How do New Jersey parents decide kids' last name after divorce?

When New Jersey parents make the difficult, yet often necessary, decision to part ways, there is a whole host of questions that need answering. Chief among those concerns is determining living arrangements for their children. Creating a healthy relationship between children and parents is important, but so are the needs of children.

Though the overarching standard of upholding a child's best interest can help to resolve many family law issues, it does not address all aspects of a divorce involving children. Thankfully, New Jersey laws directly address one aspect of divorce that is important, but often overlooked: determining a child's last name after a couple splits.

In some cases, a child's last name is not contested after divorce, particularly if the children are older. Yet some couples make the decision to divorce when a child is very young -- or still not yet born. This may open the door for serious disputes over which last name a child will take.

Some states, on the other hand, leave the issue of a child's last name up in the air. This is the case for two parents who are currently debating over whether the child should take the name of the parent making child support payments or the parent who has primary custody. In New Jersey, this dispute would be handled rather quickly. When parents in our state are locked in a disagreement, the child takes the name of the parent with primary custody.

One of the beneficial features of this provision is that it does not follow the tradition of simply taking the biological father's name; rather, it respects the bond between the parent and child who spend the most time together.

Of course, no two families have the same circumstance when they approach child custody decisions or other important aspects of family law. By trying to work together in earnest, parents can work out a divorce settlement that respects the rights and needs of all involved -- the parents and children.


  • Concord Monitor, "New Jersey offers some common sense," Aug. 9, 2012

Our firm has experience handling cases of divorce involving children. To learn more about creating a favorable settlement, please see our Morris County family law page.