Life Style

Letellier or Cohen, the winding story of a name change

Family stories are rarely simple. And the name change law, which comes into force this Friday 1er July, could offer a new illustration. While this text aims to simplify the lives of those who carry their surname like a burden – victims of domestic violence, separated parents who today no longer bear the name of their children – it could also, contrary to its intentions, revive some wounds.

The name carries a whole story, and “it is often easier not to have to choose in such a sensitive area », thus recalled the psychoanalyst Caroline Eliacheff, at the time of the examination of the law. Take the story of Frédéric, 42 years old. He has an appointment at the town hall on 13e arrondissement of Paris this Friday 1er July to submit their completed application form. He is about to adopt his mother’s name officially.

“My mother then took back her maiden name”

“My parents divorced when I was 3 years old.he begins. My mother then took back her maiden name, Letellier. When, a few years later, I went to live with her, she decided that I would name myself after her. » Then this simple habit took a turn a little more official when the law recognized the name of use, in 1985. His diplomas or his Social Security card are established in the name of Frédéric Letellier. Problem: in the civil status, there remains Frédéric Cohen, named after his father.

Also, at the birth of his own sons, now aged 10 and 11, it is impossible for him to pass on his usual name to them. The two children are then declared to the civil status in the name of their own mother, Denonfoux. Then the couple separated, and practical difficulties soon arose for Frédéric.

“The children live in alternating residence between me and their mother, but it’s complicated for me not to have the same name as them. For example, one day, during a trip to London, I was asked to prove that I was indeed their father. » A situation that should end: when he himself has changed his name, his children will automatically be called Denonfoux Letellier.

There would be the art and the way

One person, however, observes this change with a hint of bitterness: Roland Cohen, Frédéric’s father, who confesses “crumpled” of her son’s gait. Not in principle, of course, but in form. “I am open on the question of the name, he swears, I have no problem with the principle of the law which simplifies this change, nor with the idea that children can choose the surname of their father or their mother, as is the practice in several countries. » But there would be art and manner. “Honestly, we could have discussed it more. There, I really had to insist on knowing what Frédéric intended to do. »

Especially since this choice destabilized him more than he would have thought, forcing him to revisit his own story. He remembered that at one time in his life he too had “wished to take over the name of (her) mother, Mayer, because (his) father was very absent and that Cohen didn’t have much sense to (his) eyes “. He also remembered how he encouraged his sons to name their children after their mother.” because’(he knows) although being called Cohen, it is not easy. I was the first to admit that you have the right not to have to wear a religious label all your life. » At the time, the idea hit his own family, he recalls.

“I don’t feel like I’m erased from my son’s life either, because I’m still his father anyway,” adds however the father of Frédéric. And he has a consolation: one of his grandsons dreams of being called Cohen.


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