The process for going back to your maiden name during a divorce proceeding or after divorce is a simple process. Pennsylvania law allows for any person who is a party in a divorce action to resume a prior surname either prior to or subsequent to the entry of a divorce decree by simply filing a written notice in the office of the Prothonotary in the county in which the divorce action was filed or the divorce decree was entered.
RETAKING A PRIOR SURNAME
The written notice is a standard form called a Notice to Retake Prior Surname. The Prothonotary may require additional documentation, so it is always best to call the Prothonotary in advance to make sure you come prepared. After the Notice is certified and filed, then the person can make arrangements to change their driver’s license, credit cards, passport and other forms of identification.
CHANGING A CHILD’S NAME
If there are children involved, then court approval is required. The mother or father must file a petition with the court alleging that it is in the best interests of the child or children to have their name changed to the surname of the parent. The other parent must be served with proper notice in order to state an objection to the petition. A parent wishing to proceed with a petition should consult with a family law attorney. The attorney can assist you with preparing the petition to make sure that you allege circumstances that can support the name change.
WHEN A COURT WILL GRANT THE CHANGE
There are circumstances when it is likely that a court will grant the child’s name change:
- When both parents petition together.
- When one parent petitions for the name change and the other parent does not object.
- When one parent petitions for the name change and the other parent has either abandoned the child or he/she cannot be found.
WHEN A COURT WILL LIKELY NOT GRANT THE CHANGE
Courts will generally not grant a name change when both parents have maintained a loving relationship with the child and a parent objects to the other parent’s petition to change the child’s name. In these situations, the court will consider the following factors to make a decision as to whether it is in the child’s best interest for the name change:
- The length of time that the child has had the last name;
- Whether the name change would adversely impact the child’s relationship with both parents;
- The strength of each parent’s relationship with the child;
- Whether there is a need for the child to identify with the family unit through the use of the last name; and
- The wishes of the child (if the child is older).
Before proceeding with a name change for a child, a parent should discuss the case with an experienced family law attorney. The Martin Law Firm family law attorneys are available to discuss your situation. Call us today at 215-687-4053.