There's a lot at stake when it comes to name change and you need to move keenly and properly. Now that anyone can change a name to just about anything it's important to know that the legal procedure of making the name official requires a bit of preparation. Those who want to change their name in the State of Pennsylvania should have the following in mind.
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Marriage names change options
In Pennsylvania, like in many other places, you can change your name after marriage. This can happen immediately after the wedding or solemnization and having received the marriage certificate.
The only thing you need is to take your marriage certificate and other required documents, such as proof of identity like state-issued valid photo IDs and citizenship proof to the Social Security Administration and later to the Driver License Center in your county. However, you have a number of options you can use in your name change to legally have a name that you like and need for various reasons.
Once you are married in PA, there are a number of options you can choose just by submitting the marriage certificate. They are as follows:
Keep your current name as it is
Leaving your name without any change by doing nothing at all is one of the easiest options. In the process, you can be sure of never taking trips to the Social Security offices and Driver's License Centers, incurring fees and preparing excruciating paperwork.
Spouse's surname on documents, but maiden name wherever else
In Pennsylvania it's also legal to take the spouse's last name on virtually all your records and ID while continuing with the usage of the maiden name in such professional places such as the workplace.
If you are looking for the happiest compromise after marriage, hyphenating can give you that joy. You only need to hyphenate the last name of your spouse with your surname and you can have this applied on all your documents, governmental and non-governmental.
Add the name of your spouse to your own
This is where the bride takes the surname of the spouse and adds it to her surname with a hyphen or without. It's also one of the easiest to accomplish once you have married and received a marriage certificate copy.
You can also decide to go the most traditional way of taking the surname of your husband after marriage just like many others without much ado.
Maiden name to middle name
Pennsylvania now allows newlyweds to make their maiden name the middle name using a marriage certificate. The Driver's License Center of Pennsylvania has changed its position of not allowing the maiden name to be used as the middle name during the change of name.
You only need to file specific forms before you go for the driver's license, including showing the maiden name in certain IDs where it has been used as middle name.
First, change your name with the Social Security Administration. After you receive your updated social security card, bring it to the DMV along with at least two other forms of ID showing your maiden name as your middle name. That way, there's no need of another process to legally change your name.
Divorce name change
In many Prothonotary offices across Pennsylvania counties are Notice or Election to Resume Maiden Name forms that any adult who wants to seek a name change needs to use. Once you have filled the form you will be able to seek a name change and go back to a prior surname/name from the surname of your husband once you have divorced.
To change the name a fee is charged by the Prothonotary's office and can be around $19 if the divorce took place within the county where you stay or $42 if the divorce took place in another state or county, although the fees are not uniform and vary a lot from one county to the next.
In case you are thinking about going back to your maiden name once you have finalized the divorce, remember that in Pennsylvania you are supposed to provide a birth certificate copy showing the maiden name prior to your marriage.
In case the divorce was not filed in the commonwealth but in another state or another county within Pennsylvania different from your home county, you must deliver to the Prothonotary's office a divorce decree's certified copy, which you can request from the county's Prothonotary office where the divorce took place or from the office of the county clerk in case the divorce happened in another U.S. state.
Nonetheless, if the divorce took place within the same county where the name change request has been made there will be no need of providing a divorce decree's copy to the office of the Prothonotary.
After filing the decree of the divorce within the office of the Prothonotary, including a birth certificate and Notice or Election to Resume Maiden Name form, dully signed, you are considered to have given a notice showing intent to resume your maiden name or prior surname; all that is needed to begin using a maiden name or prior name after divorce under the law of Pennsylvania.
General adult name change
The general adult name change process in Pennsylvania is quite straightforward and can be completed by the Pro Se in 90 days to 180 days. While the process can be completed without an attorney, if your name change has unusual circumstances surrounding the court petition, you might want to have one.
To complete a name change in Pennsylvania without a recent divorce or marriage decree, a court order is needed to approve the change.
Fingerprints need to be taken mostly at your local police department serving the township, borough or city where you live. You can only go to the Pennsylvania State Police barracks for a fingerprint card if the municipality where you live doesn't have a local police department; a $20 fee will be requested.
File a change of name petition with the Common Pleas Court that has jurisdiction over the county where you live. The petition must indicate the name change desired while listing the desired and current names as well as the reason why you are filing the petition, including listing your residences for the last five years.
Fees for filing the petition are not uniform and differ from one county to the next. Once the petition has been filed, a hearing will be scheduled within the next three months after you have filed the petition.
You must also publish the name change notification in at least two newspapers that are generally circulated within the adjoining county or your county. You must provide documentation and receipts as proof of publication and the court usually tells you about the notice content needed.
You need criminal record copies including any civil judgment against you within the last five years. Those who have lived in Pennsylvania for the last five years can get the criminal record copy by approaching the Pennsylvania State Police while civil judgment copies can be requested from the Court of Common Pleas Clerk.
Those without criminal records in the last five years or have had zero civil judgments against them within the past five years can request a confirmation of a record absence or clearance certificate.
You can then attend the hearing for the name change that has been scheduled. Carry a publication proof of the public notice in newspapers together with records of civil judgments and clearance certificates/criminal records' copies.
After the petition has gone through, file the Decree signed by the court with the court clerk and request a number of certified copies from the same clerk to use in changing your name with the Social Security Office and Department of Transportation of Pennsylvania (PennDOT).
Name changes for a minor
In PA, you can change the name of the minor if both parents are in agreement or not.
If parents are in agreement, there's no need of a legal process to change the name of the child. The birth certificate of the child comes with a form on the back for that purpose. The biological parents should sign on the form showing they agree with the minor's name change.
The form should then be mailed to the Division of Vital Statistics with a clear government-issued identification card of at least one parent. A $4 is required if you would like the birth certificated sent back to you unless you can show proof of Armed Forces membership. The new birth certificate with the new name will be delivered to you.
If both parents don't agree with minor's name change
If both parents are not in agreement with the name change of the minor, the process can be complicated and consulting an attorney might be a great idea to at least know if you have any chance of success.
If you are sure of success, file the name change petition with the minor's name in the Court of Common Pleas within your county of residence. Pay the filing fee as directed by the court.
The most contentious part of the process is when you serve the other parent of the minor with the notice, since it's required by law by sending the petition notice through certified or registered mail and requesting a return receipt showing the notice was delivered and provide it in court as proof.
You must then prove the minor's name change is to his/her best interest and the court will come up with a hearing to ascertain if the name of the child needs to be changed.
A number of considerations will be looked into by the court from child support paid, visitation of the child by the other parent, natural bond among parents and child, consistent involvement in the life of the child, child and parent's ties as well as the extended family and social respect or impact as per the present name of the minor in the community, the ability and age of the minor to comprehend the name change significance in his/her life, among other reasons.
Change of name on birth certificate
To legally correct your birth certificate after a name change, you need a court order or certified copies of the court order you got from the court clerk and signed by the judge after the name change was allowed.
You need to submit to the Pennsylvania Health Division of Vital Records section a court order's certified copy with the court's seal and judge's signature. Remember facsimile copy or photocopy of the court order copy is unacceptable.
You also need to include the birth certificate, application form, valid legible copy of a photo ID issued by the government to verify your current mailing address and the fee needed or information showing Armed Forces membership, including a stamped envelop self-addressed to you.
Change name with Social Security, DMV, Passport, and IRS
Once you have changed your name through any of the different legally acceptable ways, you should then approach governmental bodies to finalize the change with them.
Begin with the Social Security Administration (SSA) by completing the SS-5 form or Application for a Social Security Card by mail or in person in a local office of Social Security. Within two days of receiving the application your name should be updated.
Most of the other governmental bodies only accept name change that's already with the Social Security Administration; why you need to deal with them first. You can then continue with your name change by approaching the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and filling the DI-143 or DL-80 forms to change your driver's license. You can also change the identification card of a non-driver by using the DL-54B from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Non-governmental institutions' name change
Depending on the non-governmental institution that you need to notify of your new name, it's important to have the court order's certified copies showing the name change, divorce or marriage decrees. Simply submit them as required by the various institutions from the insurance company, financial institutions such as banks, employer and also in your professional documents.
Recognized name change documents
Certified copy of marriage certificate for marriage name change
Certified copy of divorce decree for divorce name change
Court order for general adult name change
Proof of identity