit Chateau in Paris TONIGHT at 6:30 PM DST. Don’t miss it again