I had some confusion about how to go about this at first and I figured I’d post my walk through of it. This is how to change your name specifically for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. It should be just about the same as most other counties in Pennsylvania. If once reading through this you don’t feel comfortable you can get pro bono help from TLDEF, though they have a pretty long waiting list. Otherwise feel free to ask questions in the comments and I’ll do my best
First step is to go to your local prothonotary, which for me was in the family and civil service room of the Allegheny Courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh. Once there I asked for a name change packet. They will give you a packet and explain what you need to fill out and do from there.
First step is to fill out the first 3 pages of the packet they give you (not including cover page). Makes copies of these first 3 pages (ideally before going back to the courthouse as there copy machines cost $.50 a page). You also have to get your 3 stamped envelopes ready. One to the Courthouse records, one to you, and one 9×11 envelope (for your fingerprint card) for the State Police (I put 4 stamps on this to be safe).
Next step is to get your fingerprints completed. You can do this at the State Police Barracks for free. The place closest to me was on 449 McCormick Road, Moon Twp, Pa (call first because they only do fingerprinting certain times of certain days). You can also call John Godlewski 412-three three seven-6004, he can do them at your place, but it will cost you $40. Make sure you have your ID with you when you get this done.
After all that fun is done you get to go back to the courthouse with $155.50, your filled in packet with 3 copies and envelopes. Your money cannot be in credit/debit or check, so I gave them cash. They take all your papers and money and give you a small receipt with your case number on it. Now you have to wait, mostly on the State Police in Harrisburg who have to make sure you are not secretly another person/deviant/criminal/etc. This can take from 3 months to 1 month.
Just over one month after submitting it I happily got my self addressed letter in the mail containing the letter below:
I went to the courthouse back to the family and civil services room at the desk where I got the name change form from the first time I was there. I showed them the letter, more specifically my case number, the thing that looks something like GD ##-######. She then gave me my case file and told me to go to room 703 (on the 7th floor) to schedule my hearing. There wasn’t a judge in but the secretary/clerk/whoever that person’s title was kept my file up there and told me to come back Monday just after 9am.
I did just that. He remembered me and around 9:30am the judge came in signed some of my papers and then I had a hearing day, one month from that day I was there. He copied the paper saying when and what my hearing was about and sent me downstairs to the Wills room where I needed to talk out my ads.
The ad people aren’t in until 10:30 so I came back later to find one of them there. You have to place two ads, one in the Pittsburgh Legal Journal and one in the Tribune or the Post Gazette. The Tribune is at least $20 cheaper and she was the only one there so I paid $103.91 in cash for the Pittsburgh Legal Journal and $104 via check for the Tribune. I would highly recommend bringing lots of cash, checks and plastic if possible. Some places only accept cash or money order, some places only accept check or plastic. It’s all very confusing and they don’t really like giving you change – in fact sometimes you just plain don’t get your change, so bring coins and ones.
The lady at the ad counter was very helpful and explained the next step, judgement searches, and how to get one. After walking through a maze I won’t explain I end up setting up a judgement search which is going to occur the day before my hearing and it costs $25 when I pick it up (the morning of the hearing). I also have lived in two previous counties and have to have judgement searches in those as well. Apparently some counties don’t know what that is, but all counties do in fact do judgement searches.
I lucked out and both of the counties I lived in know what judgement searches are. The first judgement search in Centre County is $7 and I need to send it in a money order to them just over a week before my hearing. The other county is Philadelphia County and after numerous transfers on the phone I found out that I can in fact do it via snail mail but it costs $100.10. They both have similar requirements which includes a self addressed stamped envelope, and copy of heading date with case number on it. And for good measure I would put your phone number and write on their that you need a judgement search.
A couple days after setting up my hearing date I received a photo copy of the paper telling me my hearing date. This was all the letter contained. I’m assuming this is some sort of reminder but either way, one less copy to make for the counties I’m getting my judgement searches from.
Just over a week was when I was told to put the judgement search requests in the mail. They want them processed as close to the hearing as possible. I did just that and mailed them out.
A week before my hearing date I had received one proof but not the other. I called into the Tribune and at no additional charge they sent me out another one. I received the other one a few days later.
I waited eagerly for my judgement searches. I got my one from Centre County. Then I got mail from Philadelphia. Turns out Philadelphia took all of my stuff stamped it for no good reason and mailed it back… I got this on Monday. I called them immediately and struggled on the phone with them. Diamond transferred me to her boss, who never picked up. I started getting worried. The next day Diamond called me back and I emailed her the papers she needed and my address. She responded back an hour later with “THIS SHOULD BE FINE….” I had already given up on that judgement search and told myself that I didn’t tell them I lived in Philadelphia.
On May 6th I gathered all my papers and went down to the court house. My hearing was scheduled at 9:45 but I got there just after 9. First I needed to go to visit Beth and Mike and get my judgement search. Beth had it ready for me. Then I went down stairs and paid for the judgement search, $25. Next I went upstairs and went to court room 703. I handed the clerk all of my paperwork he looked it over and handed me a couple of things back he didn’t need. He looked at the judgement search for Centre County and said, “and it looks like you lived in centre county at one time.” He told me it should be long.
About 15 minutes later, just shy of 9:30 and just after the judge arrived. He told me that It was all done, handed me my file and told me to get stamped copies downstairs back in the Family and Civil Services room. I stood in line waiting for the floor clerks and one called me over. He explained that most people get either 2 or 3 stamped copies. One for your social security, one for your state ID or drivers license and one for your birth certificate. Each copy is $10. I bought 3 copies and he gave me 3 unstamped copies and 3 stamped copies. They look like this. The one copy has an ink stamp, signature and a stamp to the paper making it raised.
The process was much easier than I imagined, just long, slow and expensive. In the end it cost $430 with stamps (not including the judgement search from Philly that I didn’t end up getting). Now I am on my way to filling out all the information on my drivers license, social security card and eventually birth certificate. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Here is another blog I wrote on changing your name in the world once you change it in court, it’s a long process but here is a good starter for you as well as a decent list of things you’ll wanna change. https://casbalog.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/how-to-change-your-name-part-2/