Transgender Name Changes in Pennsylvania
The process of legally changing your name is a significant step towards self-affirmation for many transgender individuals. This guide will provide you with an overview of the name change process, along with the required documents and additional considerations specific to Pennsylvania. Remember that some of the specifics for this process will vary county by county. Contacting your county’s prothonotary's office is important to ensure you have all the information you need.
Step 1: Gather the Required Documents Before starting the name change process and ensure you have the following documents:
- Name Change Petition Forms: Contact your county prothonotary's office for pre-printed forms or instructions on drafting your petition.
- State Issued Photo Identification: A photocopied version of your driver’s license or other official id.
- Fingerprint Card: You will need a physical, inked, fingerprint card. In Philadelphia you can go to a place like Rosa’s Photos and Fingerprinting or South Street Business Center.
- Birth Certificate: If you don't have your birth certificate, obtain a copy from the local Department of Health where you were born or order online at www.uscerts.com.
- Copy of Social Security Card: If you've lost or misplaced your Social Security Card visit your local Social Security Administration office to obtain a replacement card. Be prepared for potential fees associated with this process.
- Newspaper Advertisement: Pennsylvania requires publishing your name change in two local newspapers. While one of them can be a legal paper of record, it is not mandatory. If you believe that publishing your name change would put you in danger, you can petition the court to waive this requirement.
- Applicable Fees: The court will assess filing fees and Judgment Search fees. However, if you qualify as low-income, you can submit a "Petition to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (IFP)" to request a waiver of fees. This petition must be filed before initiating the name change process.
Step 2: Reach out to your county's prothonotary office to obtain specific instructions for name changes in your county. They will guide you through the process and provide any necessary forms or information.
Step 3: Draft and file your Name Change Petition, ensuring it includes all required information. Once completed, file the petition paperclipped to the other necessary documents with your county's prothonotary office in-person. They will forward your paperwork and fingerprint cards to the state police for a background check, which usually takes up to 60 days.
Step 4: Publish newspaper advertisements while waiting for the background check results. Publish your name change in two local newspapers. Retain copies of both advertisements as evidence for your court date. If you have petitioned the court not to advertise the change due to safety concerns, you may have to meet with the judge to explain your reasons.
Step 5: You must have two judgment searches done for each county you have lived in for the past five years to prove that you are not changing your name to avoid paying any debts, child support, or alimony. One search is done through the Common Pleas Court the other is done through Family Court.
The searches for Philadelphia must be obtained from:
Family Court – Customer Service Unit – 1501 Arch Street, 8th floor. Cost = $20.00.
Office of Judicial Records – Civil Filing Center – Room 296, City Hall. Cost = $58.52.
Bring a copy of your filed petition and court order for hearing to each of the offices where the searches must be completed. Searches must be completed within thirty days of the hearing. Do not get your searches done too early. Wait until under thirty days before your hearing date.
Step 6: Attend the Name Change Hearing. After filing your petition, you will be granted a court date between 1 and 3 months after filing. Bring copies of the published notices from the newspapers. The judge will review your case, consider any objections, and decide whether to grant your name change. The court may only deny a name change to a person over 18 if it suspects any fraudulent intent or an attempt to avoid obligations or legal actions.
- A name change will not be granted if it is deemed an attempt to defraud another person or avoid legal obligations.
- If you are under 18, a parent or legal guardian must initiate the name change on your behalf, and the court will consider the best interests of the child. Consult an attorney for the specific process and forms involved in changing a minor's name.
- Individuals with criminal records may experience delays or restrictions in changing their names. Certain felonies may prevent or delay the name change process. Consult an attorney if you have concerns regarding your criminal record.
By following the steps outlined in this guide and understanding the specific requirements in your Pennsylvania county, you can navigate the name change process smoothly. Remember, while legal assistance is not required, consulting with an attorney can be beneficial, especially if you encounter unusual circumstances or have concerns about the process.
Please note that while this blog post provides general information about the process of changing your name in Pennsylvania, PLA cannot act as legal representation for a name change. If you require assistance with your name change or have specific legal questions, it is recommended to consult with a qualified attorney or refer to the resources provided in this article.
Much of this information was provided by www.transcentralpa.org/resources_Penn_Name_Change.cfm
For more information about filing in Philadelphia visit: https://www.courts.phila.gov/pdf/forms/civil/Name-Change-Petition-01-101A.pdf
For more help with name changes you can contact Mazzoni Center: