How to Change Your Name After a Divorce

identifying yourself on files, documents and forms concept

Divorce comes with many life changes — it can also mean changing your surname if you took your spouse’s last name when you got married. Changing your name after divorce can signify a fresh start and cutting ties with your old life. Whether it is for emotional reasons or practical ones, the decision to change your name after divorce is a highly personal one that should be carefully considered. Fortunately, the process to change your name after divorce in Pennsylvania is fairly straightforward.

Steps to Change Your Name After Divorce

Changing your name after getting divorced is much easier than many people might think. There is no formal court process required to legally resume use of your maiden name in Pennsylvania. However, there are still a few steps that must be taken in order for you to take back your former surname.

In many states, a spouse who wishes to resume use of their maiden name can simply request the name change by including a provision in their divorce decree. This authorization is not necessary under Pennsylvania law. In the Commonwealth, a spouse may change their name after the divorce has been finalized or while the action is pending. This can be done by filing a Notice to Resume Use of Prior Surname with the Office of Prothonotary in the county where the divorce action was commenced or where the divorce decree was filed.

The procedure to change your name after a divorce is the same throughout Pennsylvania. However, the format of the notice and the filing fee can vary slightly by county. Typically, the notice will need to contain both the names of the plaintiff and defendant, the case number, and the date the divorce decree was issued (if applicable).

Can You Change Your Child’s Name After Divorce?

Although a court appearance isn’t typically needed to change a former spouse’s name after divorce, the issue of changing the name of a minor child can be more challenging. In these cases, a parent must obtain permission from the court. The other parent will have an opportunity to contest the name change request.

In Pennsylvania, the legal process to change a minor’s name starts with filing a Petition to Change Name of Minor. The parent requesting the change needs to specify the reason for the name change and attach a copy of the child’s birth certificate, along with a set of fingerprints. Upon filing the petition, the court requires publication of a notice — any adult with legal standing, such as a guardian or the other parent, must be properly served the notice.

When deciding the outcome of a petition to change a minor’s name, a judge will consider whether the change is in the child’s best interests. They will evaluate factors such as the length of time the child had their name, the bond between the child and their parents, and the social impact of their name. A court might also consider the child’s preference if they are old enough to understand what it means to change their name.

Where Do You Need to Change Your Name?

After your name change has been finalized, you will still need to change your identification documents. Importantly, filing a notice with the Office of the Prothonotary doesn’t change your surname with every agency and entity where it may be on file. You will be responsible for updating your records with the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Social Security Administration, financial institutions, your employer, and any other places where your married name is on file.

Although it can be time-consuming, you may have to update a number of records if you are changing your name after divorce. These can include the following:

  • Social Security card
  • Driver’s license
  • Passport
  • Bank accounts
  • Student loans
  • Insurance policies
  • Mortgages
  • Voter registration
  • School or work
  • State tax authority
  • Credit cards
  • Utility and phone bills

You might also need to change your name on social media, with your healthcare provider, your child’s school, or with any club memberships you have. Once you have made the necessary changes, you can simply resume using your previous surname socially, legally, and professionally.

Should You Change Your Name After Divorce?

There might be both emotional and practical reasons for changing your name after divorce. While it isn’t mandatory under Pennsylvania law to give up a spouse’s last name upon legally parting ways, it can sometimes provide a sense of closure — and help a divorced spouse reclaim their identity as a single person. Notably, a spouse might be required to take back their maiden name upon divorce if this is specified in a valid prenuptial agreement.

There can also be certain reasons you might want to keep your married name. For instance, you may wish to have the same last name as your children. If the children are young, keeping the same last name as them might offer them a sense of stability and help them avoid confusion. Or perhaps you built your career around your married name. If your name has become a vital part of your professional identity, switching it may not be a good idea.

Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Divorce Attorney

With so many decisions that must be made throughout the process, divorce can often be overwhelming. At Berman & Associates, we are committed to helping clients in Pennsylvania navigate their divorce and family law matters with compassion and skill. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at our Media office to learn how we can help.