When an individual gets divorced, he or she may be able to revert to their old last name. The issue is trickier when it comes to determining whether or not children can also take their mother's maiden name. Traditionally, children are expected to take their father's last name regardless of whether the mother is still married to that man.
If the father still has an active role in the child's life, it may not be something that a judge would approve of. If the father is not active in the child's life or is abusive, a judge may rule that changing the last name is in that child's best interest. For older children, it may not make sense to change their last name if they have become accustomed to using it.
In cases where a stepparent is going to adopt a child, it may be worthwhile for the children to use that parent's last name. The easiest way to restore a maiden name is to include that right in the divorce decree. Granting minor children the right to take a parent's original name may also be made part of a divorce decree that is entered into the court record.
During a marital dissolution, there may be many issues that need to be settled regarding property division, child custody, and other rights that each party may have. Those who are going through such a process may wish to consult with a family law attorney. Doing so may make it easier to settle a case as quickly as possible while minimizing the impact it may have on a couple's children.
Source: FindLaw, "Changing Your Name After Divorce", accessed on Feb. 3, 2015