There are many reasons as to why a person may wish to change their first, middle, and/or last name. In many cases, this can be accomplished by filing a petition with the court. A lien search must be performed, and the person must be fingerprinted so that the Pennsylvania State Police can do a criminal background check. These requirements are intended to prohibit people from changing their names for the purpose of avoiding their creditors or evading criminal penalties.
After the petition has been filed, along with the fingerprint card and proof of lien search, notice of the name change hearing will be published in two newspapers, in order to give anyone who may have an objection to the name change an opportunity to be heard. For minors, parental consent should be attached to the petition. If one parent consents and the other objects, it will be the court’s decision as to whether or not to grant the name change. The court will make its decision based on the testimony and evidence presented at the hearing, as well as relevant Pennsylvania law.
It is rare, but not impossible, for a court to deny a name change, even when no one objects to the change, and all of the appropriate documents have been filed. Pennsylvania case law requires that courts assess the affect that the name change will have on the public, and whether it will cause distrust or suspicion in business or social settings. Based on this, courts have denied name changes in situations where a request was made to use a single letter as a last name, and in another case where “a.k.a.” was requested as part of the full name.
Here are some exceptions to the requirements set forth above:
Retaking your maiden name during or after a divorce: to retake your maiden name, there is a simple document that needs to be filed with the court in the divorce case. Your right to do this is automatic, and does not require court permission. It only requires that the document be of record with the court. You can then take a certified copy of that document to obtain a new driver’s license and social security card.
Changing the name of a minor as part of an adoption: For minors who are being adopted, a name change request can be made in the adoption petition, testified to during the hearing, and granted by the court as part of the adoption proceeding. Note that an adult who is being adopted cannot change their name as part of the adoption case, but rather must still go through the name change procedure set forth above.
Correcting an error on a birth certificate: Depending on the change that you are requesting, you may still require court involvement to make the change that you want. However, Pennsylvania Department of Health has a special form, to be filled out in front of a notary, that can be submitted for permission to make a change on a birth certificate. If both parents are in agreement with the change, it may be worth your time to start with this form, prior to taking the matter to court. https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/Documents/Certificates%20and%20Records/Birth_certificate_correction.pdf