View Full Version : Can I use my ex's name?

06-12-2005, 10:44 PM
Hello, I am not sure if this is the proper place to post this. Please advice me if there is a better spot. I wrote a personal essay about my personal growth through divorce. There is not a whole lot of meniton of my ex in it, but he is mentioned and it does hint at abuse. My question is, can I get this published without asking for my ex's permission to use his name? I only mention his first name and I have taken back my maiden name so unless someone knows both of us, there wouldn't be a connection. He lives in another state. Or could I simply use the word "husband" and omit his first name? Or would it be better if I fictionalized it? It would not have the same impact.

I read the essay at school a couple of years ago and was surprised to see my advisor sitting there open mouthed.

Thanks for any ideas.

06-14-2005, 02:16 PM
Lisa, there are people on these boards who are very well versed in media law, and they can probably help you a lot better than I (maybe you could post this on the FAQ board?) but my experience is that, even if an editor did publish it without querying the use of your ex's name, you could lay yourself open to a damages suit. This does happen, even where a living person has been favorably portrayed. Editors (the professionals anyway) are very sensitive to issues like this, which raise the possibility of litigation.
Unfortunately, memoir writing is full of these kinds of minefields. I am in Australia, where the laws may be different. I suggest you seek out one of the very experienced writers on these boards, such as Victoria Strauss, James D McDonald or Dave Kuzminski as this is an important question and you deserve a good answer.


02-03-2006, 02:08 PM
I think there's more to consider than only legal issues.

I'm writing memoirs and not using many real names, except, for example, professors and well-known scholars that I adore and am saying wonderful things about. And my son. My sisters and brothers (who would love to see their names in a book). But I'm not telling any of their personal business.

I can say that Professor X has a unique style, is one of the most enthusiastic professors I've ever had.
I wouldn't say we met in his office one night, had drinks and chatted until the sun came up. That could be problematic for his wife, his children, his career.

I'm not going to write about folks using real names who

had an affair a year into his/her marriage

has a terrible drinking problem

caught a terrible case of the claps.

For instance, one person I'm writing about, I changed his ethnicity and the number of children he has and the area he lives, so that people he knows won't know him. Cause the part of my life he's in ain't pretty.