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House of Representatives
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: March 11, 2014 11:00 AM
From: Representative Mark B. Cohen
To: All House members
Subject: Amending the Name Change Process
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation that would make four changes to the name change process in Pennsylvania, which as it is currently written is unnecessarily restrictive, time consuming, and costly.

The four changes are:
  • Move the court venue to the Orphans Court division within the Court of Common Pleas
  • Remove the petitioner’s burden of publishing notice of the name change
  • Remove the petitioner’s burden of paying for their own judgment search
  • Lessen name change restrictions for felons

The first change would move the court venue to the Orphans Court division within the Court of Common Pleas. Currently, petitioners must file in the Court of Common Pleas, and in turn, pay the same filing fee as a jury trial. By requiring these petitions to be handled by Orphans Court, the cost burden could be lowered and petitions processed more expediently.
The second change in the process would remove the requirement that notice of the change must be published by the petitioner in two newspapers of general circulation. Changing one’s name should remain a private matter. Creditors or others who need to trace a person who has changed his name can still access the petitioner’s whereabouts through his social security number, which is not altered when a name is changed. Additionally, the state’s open record law allows any interested party to access name change information.

Pennsylvania is alone in requiring a petitioner to pay for a ‘judgment search’ in his current and previous counties of residence. My legislation would not remove the requirement that a petitioner be fingerprinted for use in the criminal background check performed by both the Pennsylvania State Police and the Attorney General’s office once they are notified of a name change petition. The current process which also requires the judgment search is redundant and forces a petitioner to waste both time and money.

My legislation would reduce the amount of time after a felon completes their sentence (and probation) from two years to one. Additionally, it would allow for all convicted felons to request a name change regardless of the offense. There are sufficient protections in place under the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Act to keep victims of felony crimes safe from danger from a particular felon, and ultimately, it is always up to the judge to decide whether or not a felon’s name change would create danger for past victims.

The name change process is ethically abhorrent and financially gratuitous. My legislation would make the name change process possible to all persons regardless of income or history, reduce the costs to the petitioner, and increase the efficiency through the court system, without reducing any risk of public safety.

Please join me in sponsoring this legislation.

If you have any questions, please contact Kim Hileman of my office at 7-4117 or khileman@pahouse.net.

Thank you.

Introduced as HB2321