January 5th, 2024

How to Legally Change Your Name in Pennsylvania

A person’s name is an important part of their identity. Whether you’re changing your name because of marriage or for other reasons, it’s important to know how the legal process works. At Gross McGinley, LLP, our family law attorneys are well-versed in the processes and issues surrounding name changes in Pennsylvania. We help you understand how to change your name and guide you through the process from start to finish.

Common Reasons for Legal Name Changes

Two of the most common reasons someone may change their last name are marriage and divorce. Other reasons for a name change include:

  • Changing a child’s name after adoption
  • Changing a last name to a mother’s maiden name
  • Religious reasons
  • Reclaiming a family name
  • Gender transition

To change your name in Pennsylvania, you must follow specific processes and provide documentation as outlined by local, state, and federal law. If you’re unsure of where to start, a family law attorney at Gross McGinley, LLP, can help you understand what you need to do and assist you with the process, as they are familiar with the nuances of conventional and LGBTQ family law matters

The Process to Legally Change Your Name in PA Depends on the Circumstances

Name Change After Marriage

Although the process can vary slightly by county, you must take the following steps to change your name after marriage in Pennsylvania.

You’ll need the following documents:

  • Certified marriage certificate
  • Proof of ID such as a driver’s license or passport
  • Proof of age such as a birth certificate or adoption decree

First, you should notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of your name change. Fill out the Social Security name change form SS-5 and take it and all documentation to your local Social Security office. They will verify your identity and provide a certificate showing that the Social Security Administration has approved your name change. You also can mail the form and certified copies of your documents, which will be returned to you when your new Social Security card is sent to you.

You can then change your name at a Pennsylvania DMV licensing location. Bring the name change approval certificate from the SSA, photo ID, and other documents listed above. You can update your name on both your driver’s license and vehicle registration.

It’s also vital to update your name on bank, investment, and credit card accounts, utility bills, and any other relevant documents or accounts. Making sure you change your name across the board can help you avoid potential issues down the road.

Name Change After Divorce

To change your married surname back to your previous last name during or after a divorce, you must file a Notice to Retake Prior Surname with the Prothonotary office in the county where the divorce decree was entered. Before filing this form, make sure you find out what additional documentation is required.

After the notice is certified and filed, you can then change your name on other important items such as your Social Security card, driver’s license, and passport. You’ll need to present your certified copy of the name change form, ID, and proof of age, just as you would if changing your name after getting married.

Name Changes for Minors

If a minor was born in Pennsylvania and both parents on the child’s birth certificate agree to the name change, they can use the form on the back of the birth certificate to change the child’s name. The form must be signed in the presence of a notary. The birth certificate, a copy of one parent’s photo ID, and a $20 fee should be mailed to the Pennsylvania Department of Vital Statistics, which will issue a new birth certificate with the child’s new name.

If one parent doesn’t agree to the name change, then the other must file a name change petition in the Court of Common Pleas. This procedure is similar to filing for a name change for an adult, but the parent or guardian will have to prove to the court that it is in the best interest of the child. If you need to petition the court to change your child’s name, it’s best to seek the counsel of an experienced Pennsylvania family law attorney who’s familiar with the local courts. A family law attorney can ensure the petition is drafted and filed correctly and advise you on the best way to proceed.

Changing Your Name Via Petition in Pennsylvania

If you want to change your name for personal reasons such as religious beliefs or in conjunction with updating the gender marker on legal documents such as your driver’s license or passport, you will need to petition the court.

As part of the process, you will need to submit a fingerprint card to the Pennsylvania State Police, for the purpose of completing a criminal background check. You will also be required to publish notice of your intention to change your name in two newspapers, one of which will most often be the local law journal in the county you reside in. You also must provide proof that there are no judgments, decrees, or other matters pending against you.

An experienced family law attorney can help you prepare a comprehensive and accurate Petition for Change of Name. They will ensure all relevant and required information is included and properly worded and will submit the petition to the appropriate court. They can present your case at your hearing, address any concerns the court may have, and advocate for your name change.

Name Change Restrictions

It’s important to keep in mind that there are restrictions that can prevent you from legally changing your name, such as being convicted of a violent felony. Whether the circumstances surrounding your name change are straightforward or complex, out family law attorneys can help you navigate the legal system in Pennsylvania and understand your rights and options.

Contact Us to Learn More About How to Change Your Name in Pennsylvania

Gross McGinley, LLP, has built a solid reputation in the Pennsylvania legal community by providing exceptional legal representation based on a foundation of respect, compassion, and a commitment to continuous improvement. If you need assistance with a name change in Pennsylvania, contact us online or call 610-820-5450 to schedule a consultation with a family law attorney.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.