Philadelphia Name Change Lawyer
There are a number of legitimate reasons why an individual might want to change either their name or the name of their child, including marriage and divorce, among others. However, in Pennsylvania, this is not a simple process. The Court of Common Pleas emphasizes different standards for adults and children in determining whether it will permit a Name Change.
The Court may deny a petition for a change of name; it is up to their discretion. Therefore, it is best to be fully prepared to explain to the Court why you are requesting a change of name and to retain counsel to assist you in the process. An attorney who understands the Court’s process and criteria in handling a Name Change matter is extremely helpful in this area.
Court Considerations for Adult Name Change
The Court does not allow name changes without proper consideration. The reason for the proposed change of name is essential to this consideration. For instance, in the case of divorce, the procedure is simple. The forms are readily available at the Prothonotary’s office for change of surname and the fee is minimal.
However, oftentimes, adults seek to change their names with less than genuine intentions. They may be attempting to avoid credit problems, a criminal history, or be using the newly acquired identity to engage in Criminal activity.
The Court will require an adult to submit a petition to the Court of Common Pleas and publicize the name change as well via two public notices of general circulation. This serves to alert the community to your desired name change, providing notice by publication and therefore opportunity for objection. The Court will make a determination based on the information provided in the petition in conjunction with that found after a background check.
Court Consideration for Minor Name Change
When it comes to changing the name of a minor, the process is uncomplicated so long as both birthparents consent to the change. It is a simple matter of completing a form, obtaining an amended birth certificate, and attending the required hearing. However, if the other parent does not consent, they must be served with notice of the petition and appear before the Court.
The judicial standard for changing the name of a child is different than that of adults. When pertaining to a minor, the Court looks to “the best interest of the child” in making its determination. The Court looks to these factors:
- The existing and future relationship between parent and child. Will the change of name negatively impact the relationship? What is the nature of the child’s relationship with the parent’s extended family? Has the parent been a mainstay in the child’s life? Does the parent have a history of visitation? Have child support payments been maintained?
- The nature of a name within a community. Would changing the child’s name protect the child from the bad reputation of a parent within the community? Would changing the child’s name prevent embarrassment or school problems?
- The child’s age and ability to understand the significance of a name change. Is the child of an age (i.e. young child vs teenager) in which they can appreciate the meaning of changing their name? Is it apparent that the petitioning parent is using the child against the other parent? How much weight should the desires of the child be afforded?
The Process Overview
The following explanation of the Name Change process is but a synopsis, and does not fully explain all the intricacies involved. Due to the high level of complexity with the forms, timing requirements, and necessary court appearance, it is highly recommended that you seek and retain legal counsel if you choose to move forward.
Step 1: The Petition
The petition must contain (1) the petitioner’s desire and intention to change their name, (2) the reason for the name change, (3) the petitioner’s current residence, (4) the petitioner’s five year residential history, and (5) petitioner’s fingerprints.
Step 2: Publication
Notice must be provided to the community through publication of the desired name change in at least two local publications. Proof of publication must be presented at the hearing.
Step 3: Proof of Financial Standing
Due to policy concerns and the fear that adults may seek to change their name to avoid financial obligations, an adult petitioner must secure a judgement/lien check completed, signed, and sealed by the Prothonotary’s office.
Step 4: Background Check and Service
An adult must be fingerprinted and a background check completed. For a child, the non-petitioning parent must be appropriately notified.
Step 5: The Hearing
At this juncture, a hearing would be held in the Court of Common Pleas to either grant or refuse the name change.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
A lawyer can assist you in managing the above steps, as well as your interactions with the Court and other agencies. Additionally, a petition for a Name Change of a child should not be attempted without an attorney, because an attorney can best analyze the matter and prepare for petitioning the Court.
This content was written on behalf of Greg Prosmushkin.