How to Change Your Legal Name in Pennsylvania

by David Carnes

    In Pennsylvania, anyone has the right to informally change his name. Changing your name informally, however, will not be enough to have new identification documents issued in your new name. To formally change your name, you must petition for a court order. The judge will not grant your petition if he believes you are seeking to change your name for fraudulent purposes, such as avoiding debts or evading criminal prosecution. Anyone can file an objection to your name change petition.

    Step 1

    File a name change petition in the Court of Common Please with jurisdiction over your county of residence. Your petition must state your desire to change your name, list your current and desired names, give the reason for your name change and list your residences over the past five years. The filing fee varies by county. The court will schedule a name change hearing within one to three months after the filing date.

    Step 2

    Publish notification of your name change in two newspapers of general circulation in your county or an adjoining county. Obtain receipts or other documentation proving that you published the notices.The court will notify you of the required content of the notice.

    Step 3

    Obtain copies of your criminal record and any civil judgments rendered against you during the past five years. If you have lived in Pennsylvania for the past five years, contact the Pennsylvania State Police for a copy of your criminal record and contact the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas in the counties where you resided for copies of any civil judgments. If you have no criminal record over the past five years, or if no civil judgments have been rendered against you during that time, ask these authorities for a clearance certificate confirming the absence of a record.

    Step 4

    Attend your name change hearing. Bring proof of publication of your public notice, along with copies of your criminal and civil judgment records (or clearance certificate). If your petition is granted, you may request a copy of the court order from the court clerk.

    Step 5

    Replace your identity documents with new documents reflecting your new name, using a copy of the court order as evidence of the change. You can replace your Social Security card using Social Security Administration Form SS-5. To change your Pennsylvania driver's license, use Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Form DL-80 or Dl-143. To change your non-driver's identification card, use Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Form DL-54B.

    Tips & Warnings

    • A court order changing the surname of an adult automatically changes the surname of his minor child, if he has custody of the child.
    • To change your name back to your original name due to divorce, you need only file written notice with the clerk of the court that granted the divorce and to replace your identity documents.

    About the Author

    David Carnes has been a full-time writer since 1998 and has published two full-length novels. He spends much of his time in various Asian countries and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He earned a Juris Doctorate from the University of Kentucky College of Law.

    Photo Credits

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