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. The best (i.e. only) information I could really find about name changes in Pittsburgh specifically was this blog post, but it wasn't quite specific enough to help me. After going through the whole process myself, I thought other people might benefit from having detailed documentation on the process.

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.
  8. Update everything to use your new name.

This is still a work in progress as I complete my own name change, but I'll keep updating as things move further along.

Feedback is warmly welcomed. Please contact me at namechange@virdo.name with any comments, questions, clarifications, corrections, etc. (It's also nice to hear if this document helped you!)

Hazel




The Legal Name Change Process

This is what you'll 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

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 the 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 given to you at your final court date when it's all finished.

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.

Cost of this step: Free.

Total cost so far: $0.


2. Get a Fingerprint Card

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.

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.


3. File the Petition

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 people behind the desk once you're called.

You'll get some 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. He 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. He also offered to explain the rest of the process to me, which I already knew but was grateful to hear again.

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.


4. Schedule a Hearing

Provided nothing came up in your background check, next you need to 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 your docket number, which is in the copy of your original petition (if you have one) and also the background check results letter.

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, but 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, which is where you'll need to know your docket number. Give them the 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 and tell court clerk at the desk (not the judge) 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). The clerk 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. Note that people will be being heard by the judge when you first come in. You should go to the court clerk directly even while this is happening. 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 — as far as I know, that desk/department longer exists). You can just do everything online.

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.


5. Publish Your Intent to Change Your Name

Before your scheduled court date, you need to 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 so later.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Post-Gazette has a page of their legal advertising documents, so download the Change of Name Notice. 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):

The Pittsburgh Legal Journal's publication process is very straightforward on their website, but PPG has no documentation, so I recommend just calling or emailing the Legal Advertising department. Pam, the person who works there, responds 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.

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.


6. Run a Judgement Check

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. If you've lived in the same county, you can just go to the Department of Court Records Indexing office (which is the upstairs portion of the Court Records office from before) on the day of your court date, just before your hearing.

I wanted to make doubly sure that everything would be ready, so I called the Department of Court Records at (412) 350-5729. Tell them you need a judgement check as part of a legal name change and, 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 it up on the day of your hearing, at which time you'll need to pay $25 in cash.

My experience (20 Oct and 30 Nov 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.

Kelly Lowry has kindly reached out to me with more details about their experience, shared here with their permission, to supplement these docs until I go through this stage of the process myself.

Kelly's experience:

Finally. The Judgement search is filed from the Department of Court Records Indexing office which is the upstairs portion of the Court Records office. I just called the main number, the forwarded me to the correct department, and they were able to do everything for me over the phone. They said I could pick up my search the day of the hearing (Between 8:30am and 9:45am) and pay $25 in cash. If you need a judgement check from another state then you'll need to go through that county's court house, although most other states don't seem to do judgement checks. If it comes up in your hearing, although I was assured it probably wouldn't, you can explain that state doesn't have a system for that.

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.


7. Attend Your Court Hearing

TODO

My experience (30 Nov 2017): TODO.

Kelly's experience:

I had already mentioned that you'll need to get your judgement check from indexing upstairs from the court records department. They are tucked pretty far back in the corner behind huge rows of record books, follow the signs as far back as you can until you see people sitting at desks. Your best hope is to look incredibly lost until someone asks if you need help. The records guy walked with me down to the cashier to pay my $25 (cash) and handed me my form. I think normally they hand you an invoice, you pay, walk back up with a receipt, and then get your form.

Next, you'll go up to court room 703. Go ahead and check in with the secretary by handing her your forms: judgement check, Pittsburgh Legal Journal verification form, and public newspaper verification form.

They'll call your name, you stand at the podium, and after a few signatures you are done. Don't expect a grand announcement or anything after all the work you've gone through. The secretary will inform you that you'll need to go back downstairs and purchase your official name change documents.

Going back down to the court records office that we've gotten to know so well you'll want to find the counter next to the blocked off doors straight in from the main hallway. Each document costs $20, it is recommended you get at least 2-3 to verify your name change for the DMV, SSN, and a new birth certificate. Luckily you can go back with your court case number and buy a new one at cost any time you need.

Remember everything at the court house is cash only so bring enough for your judgement check and your proof of name change!

That's it, your name is changed and now you get to fix everything your old name has ever touched. Good luck!

Cost of this step: TODO: $0, plus $20 per notarized copy of the court order and transit.

Total cost so far: $409.50 plus $20 per notarized copy of the court order, the cost of 3 envelopes and 3 stamps, one trip the police barracks, and three trips to the City-County Building.


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, there's still more work to do to update other official documentation with your new name.

Updating your name in certain places, like with the DMV and the Social Security Office, will require notarized copies of the court order. You need to purchase these from the courthouse downtown and, at $20 each, they aren't cheap. I'm planning to buy five or six because I know for certain I'll need at least four: driver's license, social security card, birth certificate, and Dusquesne Light. No, I'm not kidding.

Driver's License

Requires certified copy of the court order? Yes.

TODO

My experience:

TODO

Cost: $0, plus the cost of a certified copy of the court order.

Social Security Card

Requires certified copy of the court order? Yes.

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

My experience:

TODO

Cost: $0, plus the cost of a certified copy of the court order.

Bank (PNC)

Requires certified copy of the court order? Yes, but not to keep, just to view.

TODO

My experience:

TODO

Cost: $0, plus the cost of a certified copy of the court order.

Utilities (Duquesne Light)

Requires certified copy of the court order? Yes. What the heck, Duquesne Light?

TODO

My experience:

TODO

Cost: $0, plus the cost of a certified copy of the court order.

Birth Certificate

Requires certified copy of the court order? Yes.

TODO

My experience:

TODO

Cost: $0, plus the cost of a certified copy of the court order.

Landlord (Forbes Management)

Requires certified copy of the court order? No, or at least mine didn't.

I emailed my landlord asking what the process was. They said that my updated driver's license was fine, and they'd change the name on my next lease renewal.

My experience:

TODO

Cost: $0 for me.

Employer

Requires certified copy of the court order? No, at least mine didn't.

Contact your HR department ahead of time to figure out what you'll need to do to have your payroll, insurance, etc. updated. This will be different for every company, so unfortunately I can't put specific instructions here.

My experience:

TODO

Cost: $0 for me.


Comments? Questions?

Feedback is warmly welcomed. Please contact me at namechange@virdo.name with any comments, questions, clarifications, corrections, etc. (It's also nice to hear if this document helped you!)