How Can I Legally Change My Name?

If you are going through a divorce, you can legally change your name through the divorce process. There is a separate procedure for name changes that are not divorce-related. As long as you meet the requirements and the paperwork is in order, it should not be a problem.

As Part of a Divorce

You can regain your maiden name during a divorce. Under Pennsylvania statute 54 P.S. § 704,

“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.”

In New Jersey, you could retake your maiden name as part of the divorce or afterward.

  • You should include your request in the initial complaint.
  • If you do not do so, you can later change (or amend) the complaint to do that or seek the change by verbally asking the judge before they finalize your divorce.
  • If you continued to use your spouse’s last name after the divorce was final but changed your mind later, you could file a post-judgment motion with the court. There is a filing fee, but this is simpler than the process for a civil name change.

Outside a Divorce

If you are not getting a divorce, there are some limits to changing your name or that of a minor child:

  • It must be for a legitimate purpose.
  • You cannot have certain criminal convictions, such as voluntary manslaughter, murder, rape, statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, sexual assault, or robbery.

The petition for a name change would be filed with the civil court in your county. There is a filing fee, and you will need copies of your fingerprints which you can get at the local police department. There should be a hearing for the petition within one to three months after filing.

Before your hearing:

  • A notice will be published in the local newspaper of general circulation and county law reporter.
  • There will be checks by the Prothonotary’s office for any pending civil matters, the Clerk of Courts will see if you are facing criminal charges, and the Recorder of Deeds will look for property issues you are facing.

If you are seeking a name change for a minor child:

  • The same publication requirements apply.
  • You must prove you served the petition on the other parent.

If the other parent disagrees with you, the court will decide the issue after a hearing with both parents. To succeed at the hearing, you must convince the judge the name change is in your child’s best interests.

What’s Next?

Once you have a signed/certified order granting the name change, head to the agencies and companies you deal with:

  • Social Security office
  • Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Banks
  • State and federal taxing authorities
  • Your insurance agent
  • Utilities
  • Stockbroker
  • Internet/phone service provider
  • Employer

This is part of re-starting your life with a new name.


Work with an experienced family law lawyer from Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., with an in-depth understanding of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey statutes and court procedures. We can help make the process go as smoothly as possible. Call us at (215)752-6200 or book a consultation online now.