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If you are adopting a minor child, a name change can be accomplished as part of the adoption. Specifically, the final adoption decree can include the desired new name for the child. This certified decree along with vital records request form can be used to change the child’s name on their birth certificate as well as social security records. Vital records does assess a cost for a new birth certificate. If looking to change your name as an adult pursuant to an adoption, you must also follow the steps for a civil name change.

First, adult adoptees will need to submit a copy of your fingerprints with the adoption petition. Fingerprints can be obtained from your local police department. Adult adoptees also need to supply record checks from the Prothonotary, Clerk of Court, and Recorder of Deeds for each county of residence for five (5) years prior to your filing. Finally, notice of the adoption hearing date must be published in a newspaper of general circulation within the county as well as the local Law Reporter regarding the proposed name change. Proof of the record checks and publication should be offered as evidence at the adoption hearing. Name changes are not permitted for adults in the event of certain criminal convictions.

The process for adoption of an adult does not include many of the requirements present for adoption of a minor. Specifically, an adult adoption only requires a petition for adoption and consent of the adoptee and their spouse, if applicable. No background checks or home study is required. You also do not need to terminate the rights of the natural parent(s). One step that is more intensive than a minor adoption is potential name change. If looking to change your name as an adult pursuant to an adoption, you must also follow the steps for a civil name change.

You will need to submit a copy of your fingerprints with the adoption petition. Fingerprints can be obtained from your local police department. You will also need to supply record checks from the Prothonotary, Clerk of Court, and Recorder of Deeds for each county of residence for five (5) years prior to your filing. Finally, you will need to publish notice of your hearing date in a newspaper of general circulation as well as the Law Reporter regarding the proposed name change. Proof of the record checks and publication should be offered as evidence at the adoption hearing. Name changes are not permitted in the event of certain criminal convictions.

A spouse can elect to retake his or her maiden name during a divorce. In Pennsylvania, pursuant to 54 P.S. § 504, “any person who is divorced from the bonds of matrimony may resume any prior surname used by him or her by filing a written notice to such effect in the office of the clerk of the court in which the decree of divorce was entered, showing the caption and docket number of the proceeding in divorce.” It is also possible to request to retake your maiden name while the divorce is still pending in Bucks County. There is a $9 filing fee payable to the court for the certified copies of the name change decree.

For New Jersey, you may also elect to retake your maiden name in the context of your divorce. Good practice is to include the request to retake your maiden name in the initial complaint. You can amend the complaint subsequently or even request the relief orally prior to your final divorce judgment. If you are looking to resume your maiden name after the divorce has been finalized, you must file a post-judgment motion with the court. There is a $50 filing fee. This process is still simpler than doing a civil name change.

Once you have the signed/certified Order granting the name change, you can take the Order to your local Social Security Office, Department of Motor Vehicles, banks, etc. to effectuate the actual change of name.

The court has the ability to order a name change of an adult or a minor child. 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. Specifically, a person cannot request a name change if they have a conviction for murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault or robbery. A petition for name change should be filed with the civil court in the county where you reside. A filing fee is due at the time of filing as well as copies of your fingerprints which can be obtained at your local police department. A hearing for the petition will be scheduled for one – three months later.

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 requesting a name change of a minor, in addition to the publication requirements for all name change petitions, you must also proof service on the non-petitioning parent. If the other parent does not agree with the name change, the court will decide after hearing from the parties. A name change of a minor may be granted if it 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.

Additional copies of a birth certificate may be ordered from the Department of Vital Records. An application is required along with a fee of $20. Fees may be waived for members of the armed forces. Simple changes to a birth certificate can be made by agreement of the parents through the Department of Vital Records as well. Desired corrections can be stated on the back of the birth certificate and must be signed by both parties in the presence of a notary. A change in civil status form is required for a name change on a birth certificate due to the subsequent marriage of the biological parents. An acknowledgment of paternity form must be filed to have the biological father added to a birth certificate where no one was previously listed.

Following adoption, a new birth certificate will be issued upon receipt of the Certificate of Adoption certified by the local Orphan’s Court and then submitted to the Department of Vital Records. Other types of name change may require a court order. The procedures for a petition for a name change must be followed. A court order approving the name change may be obtained following a hearing. A certified copy of the court order with raised seal must be sent to the Department of Vital Records to obtain a new birth certificate. The Pennsylvania Department of Vital Records can be reached at (844)228-3516 or at the address below. Click here to read more about name changes.

Division of Vital Records
Attn: Corrections Unit
101 S. Mercer Street, Room 401
PO Box 1528
New Castle, PA 16101

Pennsylvania allows applications for a legal change of name via petition to the court. One of the requirements for a name change which must be submitted with the petition is the petitioner’s fingerprints. The fingerprints are subsequently submitted to the Pennsylvania State Police to check for any prior criminal offenses as defined in 18 Pa. C.S. Ch. 91 (criminal history record information). The State Police will then report back to the court if they are subject to 18 Pa. C.S. Ch. 91 or not. Existence of a criminal background does not always defeat a name change application. The court may still approve a name change if over 2 years have passed from the completion of the criminal sentence with no remaining obligations (e.g. probation or parole) or the person has been pardoned. The State Police will have to update the criminal history record to reflect where a name change has been granted for a convicted felon.

There are certain offenses which will defeat a name change application. Pursuant to 54 Pa. C.S. § 702 (c), 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.

Click here to read more about requesting a name change.

When requesting a name change of a minor, in addition to the publication requirements for all name change petitions, you must also prove service on the non-petitioning parent. If the other parent does not agree with the name change, the court must decide after hearing from the parties. There is no standard in the name change statute as far as what the court should be considering. Instead, a standard has been established through case law on prior name change matters. Similar to custody matters, a name change of a minor should only be granted if it 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.

The best interests of a child refer to the physical, intellectual, moral, social and spiritual needs of the child. General considerations in a best interests analysis, specifically in the context of a name change, include the natural bond between parent and child, the social stigma or respect afforded a particular name within the community, and if the child is old enough, whether the child understands the significance of the name change. There should not be a presumption afforded to either parent. The history of patrilineal naming (giving the child the father’s last name) cannot be the sole basis for granting a petition for name change. The court must review each case independently and make a determination in light of the totality of the circumstances.

Click here to read more about name change.

There are many reasons why someone may want to change their name. It could be they have never really bonded with their parent and want a new last name. It may be that they wish to change their name for business purposes. Perhaps, they are from another country and want to change it formally to another name. Maybe they have always used a different first name. Whatever the reason, in most instance, when someone wants to change their name, they will have to file a Petition for a Name Change with the Court. The costs involved can sometimes be unexpected. In addition to paying for the filing fee that court charges to file the petition, there are fees to have fingerprinting done by the State Police. The Court will also do a credit check. In instances where someone is trying to change their name to escape from the stigma of a criminal record or from creditors, the Court will often deny the petition. There are also fees for publication in both a newspaper of local general circulation as well as in a legal paper. In addition, notice must be given, usually by personal service or certified mail to anyone whose interest may be adverse to the change of name (normally a parent who gave them the name). A change of name in the legal sense under these circumstances requires attendance at a hearing even if the parents do not dispute the change of name. This means that there will be lawyer fees on top of all the out of pocket expenses. Of course, when you remarry or divorce, you do not have to go through the Petition to Change a name. When you marry, you may automatically adopt the name of your spouse and if you divorce, there is a much cheaper option to file for a name change called a Notice to Retake your maiden name that does not require a hearing or publication and usually only a nominal filing fee. It can be done whether a person is an adult or a child. If it is a child, the parent must petition on the child’s behalf. In all circumstances, the court will weigh the reasons for the change, an in many cases, a name change will be granted when there is good reason or no opposition.

A spouse can elect to retake his or her prior name through the course of a divorce action. Pursuant to 54 P.S. § 504, “any person who is divorced from the bonds of matrimony may resume any prior surname used by him or her by filing a written notice to such effect in the office of the clerk of the court in which the decree of divorce was entered, showing the caption and docket number of the proceeding in divorce.” It is also possible to request to retake your maiden name while the divorce is still pending in Bucks County. Check with your county court regarding any applicable filing fee. Currently Bucks County has a $9 filing fee.

Subsection (b) of the statute addresses divorce decrees granted outside of the jurisdiction. In that event, notice to retake maiden name can still be filed after a certified copy of the foreign decree has been filed with court where notice to retake maiden name is being filed. The form of the notice to retake prior surname is below. It is also available on the Bucks County Prothonotary website.

                    NOTICE OF ELECTION TO RETAKE PRIOR NAME

Notice is hereby given that (Current Name) , having been granted a Final Decree of Divorce on (Date) , hereby elects to retake and resume the prior surname of (Prior Name) and gives this written notice avowing her intention in accordance with 54 Pa.C.S.A. Section 704.

(Current Name)

TO BE KNOWN AS:

(Prior Name)

Adults seeking to legally change their name will need to file a petition with the court. In addition to completing the petition, the party should be prepared to pay a filing fee directly to court at the time of filing as well as supply a copy of their fingerprints. Fingerprinting can be done by the local police department where the filing party resides. The purpose of the fingerprinting is to allow for analysis of any criminal background, if applicable. The name change statute does not allow a change of name if certain crimes have been committed. A search through the Prothonotary’s office and Recorder of Deeds will also need to be done prior to a successful name change to ensure there are no other concerns which may bar the application for a name change.

Another requirement prior to obtaining a name change is to publish notice of the petition and hearing date. Generally notice must be published in the law reporter for the county as well as a newspaper of general circulation. This is to notify anyone who may have an objection to the name change and grant them the opportunity to appear in court and state their objections. The total fees can be in the range upwards of $500 excluding attorney fees if representation is desired.

In the case of a minor child, service must be made on the other parent if there whereabouts are known. Otherwise, notice may be accomplished solely by the publication that is already required but permission of the court should be sought to skip specific service on the other parent. If both parents are in agreement with a name change to a minor, the simpler option is to request a correction to the birth certificate through vital records rather than foot the expense to file a petition and seek a hearing. Fingerprinting and other background checks are not required if a name change for a minor must be sought through the court due to lack of contact with the other parent or lack of mutual agreement on the desired change.

Click here to read more on Name Change.