Bucks County Family Law

How to Change Your Legal Name in Pennsylvania

How to Change Your Legal…

Names are an integral part of our society. It’s one of the main forms of identification we use to identify someone. Given how important your name is, it’s no surprise individuals may desire to change their name.

There are a variety of reasons someone may want to change their name. They may desire to do so because of a marriage, a divorce, a gender transition, or a plethora of other reasons. Frustratingly, changing your name may not be simple.

As an attorney specialized in Pennsylvania law and as someone who has changed her name herself, Lauren D’Alessandro understands the various aspects of the name change process in Pennsylvania. Lauren will use that knowledge to assist you. Contact her to schedule an appointment and take the first step towards legally changing your name.

Name Changes Incident to Marriage, Divorce, or Death of a Spouse

In Pennsylvania, requesting a name change due to marriage, divorce, or death of a spouse is a simple process.

In regards to name changes after marriage, the name change is not automatic and neither spouse is required to do so. Should a spouse wish to adopt their partner’s surname, they must first obtain their marriage certificate. Then, the spouse would go to the various government agencies with that marriage certificate and any other documentation the agencies may require to change their name with those agencies. The spouse will have to make trips to multiple agencies to accomplish this.

Where the name change is occurring due to a divorce, as part of your divorce you can make a request to adopt a prior surname. If you do so and the court grants your request, your divorce decree will include language ordering your return to your prior name. That divorce decree is the legal documentation you will use to confirm your name change. As with marital name changes, you will need to go to multiple government agencies with the divorce decree to notify them of the change.

Finally, in a situation where a widow wishes to adopt a prior surname, they may do so at any time after the spouse’s death. To do so, the surviving spouse must first make a request with the Prothonotary of the Pennsylvania county they reside in and include in that request a copy of the death certificate. If your request is granted a judge will issue an order stating your name is now changed. As with name changes incident to marriage and divorce, you will then have to go to the various government agencies with your court order to notify them of the change.

Name Changes of a Minor Child

Under Pennsylvania law, unless a court specifies otherwise, when a parent who has custody of a minor child changes their surname the child’s surname is automatically changed as well. There is no paperwork required. The child’s surname will be the parent’s new surname. You may have to inform various government agencies of the name change, however.

Name Changes for Other Reasons

Changing your name in Pennsylvania for reasons other than those listed above is much more difficult. Provided you are not restricted from changing your name, there are certain steps you must follow. First, there are numerous documents you must obtain. These documents range from fingerprints to your birth certificate. An attorney can inform you as to what you need. Next, you will need to file a petition to change your name. After filing, you then need to both publicize the hearing date for your name change and have judgment searches conducted. Finally, you will have a hearing for your name change. Once all of that is completed, you will be given a court order of your name change which you can use at the various government agencies to change your name. Given how complicated this process can be, seeking legal counsel is highly recommended.

Restrictions on Changing Your Name in Pennsylvania

Individuals with felony convictions are restricted from changing their name. The following felony crimes will prevent someone from changing their name in Pennsylvania:

  1. Murder
  2. Voluntary manslaughter
  3. Rape
  4. Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
  5. Statutory sexual assault
  6. Sexual assault
  7. Aggravated indecent assault
  8. Certain types of robbery
  9. Certain types of aggravated assault
  10. Arson
  11. Kidnapping
  12. Robbery of a motor vehicle
  13. Attempt, criminal conspiracy, or criminal solicitation to commit any of the above crimes

If you have been convicted of one of these felonies, only a pardon will allow you to change your name. If you have been convicted of a felony other than those listed above, you must wait two calendar years since the end of your sentence and may not currently be under probation or parole before you can request a name change. Misdemeanors and summary offenses will not prevent you from changing your name. Also, you may not change your name for a fraudulent or illegal purpose.

Hiring an Attorney Matters

For those who are changing their name for a reason other than marriage, divorce, death of a spouse, or a minor child adopting a parent’s new name, hiring an attorney experienced and specialized in name changes is crucial. Attorney Lauren D’Alessandro represents clients in Bucks County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. Her office is located in Newtown and she invites you to contact her to schedule a consultation. You can contact her here. She looks forward to hearing from you!

Lauren D’Alessandro

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Lauren is located in Newtown, Pennsylvania and provides legal services for Bucks County, Philadelphia County, and Montgomery County. She specializes in family law and provides services for a whole range of family law matters. Whether you are seeking…

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