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Retaking Prior Surname

After a divorce, many individuals contemplate whether they should retake their prior surname or maintain their married name. Several factors may play a role in the decision, including a desire to have the same last name as your children, as well as professional ties to your married name. The decision can be a difficult one when strings are pulling you in different directions.

Your name is your identifier, and it should reflect the person you feel that you are. Many have found that retaking their prior surname after divorce has given them a fresh start and allowed them to reclaim their identity. Retaking your prior surname helps separate yourself from your previous marriage. One individual who gave an interview with Forbes shared that while she will always have love and respect for her ex-husband, she knew she needed a “clean slate” that “[didn’t] remind [her] of what these last few years felt like.”

Ultimately, the decision whether to retake your prior surname after divorce is entirely yours. Taking your spouse’s last name upon marriage is a symbol of unity, and retaking your prior surname helps sever your legal and emotional connections with your ex-spouse. While divorce marks the end of one life, it is the beginning of a new one.

Procedural

54 Pa.C.S.A. § 704

Any person who is a party in a divorce action may, at any time prior to or subsequent to the entry of the divorce decree, resume any prior surname used by him or her by filing a written notice to such effect in the office of the prothonotary of the county in which the divorce action was filed or the decree of divorce was entered, showing the caption and docket number of the proceeding in divorce.

(b)  Foreign decrees.--Where a divorced person has been the subject of a decree of divorce granted in a foreign jurisdiction, a certified copy of such foreign divorce decree may be filed with the prothonotary of the county where the person resides and, thereafter, the notice specified in subsection (a) may be filed with reference to such decree.

 

Steps:

  1. Either party must file for Divorce.
  2. At any point during or after the entry of a divorce decree, file form with the Prothonotary or Office of Judicial Support in whatever county divorce was filed, “Notice to Retake Prior Surname” including case caption and docket number.
  3. File Praecipe to Amend Caption of case name (if during divorce proceedings).  In Montgomery County a Praecipe to Amend Caption is not necessary as the parties’ information can be added during e-filing of Notice to Retake Prior Surname.
  4. Request via mail or in person certified copies of Notice to Retake Prior Surname.  Multiple copies may be needed to change name with different agencies.  Suggestion would be to request 4-5 copies.  Fee applies based on county fee schedule.
  5. Take a certified copy to Social Security office to change name. 
  6. Once changed through Social Security, you can and should change name with all agencies, including but not limited to, creditors, financial institutions, insurance companies, your mortgage company, and all other legal organizations.

 

If Foreign Decree is entered:

  1. File foreign decree in county where you reside.
  2. Follow above steps.