How to Legally Change Your Name in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

When I decided to change my name, it was very hard to find resources describing the process in detail. After going through it myself, I thought other people might benefit from having detailed documentation.

Here's the short version of how to change your name in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

  1. Request the name change petition forms by calling the Allegheny County Department of Court Records.

  2. Get a fingerprint card from the county barracks.

  3. File the petition at the City-County Building downtown, then wait for them to complete your background check.

  4. Schedule a court hearing with a judge at the City-County Building.

  5. Publish your intent to change your name in two places before your court date.

  6. Request a judgement check from the Department of Court Records, before or on your court date.

  7. Finally, attend your court hearing and buy some notarized copies of the court order.

You'll need to update everything to use your new name after the legal change is finished, including your driver's license, social security card, bank accounts, utilities, investment accounts, birth certificate, lease, employer (for payroll, insurance, etc.), credit cards, PayPal, diplomas, and more.

Keeping it updated will be hard for me to verify, so take this page as more of a snapshot of what the process was like at the dates I've noted in each step. If people contact me with corrections, I'll probably maintain an unverified errata.




The Legal Name Change Process

This is what you need to do to get a court order changing your legal name. The whole process will take a few months and cost about $500 total.


1. Request Petition Forms

Cost of this step: Free.

Total cost so far: $0.

Call the Allegheny County Department of Court Records at (412) 350-4201 and tell them you're looking for information on a legal name change. They will describe the entire process to you, including estimated costs, and mail you the necessary forms.

As of September 2017, these are the name change petition forms. I can't guarantee that those are the ones you need to use, but they are the ones I used.

However you get them, the forms come with a very clear list of the things you'll need:

In this packet of paperwork, aside from the petition forms you'll need to fill out, there will be two additional single-page forms which you do not need to fill out. These will be filed out for you later on in the process.

One says ORDER SCHEDULING HEARING ON NAME CHANGE, and this is what will mailed back to you (via the self-addressed envelope you provide) after the police run your background check. They will fill in a date on this form, which is when you'll need to return to court and speak to a judge about why you're changing your name, and then get the rest of the instructions for the process.

The other form is DECREE FOR CHANGE OF NAME. This is the official piece of paper that means your name change is done. This will be notarized and given to you at your final court date.

My experience (~2015):

The person I spoke to on the phone was very exceptionally helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable. They were even conscientious enough to ask me "Who should I address this to?" instead of "What's your name?" when getting my mailing information. A+, Department of Court Records.


2. Get a Fingerprint Card

Cost of this step: $0, plus transit; the police barracks is way out by the airport.

Total cost so far: $0, plus one trip to the police barracks.

Go to a police barracks (not station; they don't do fingerprints there) and get your fingerprints taken.

I contacted my local barracks at (412) 787-2000 who confirmed their address is 449 McCormick Rd, Moon Township, PA and, as of June 2017, they're open for fingerprinting from 9am - 2pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. It's first come, first serve; you can't make an appointment. Make sure to bring some form of ID (I used my driver's license) and also know the address of your employer.

My experience (27 June 2017):

I confirmed with the Department of Court Records that you need to go to a police barracks to get your fingerprints taken; UPS fingerprints aren't acceptable. At the barracks, I showed them my driver's license and told them what I intended to change my name to. They brought me into a back room and took my fingerprints (with a big scanning machine, not ink).

Everyone at the barracks was incredibly nice and friendly, and I didn't have to wait very long. However, the barracks building itself is infested with roaches. I'm not kidding. It's really gross.


3. File the Petition

Cost of this step: $155.50, plus transit and the cost of the envelopes and stamps.

Total cost so far: $155.50, plus the cost of 3 envelopes and 3 stamps, one trip the police barracks, and one trip to the City-County Building.

Bring all of items listed on the front page of your petition (payment, forms in duplicate, fingerprint card, envelopes stamped and addressed) to the Civil/Family Division of the Department of Court Records on the first floor of the Pittsburgh City-County Building at 414 Grant Street to file the petition.

Reminder: do not use a personal check for payment. I just used cash, but you can also use a money order or business check.

When you first enter the City-County Building, you'll pass through a metal detector. After that, go to the Civil/Family Division of the Department of Court Records, which is on the ground level floor, third door on the left if you entered from Grant St. Turn right once you're inside and line up where the ropes and signs are, then give your paperwork to the person behind the desk once you're called.

You'll get some additional paper with your docket number at this time. Make sure you keep it, because you'll need that number a lot later on. Then, in a few weeks, you'll get a letter with the results of your background check.

My experience (5 Sept 2017):

Parking in downtown is annoying, but there's a designated lot around the corner from the City-County Building. The employee I spoke to in the Civil/Family Division was very nice and offered to explain the rest of the process to me.

He also made an extra copy of my petition for me, just for my own records, but the other people I was with had different experiences with getting a copy, so make sure to ask if you want one.


4. Schedule a Hearing

Cost of this step: $0, plus transit.

Total cost so far: $155.50, plus the cost of 3 envelopes and 3 stamps, one trip the police barracks, and two trips to the City-County Building.

Once your background check is delivered to you, go back to the City-County Building during open hearing hours. As of October 2017, open hearings are from 9am to 4pm Monday through Friday, but you should call ahead to confirm. Make sure you know or have your docket number.

When you get there, first pick up your docket from the Department of Court Records, Civil/Family Division. This is the same place you went to file the petition. Instead of waiting in line, go to the big granite desk on your left as you walk in and tell someone there that you need your docket. They'll have you fill out a small checkout form, and they'll give you the big folder containing your docket.

From there, take the elevators up to courtroom 703, which is on the seventh floor. If you're there a little early and the doors are closed, wait outside; otherwise, if the doors are open, you should go in

It seems non-intuitive, but even while people are being heard, you need to walk up to the court clerk at the desk (not the judge) and tell them that you're filing for a legal name change. They'll take your docket and schedule your final court date, which will be in 40 days or so. Once that's done, sit down to wait your turn for the judge.

When the court clerk calls you up, they'll hand your docket to the judge, who will sign it. The court clerk will make you a copy of the paper which includes the date and time of your final court hearing (although you'll also get a copy in the mail later). They will also explain that you need to publish your intent to change your name and get a judgement check before your court date.

My experience (13 Oct 2017):

This step was pretty straightforward. I waited less than half an hour to get called up, but it was pretty busy, so I recommend getting there early. When I was called up, I didn't have to say anything to the judge and he didn't say anything to me. He just signed my paperwork.

Afterwards, the court clerk told me to go publish my intent on the first floor, but this isn't necessary (or possible, because as far as I know, that desk/department longer exists). You can just do everything online.


5. Publish Your Intent to Change Your Name

Cost of this step: $105 for the Pittsburgh Legal Journal, $124 for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Total cost so far: $384.50, plus the cost of 3 envelopes and 3 stamps, one trip the police barracks, and two trips to the City-County Building.

Before your scheduled court date, publish two public notices to change your name. I used the Pittsburgh Legal Journal and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Pittsburgh Legal Journal

Visit the Pittsburgh Legal Journal website and create an account. After you log in, using that same link, click the Create a New Notice link on your dashboard. On the next page, under Select Notice Type, choose Change of Name and then click Select This Template. You'll need to fill out the following notice data:

Click Save and Continue and then verify the information and preview of the listing on the next page. Tick the APPROVED - This notice is correct box, then click

Proceed to Purchase. The next page will show you your notice and let you Continue to Payment. Check your total, which was $105 for me, and click Purchase. Enter your billing information on the next page, click Summarize Order, and finally Submit Order.

You'll receive your proof of publication in the mail a week or two later.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Post-Gazette has a page of their legal advertising documents, so download the Change of Name Notice (Nov 2017 version, hosted locally here). You'll need to fill out the following fields:

PPG doesn't have instructions how to submit notices for publication, despite having the PDFs of the forms available online. I called the Legal Advertising department at (412) 263-1440 and was told that you can submit this form and your payment in a number of ways: email, snail mail, physically dropping it off at their mailbox, etc.

Personally, I gave my credit card information over the phone, then followed up by emailing my completed form to legaladvertising@post-gazette.com. I got an email within an hour confirming everything, including the $124 cost, and a few days later I received my proof of publication in the mail.

My experience (~16 Oct 2017):

Pam, the person who works at PPG's Legal Advertising Department, responds to email/voicemail very quickly and is incredibly nice and helpful to boot. I actually messed up the date in my first publication with PPG, so I sent an email asking how to correct it. I got a response in less than 15 minutes saying that they would re-run the notice for free with the correction. (Thank you so much, Pam! You're a treasure.)

All told, it took just a few days to get the notices published, but you'll be scheduling your court date at least 40 days out. I recommend taking advantage of this downtime by starting to contact important places (like your employer, bank, etc.) to find out what their processes are for name changes and which documents or forms they'll need from you.


6. Run a Judgement Check

Cost of this step: $25 when you pick up the judgement check on the day of your hearing.

Total cost so far: $409.50, plus the cost of 3 envelopes and 3 stamps, one trip the police barracks, and two trips to the City-County Building.

The judgement check process depends slightly on where you've lived in the last 5 years. If you have lived elsewhere, you'll need to research the judgement check process for those counties. The information here is only for Allegheny County.

Call the Department of Court Records at (412) 350-5729. Tell them you need a judgement check as part of a legal name change. After getting transferred a few times, you'll eventually reach the Indexing office. They'll take your current legal name and address to process your request ahead of time.

You can pick up your judgement check on the day of your hearing, at which time you'll need to pay $25 in cash.

My experience (20 Oct 2017):

The person I spoke to on the phone at the Indexing office was, as seems to be the trend, incredibly nice and friendly. He verified all the information I had about this part of the process.


7. Attend Your Court Hearing

Cost of this step: $80 for 4 notarized copies of the court order (but you may need more or less) and transit.

Total cost: $489.50, the cost of 3 envelopes and 3 stamps, one trip the police barracks, and three trips to the City-County Building.

First, pick up your judgement check from the Department of Court Records, Indexing office.

Head towards the registers in the Court Records Department. At the far end of the register lines, towards the right, there's a set of stairs. Go up and look for the (somewhat hidden) signs that direct you to the Indexing Department.

Request your judgement check from the person there. They will give you a paper to take downstairs to the registers to pay (remember — cash only) and get a receipt, then go back to the Indexing office with your receipt to get your judgement check.

Take your judgement check and your two proofs of publication to courtroom 703, just like when you scheduled your hearing. Register with the court clerk and wait to be called up. The judge will confirm you're changing your name and then rubber stamp your paperwork.

Finally, go back down to the Department of Court Records to buy notarized copies of your court order. You'll need these to update your legal name in other places. The person you need to speak to is straight back after you walk in, on the desk to the right just next to the blocked off exit door. It costs $20 per notarized copy, and I recommend you get at least 4.

After the change, you'll probably want to go right to the DMV and SSA because they're both downtown too.

My experience (30 Nov 2017):

As written, really. It's been a long day; forgive me for lack of detail.


You're Done! Sort of.

You've changed your name, but there's still a lot more to do after the change.




After the Official Change

Once your name is officially changed, you need to update a lot of other official documentation with your new name.

I strongly recommend going to the DMV and the Social Security Administration immediately after your final court date. They're all downtown so you'll be nearby, and you need an updated driver's license and social security card to bootstrap your name update in other places.


Driver's License

You will need:

Go to: Pittsburgh PennDOT Drivers License Center, 708 Smithfield St., Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Official documentation: http://www.dmv.pa.gov/Driver-Services/Driver-Licensing/Pages/Change-Your-Name-or-Address.aspx.

Time: Immediate.


Social Security Card

You will need:

Go to: US Social Security Administration, 921 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Official documentation: https://faq.ssa.gov/link/portal/34011/34019/article/3749/how-do-i-change-or-correct-my-name-on-my-social-security-number-card.

Time: They say it takes a few weeks to arrive in the mail, but I got mine in juts a few business days.


Bank

PNC

You will need:

Go to: Any PNC branch.

Time: Immediate for a new debit card; takes a few weeks for checks to arrive in the mail.


Utilities

Duquesne Light

You will need:

Go to: TODO

Official documentation: TODO.

Time: TODO.


Investment Accounts

Fidelity

You will need:

Go to: https://www.fidelity.com/customer-service/how-to-update-name

Official documentation: Instructions for updating your name are in the link above.

Time: I got an email verification after a few business days.


Birth Certificate

Varies. Look up the department that manages birth certificates for where you were born.


Lease

Varies. Contact your landlord to figure out how to update your lease.


Employer

Varies. Contact your HR department to figure out how to update payroll, insurance, etc.


Credit Card

Varies. Contact your credit card provider.

Chase

I called Chase support, and they said they'd mail me a new card (same number, new name) with a form or something that I'd have to send back. The form I received indicated that I also needed to provide a photocopy of some verification of my name.


PayPal

You will need:

Go to: https://www.paypal.com/myaccount/settings/name/edit

Official documentation: Instructions for updating your name are in the link above.

Time: TODO.


Diploma

Carnegie Mellon

You will need:

Official documentation: Instructions for updating your name are in the link above.

Time: 6-8 weeks but they don't even guarantee it.



This is not a comprehensive list of where you need to update your name. I've included only ones that were relevant to me.

Some other places may need to update are: loans (including mortgages), car titles, library cards, doctor's offices and medical records, any other legal documents (like wills), and passports.




Comments? Questions?

I feel obligated to add that I am not a laywer and none of this is legal advice. I just write documentation.

That said, feedback is warmly welcomed. Please contact me at namechange@virdo.name with any comments, questions, clarifications, corrections, and so on. It's also nice to hear if you found this doc helpful.

Good luck!