In the state of Pennsylvania, the courts are afforded discretion over proposed name changes per the Judicial Change of Name Act. Regarding children, however, the Act specifies a distinct procedure and category, which in essence, is in place to facilitate the name change of children, while ensuring these proposed name changes are within the legal bounds of "in the best interest of the child." This being said, the appearance of being "in the best interest of the child" is a highly subjective term, which is realistically dependent on a case-specific court ruling. Parents wishing to change their child's legal name may make requests to the court.
Contact Local County Clerk's Office in Appropriate Jurisdiction
Find the contact information of your local county clerk's office. The Internet is a good place to search for the information. The appropriate jurisdiction for the county clerk's office filing will be the county in which the child currently resides.
Request Petition for Change of Name of Child documents from your local Court of Common Pleas office, located in your local courthouse. This document will include requests for the parent to fill in specific information regarding the nature of the name change, reasoning for name change, address information of the past five consecutive years of child and parent, and current names of both the child and the parent(s).
Formally file the Petition for Name Change of Child with the Court of Common Pleas in your respective county courthouse at the Prothonotary's Office. Here, your petition will be reviewed and a hearing date will be scheduled regarding proposed name change. The hearing date will be no more than three months from filing date and no sooner than one month and requires completion of Step 4 .
Complete legal requirement to give notice of the proposed name change of the child by posting notices in two circulating newspapers; one of which must be the official paper for posting legal notices in your respective county. The other is typically a daily newspaper serving your county. Proof of these publications must be brought to future hearing date regarding the proposed change of name of the child. Additionally, if other parent(s) of child exist, notification must be given to these individuals of the proposed name change of their child.
Attend court hearing with all appropriate documentation regarding notice of name change in local newspaper publications. Additionally, petitioners should be prepared to defend proposed name change against any lawful objections by other interested parties, or potentially, the court itself, if it believes a name change is not in the best interest of the child. If approved, a decree is issued by the court, and the Petition for Change of Name of Child is approved by court decree.
Filing fees, as well as fees associated with posting two (2) notifications in county newspapers, vary according to jurisdiction. Inquiring ahead of time is advisable, but in almost all cases, fees are relatively nominal.
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