Naming Kids After Remarriage

In Breakups/Divorce, Marriage on June 27, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Dear Yenta,

I have one child from a previous divorce. My child and I have the same last name, my maiden name. In the event that I get remarried and have more children, what are your thoughts about what should happen to our last names? I am worried that my child will feel left out if everyone has a different last name than him. I am also worried that if I have a hyphenated last name, my other children will not want the hyphen.


Don't make Billy Bob feel any more alien than he might already feel in a new family. Photo courtesy of Victor Jeffreys II,

Dear NC,

I think, in general, we cross big bridges when we come to them.  If and when you get remarried and pregnant, then you will probably know the answer to this question on instinct, or with the help of your partner.

I know a lot of kids in the same family with different fathers.  A bastard knows he is a bastard, ie, each child knows their origin or their difference without needing a reminder.  All the children in these families I know have the same last name. In most cases, the child’s name was changed with the new marriage.

In your case, that your child has your maiden name, this implies that you could continue this tradition, and give all your children your maiden name, or have an adult discussion with your one child and say, “we are a family now, and it would be nice, I think, for us all to have the same name.”  You are the mother, don’t forget, the matriarch.  You decide, and everyone follows suit.

Think about lineage and think about a clan and think about togetherness; these factors can be your guiding light in this situation.  All in all, divorce happens.  Preserve an identity for your child that you think might transcend flippant relationships.  In this case, your maiden name sounds good to me.  Different last names are a no-go.  They simply highlight separatism within a family.

And finally, why worry if your children will want or not want the hyphen in a hyphenated name?  YOU name YOUR children, and they live with that name, period.  This is how we all had to deal, with the name given to us.  Have confidence and again, cross this bridge when you come to it.

Ask Yenta!  E-mail a question to merissag[at]gmail[dot]com directly, or using to ask anonymously.

Merissa Nathan Gerson is a fan of
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