There are various reasons why people want to change their names in Pennsylvania. At Goodwin Como, we are here to help you get it done correctly and efficiently.
Common Reasons People Want to Change Their Name
- Dislike Current Name. Some people would like to modernize their name or avoid any teasing based on a name.
- Following Divorce. Many women prefer to revert to their original name after a divorce.
- Husband Taking Wife’s Name Upon Marriage. Taking your wife’s surname is becoming increasingly popular.
- Changing Child’s Surname to Mother’s or Father’s. When there is an absentee parent, the remaining spouse may choose to change the child’s surname to their own.
- Couples hyphenating or combining surnames have become increasingly popular.
- For the past few decades, it’s been popular for couples to create a new surname using parts of each partner’s name or simply hyphenating the two last names to form a new joint surname.
- Since colonial times, many immigrants have chosen to adopt more Americanized names. Ease of pronunciation and spelling are also common factors.
- In comparison, some individuals wish to reclaim their ethnic heritage or reflect new religious beliefs.
- Transgender Name Changes. Transgender people often seek a new name to reflect their identified gender.
How Do You Legally Change Your Name in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, it is unlawful for any person to assume a name different from the name by which such person is and has been known unless such a change of name is made pursuant to the law. The primary purpose of the Pennsylvania judicial name change law is to prevent fraud in the avoidance of financial obligations.
Adults Who Are Newly Divorced
Individuals who take their spouse’s last name as a result of marriage are not required to resume their prior name after a divorce. If an individual wishes to assume their prior last name after a divorce, Pennsylvania has simplified the process for newly divorced individuals to do so. Forms are available in the Prothonotary (chief clerk’s) office of each county to change a married (last name) surname to a prior surname. A newly divorced individual wishing to resume the use of their prior last name or maiden name can do so by filing a form in the office of the Prothonotary for the county in which their divorce was granted.
The process is not so easy for adults who have not been recently divorced. The Commonwealth is concerned that the name change’s purpose is to avoid a history of criminal acts, avoid credit problems, or commit fraudulent acts. Generally, a person wishing to change their name must file a Petition for Name Change in the Court of Common Pleas for the county in which that person resides. Upon the filing of the Petition for Name Change, the court will set a hearing to consider the Petition for Name Change. At the hearing, the individual requesting a name change should be prepared to prove that their name change had been publicized in accordance with Pennsylvania law and that there has been an official search of the offices of any county the individual has resided in for the past five years showing there are no judgments against that individual. Getting court approval of a name change is just the beginning. Numerous other offices and entities must be notified and given proof of the judicial name change.
When considering a name change for a minor child, the best interest of the child is the standard by which the court bases its decision. The party asking for the child’s name to be changed has the obligation to prove to the court that the requested name change is in the child’s best interest. Notice of the proposed name change as a general rule must be served on any parent not requesting the name change. If both parents do not agree, an adversarial hearing will occur before an assigned judge in the Court of Common Pleas for the county in which the child resides to determine whether the proposed name change is in “the best interest of the child.”
When both parents agree to change their child’s name, the process can be simplified.
Depending on the age of the child, the name on the child’s birth certificate can be changed or corrected administratively through the filing of appropriate forms through the Pennsylvania Department of Vital Statistics which is the department that administers the issuance of birth certificate in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The adopting parents of a child can request to have the adopted child’s last name changed to that of the adopting parents and to change the first and middle names of the adopted child to any name that may be chosen.
How Can An Attorney Help If You Want to Change Your Name?
We can discuss the reasons for your name change, decide which procedure is best for your unique circumstances, and implement the plan of action for you to achieve your name change, including representing you in any court proceedings that may be necessary. Additionally, we can help you identify and work with all other entities that need to be notified of your name change, including but not limited to social security, the Pennsylvania Department of Vital Statistics, PennDot, schools, employers, etc.