There are a multitude of reasons why a person may wish to change their name, and this post certainly doesn’t intend to imply that marriage is the only reason. Another common reason is divorce. Regardless of the motivation, it is important to recognize that the process for formally changing one’s name in Pennsylvania through the legal system requires thoroughness, documentation and at least one court appearance.
The laws governing formal name changes in Pennsylvania can be found here. The first required step for legally changing your name is filing a Petition for Change of Name with the Prothonotary at the Court of Common Pleas in the county within which you reside. You will need to state in the Petition not only the county you currently reside in, but also any county you have resided in within the five (5) years prior to filing the Petition. This is required to allow the Court to do their due diligence and confirm that your request to change your name is not for any fraudulent purpose. Essentially, the Court wants to verify that you’re not changing your name to hide from creditors or duck any judgments previously entered against you.
Accompanying the Petition for Change of Name, you’ll need to provide a fingerprint card. You can either await the Court’s Order to get your fingerprints taken or get it done yourself and attach it as an Exhibit to your Petition. A fingerprint card can be obtained by appointment with your local police department and should be provided to Court Administration/the Prothonotary if not included as an Exhibit to the Petition. The Court will then cross-reference your fingerprints with the Pennsylvania State Police to check your criminal history (it should be noted that certain crimes could disqualify you from obtaining a name change).
There is also a filing fee for the Petition, the cost of which varies from county to county, that must be paid to the Court before they will schedule a hearing. Once you have submitted your Petition, along with the fingerprint card and filing fee, you’ll receive a hearing date scheduled by the Court along with an Order for Publication and Notice. The Order for Publication and Notice requires that you advertise you are pursuing a legal name change in two publications. You must include your current name, your desired new name, and the date, time and location of the hearing to allow anyone who might object to your name change to appear and be heard. While objections to name changes are not common, the publication requirement is a step you simply cannot miss.
The final major step is to attend a hearing in your county’s Court of Common Pleas (for example, in Montgomery County, our Court of Common Pleas is in Norristown). You will generally be provided a court date at least two months from the date of your filing of the Petition to allow you to satisfy the publication requirement. The hearing is generally very straightforward and, unless the Court determines you have an improper purpose in seeking a name change, an Order from the Court will likely be entered granting your request to change your name.
WHAT NOW: The objective of this post was to provide a road-map for the process of changing your name in Pennsylvania. The procedure and requirements will vary depending on your circumstances (for instance, a name change for a minor), and it is likely in your best interest to consult with an attorney prior to undertaking this project, which is where the attorneys at Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy & O’Connell, LLP come in. If you have any questions about the information in this article or are interested in obtaining a formal name change in Pennsylvania, the attorneys at Howland Hess O’Connell are available to assist you. Call for a free consultation at (215)-947-6240 or contact us online to schedule a meeting.
Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell, LLP nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.