Can you change your child’s last name after your divorce?

| Sep 14, 2020 | Family Law |

After a divorce, you may be interested in changing your last name. Perhaps you want to go back to your maiden name, for example. That’s usually acceptable for adults, but what about your children? Should they change their last name, or should they retain their father’s last name?

It’s often possible to change your children’s last name to your last name. The courts don’t have a preference, usually, about your children using either parent’s last name. However, the court will focus on the best interests of the child. If you have full custody of your children, their last name will change when your last name changes, per Pennsylvania law — although you do have to notify their father properly and allow time for any objections.

If you don’t have full custody — or your ex-spouse objects to the name change — you may be able to work out an agreement about the children’s’ last name between you. For example, it may be beneficial to give your children a hyphenated last name that reflects both your last name and your ex-spouse’s. Otherwise, you may have to petition the court and explain why you believe the name change is actually best for your children. 

The court will consider factors such as:

  • How long the children have had the last name they currently use
  • The specific bond between the children and parents
  • The social impact of a specific last name in the local community (especially if it is negative)
  • The children’s preferences and if they understand the significance of the change

Changing a minor’s last name after divorce isn’t exactly a simple process. It pays to have experienced guidance about the matter before you get started.