Name Change – General – Pennsylvania
Note: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law applicable to an action for change of name in the State of Pennsylvania, but does include basic and other provisions.
Name Change Action Allowed: In Pennsylvania, a person may change their name by filing an action in the Court of Common Pleas with appropriate forms.
Who is an adult for purposes of filing a name change action? A person who has attained the age of 18 years is considered an adult for purposes of suing and being sued.
Who is a minor for purposes of filing a name change action? A person who has not attained the age of 18 years is considered a minor for purposes of suing and being sued.
Is there any reason why a person might not be allowed to change his or her name? Yes. The court must find that (1) there is reasonable cause established for the change of name; and (2) the requested name change is consistent with the public interest. A person is not allowed to change their name in order to avoid judgments or legal actions against him or her, or to avoid debts and obligations. A person can not change their name to defraud any person.
Requirements for Name Change Order: For an order of name change to be granted, the court must finds sufficient reasons for the change and also find it consistent with the public interest. A change of name upon marriage, dissolution, or divorce meets these requirements.
Is Publication of a Notice Required? Not by statute, but it is within the discretion of the Court under the circumstances of each Petition.
Can individuals “object” to my Petition for Name Change? Yes. Any reasonable objections made to the court may influence the court’s findings as to whether the change of name is consistent with the public interest.
Procedures: The process for obtaining a name change for an adult in the State of Pennsylvania begins with the filing of a Petition with the Court of Common Pleas in the jurisdiction in which the Petitioner resides.
The Court then forwards the Petition and a completed fingerprint card to the Pennsylvania State Police for processing regarding any possible criminal record. With 60 days the State Police will respond to the Court with any relevant information concerning the Petitioner. The Court may then proceed to enter an Order of Approval of Name Change.
Additional Information and Instructions:
54 Pa. C.S.A. § 701. Court approval required for change of name:
(a) General rule. Except as set forth in subsection (b), it shall be unlawful for any person to assume a name different from the name by which such person is and has been known, unless such change in name is made pursuant to proceedings in court in accordance with subsection (a.1).
(1) An individual must file a petition in the court of common pleas of the county in which the individual resides. If a petitioner is married, the petitioner’s spouse may join as a party petitioner, in which event, upon compliance with the provisions of this subsection, the spouse shall also be entitled to the benefits of this subsection.
(2) The petition must set forth all of the following:
(i) The intention to change the petitioner’s name.
(ii) The reason for the name change.
(iii) The current residence of petitioner.
(iv) Any residence of the petitioner for the five years prior to the date of the petition.
(v) If the petitioner requests the court proceed under paragraph (3)(iii).
(3) Upon filing of the petition, the court shall do all of the following:
(i) Set a date for a hearing on the petition. The hearing shall be held not less than one month nor more than three months after the petition is filed.
(ii) Except as provided in subparagraph (iii), by order, direct that notice be given of the filing of the petition and of the date set for the hearing on the petition and that the notice be treated as follows:
(A) Published in two newspapers of general circulation in the county where the petitioner resides or a county contiguous to that county. One of the publications may be in the official paper for the publication of legal notices in the county.
(B) Given to any nonpetitioning parent of a child whose name may be affected by the proceedings.
(iii) If the court finds that the notice required in subparagraph (ii) would jeopardize the safety of the person seeking the name change or his or her child or ward, the notice required shall be waived by order of the court. Upon granting the request to waive any notice requirement, the court shall seal the file. In all cases filed under this paragraph, whether or not the name change petition is granted, there shall be no public access to any court record of the name change petition, proceeding or order, unless the name change is granted but the file is not sealed. The records shall only be opened by order of the court in which the petition was granted based upon a showing of good cause or at the applicant’s request.
(4) At the hearing, the following apply:
(i) Any person having lawful objection to the change of name may appear and be heard.
(ii) The petitioner must present to the court all of the following:
(A) Proof of publication of the notice under paragraph (3)(ii) unless petitioner requested the court proceed under paragraph (3)(iii) and the court granted the request.
(B) An official search of the proper offices of the county where petitioner resides and of any other county where petitioner has resided within five years prior to filing the petition showing that there are no judgments, decrees of record or other similar matters against the petitioner. This clause may be satisfied by a certificate given by a corporation authorized by law to make the search under this clause.
(5) The court may enter a decree changing the name as petitioned if the court is satisfied after the hearing that there is no lawful objection to the granting of the petition.
(b) Informal change of name. — Notwithstanding subsection (a), a person may at any time adopt and use any name if such name is used consistently, nonfraudulently and exclusively. The adoption of such name shall not, however, be in contravention of the prohibitions contained in section 702(c) (relating to change by order of court).
54 Pa.C.S.A. § 702. Change by order of court
(a) General rule. — The court of common pleas of any county may by order change the name of any person resident in the county.
(b) Procedure. — Prior to entry of an order of approval of change of name, all of the following shall apply:
(1) The court must forward to the Pennsylvania State Police a duplicate copy of the application for change of name and a set of the person’s fingerprints. The person applying for the change of name is responsible for costs under this paragraph.
(2) The Pennsylvania State Police shall use the fingerprints to determine if the person is subject to 18 Pa.C.S. Ch. 91 (relating to criminal history record information).
(3) The Pennsylvania State Police shall:
(i) if the person is subject to 18 Pa.C.S. Ch. 91, note the name change on the person’s criminal history record information; or
(ii) if the person is not subject to 18 Pa.C.S. Ch. 91, destroy the fingerprints.
(4) Within 60 days of receipt of the material under paragraph (1), the Pennsylvania State Police shall certify to the court what action has been taken under paragraph (3).
(5) The procedure in this subsection shall not apply to proceedings involving:
(i) An election to resume a prior surname pursuant to section 704 (relating to divorced person may resume prior name).
(ii) Name changes involving minor children in adoption proceedings.
(iii) A name change involving a minor child whose name is being changed pursuant to section 703 (relating to effect on children) or because of the change of name of the child’s parent.
(c) Convicted felons.— (1) The court may order a change of name for a person convicted of a felony, subject to provisions of paragraph (2), if:
(i) at least two calendar years have elapsed from the date of completion of a person’s sentence and that person is not subject to the probation or parole jurisdiction of any court, county probation agency or the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole; or
(ii) the person has been pardoned.
(2) The court may not order a change of name for a person convicted of murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, robbery as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3701(a)(1)(i) (relating to robbery), aggravated assault as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2702(a)(1) or (2) (relating to aggravated assault), arson as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3301(a) (relating to arson and related offenses), kidnapping or robbery of a motor vehicle or criminal attempt, criminal conspiracy or criminal solicitation to commit any of the offenses listed above or an equivalent crime under the laws of this Commonwealth in effect at the time of the commission of that offense or an equivalent crime in another jurisdiction.
(3) The court shall notify the Office of Attorney General, the Pennsylvania State Police and the office of the district attorney of the county in which the person resides when a change of name for a person convicted of a felony has been ordered. The Pennsylvania State Police, upon receipt of this notice, shall include the change of name information in the central repository as provided for in 18 Pa.C.S. Ch. 91. (relating to criminal history record information).
54 Pa.C.S.A. § 703. Effect on children
(a) General rule.— Whenever an order is made under this chapter changing the surname of anyone who is at the time thereof the parent of a minor child or adopted minor child, then under the care of such parent, the new surname of such parent shall, unless otherwise ordered by the court, thereafter be borne likewise by such minor child.
(b) Further change on attaining majority.— Any minor child whose surname has been changed pursuant to subsection (a) upon attaining majority shall also be entitled to the benefits of section 702 (relating to change by order of court).
54 Pa.C.S.A. § 704. Divorcing and divorced person may resume prior name
(a) General rule. — Any person who is a party in a divorce action may, at any time prior to or subsequent to the entry of the divorce decree, resume any prior surname used by him or her by filing a written notice to such effect in the office of the prothonotary of the county in which the divorce action was filed or the decree of divorce was entered, showing the caption and docket number of the proceeding in divorce.
(b) Foreign decrees.— Where a divorced person has been the subject of a decree of divorce granted in a foreign jurisdiction, a certified copy of such foreign divorce decree may be filed with the prothonotary of the county where the person resides and, thereafter, the notice specified in subsection (a) may be filed with reference to such decree.
54 Pa.C.S.A. § 705. Penalty for violation of chapter:
Any person violating the provisions of this chapter for purpose of avoiding payment of taxes or other debts commits a summary offense.
Other Name Change References:
23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5101. Attainment of full age.
(a) Age for entering into contracts. — Any individual 18 years of age and older shall have the right to enter into binding and legally enforceable contracts and the defense of minority shall not be available to such individuals.
(b) Age for suing and being sued. — Except where otherwise provided or prescribed by law, an individual 18 years of age and older shall be deemed an adult and may sue and be sued as such.