How to Change Your Legal Name in Pennsylvania

By Brette Sember, J.D.

How to Change Your Legal Name in Pennsylvania

By Brette Sember, J.D.

To legally change your name in the state of Pennsylvania in any situation other than a marriage or divorce, you must obtain a court order. It is up to the court to decide if your name change will be granted. A name change for fraudulent reasons, such as hiding from creditors, is not a valid reason and, as such, would be denied.

Woman smiling and looking at document while sitting at desk in front of laptop

Each county in Pennsylvania may have slightly different procedures and forms, but the following describes the general process across the state. Be sure to read the instructions included with your county court's forms so that you follow the correct procedure.

1. Fill out the forms.

Obtain the name change forms from your local Court of Common Pleas website or court office.

2. Fill out the Petition for Name Change, Verification and Notice of Hearing Order.

You must indicate your current name, date of birth, addresses for the past five years, the name you wish to change to, the reason for the change, whether there are judgments against you, and if you have a criminal record. Sign the Petition and complete the Verification form. Attach the Order, but do not fill it in, then file all three documents with the Court of Common Pleas in your county.

3. Get a fingerprint card.

Get your fingerprints taken by the Pennsylvania State Police and file the fingerprint card with the court. The Clerk of Records then checks to make sure you do not have outstanding judgments and performs a criminal background check.

4. Publish notice of your hearing.

Once the court receives your paperwork, the Notice of Hearing Order is completed, notifying you of the date of your hearing. You must then publish notice of your hearing in two general-circulation newspapers in the county where you are a resident or a nearby county if there are not enough qualifying publications in your county. You can publish this in a regular newspaper or a newspaper that is specifically used for legal notices. The court may list the names of the newspapers you must use in the Notice of Hearing Order. If you are not told where to publish and are unsure if a publication is acceptable for legal notice, contact the court clerk's office. You must obtain proof of publication from the newspaper and submit it to the court. In general, you want the court to receive this before your hearing date, although some courts may allow you to bring it to your hearing. The only exception to the notice requirement is if you let the court know that it will jeopardize your safety to have it published, such as in a situation involving domestic violence. In this situation, you would need to file an Abuse Victim Addendum with your petition.

5. Attend the hearing.

Appear in court on the date and time and at the place specified in your Notice of Hearing Order. Anyone who wants to object to your name change can also appear and voice their objections. The court will listen to any objections and may ask you a few questions. If everything is in order, the court will then approve your new name change. The change is legal as soon as the order is signed.

6. Update your legal records and documents.

Take copies of the order to any organization with which you want to change your name, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, Social Security, your bank, etc. You can replace your Social Security card using Form SS-5. To change your Pennsylvania driver's license, use Non-Commercial Driver's License: Application for Change/Correction/Replacement (Form DL-80) or Non-Commercial Driver's License: Application for Renewal (Form DL-143). To change your nondriver's identification card, use Photo Identification Card: Application for Change/Correction/Replacement/Renewal (Form DL-54B).Although the process involves a lot of paperwork, it's possible to legally change your name yourself. But if you prefer not to deal with all the red tape and want to ensure that it's done correctly, consider hiring an online service provider to complete the process for you.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.