Over the course of my career, I’ve helped several different clients get their name formally changed through the courts. Under Pennsylvania law, a Petition for a Change of Name must be filed in the Court of Common Pleas in the County in which the Petitioner resides. To start the process, several documents are written up and filed at the Office of the Berks County Prothonotary; there is also a filing fee of $192.90. Shortly after the documents are filed, the Judge that is assigned to handle the case will issue a court order stating the time, date, and location of a hearing on the Change of Name Petition.
Prior to the hearing, however, several other matters must be addressed under current Pennsylvania law. Specifically, a record / background check is required, and proof of the completion of this must be presented at the hearing in front of the Judge. Additionally, a title search must be conducted to determine if any judgments or liens have been filed against the Petitioner seeking the Name Change. This information is required to re-assure the Courts and the Judge that the Petitioner is not trying to change his or her name in an attempt to commit some type of fraud.
Another requirement that must be completed prior to the hearing is that notice of the hearing, including the time, date, and location, must be published in two (2) local periodicals / newspapers of general circulation. There are specific time-lines and requirements for publication, and it is important that any order from the Judge is followed word for word.
The final step in the process is to attend the hearing itself. The Petitioner seeking the Name Change will have to take the witness stand and testify in open court about the reasons for the name change. Additionally, the Judge might have some questions that will be asked of the Petitioner. Although it can be somewhat of a scary experience for someone who has never been inside a courtroom, it is relatively painless.
People often attempt to represent themselves in these Name Change cases. There is, however, a significant amount of paperwork that must be filed in each case. Furthermore, it can be a complicated process for someone who is not familiar with court offices, such as the Prothonotary. In fact, on more than one occasion I have been hired by a client in the middle of the Name Change process. That is, someone initially started out handling the case by themselves, only to seek out the services of an attarney after running into problems.
In the end, it is much easier to have an experienced attarney handling a Name Change Petition rather than trying to do one on your own. The legal fees for a name change are one-time “flat fees” and are very reasonable. If you are interested in filing for a Name Change in Berks County or Reading, please contact my office to setup a free consultation. I’d be happy to meet with you to discuss your specific situation in more detail.