To effectuate a legal name change, you will need to file a petition with your local civil court.

A filing fee is due to the county at the time of filing as well as copies of your fingerprints which can be obtained at your local police department. A hearing on your request for name change will be scheduled for a few months later. If you are filing a petition on behalf of a minor, you will need to effectuate service of the petition and hearing date on the other parent. If you are filing as an adult, prior to the hearing date notice of the petition must be published in the county law reporter as well as a newspaper of general circulation. Additionally, adults must have checks through the Prothonotary’s office for civil matters, the Clerk of Courts for criminal matters, and the Recorder of Deeds for any property issues. If you have resided outside of your current county within the prior five (5) years, these checks should also be performed in the county where you used to reside.

At your scheduled hearing, you should appear with proof that all prerequisites have been met in terms of publication, background checks, and service, if applicable. Name changes are permissible so long as it is not sought for illegitimate purposes and the person seeking a name change does not have certain criminal convictions. Criminal convictions that will bar a request for a name change include murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault and robbery.

If requesting a name change of a minor and the other parent does not agree with the name change, the court will decide after hearing from the parties based on whether the request for name change is in the child’s best interests. The party requesting the name change has the burden of proof and must convince the court how the requested change would serve the child’s best interests.  By April M. Townsend