Monday, April 2, 2012

Pittsburgh Name Change Instructions

My name change went through last week with no problems whatsoever~! In honor of that event, I'm going to put together a list of instructions for changing your name in Pittsburgh, and probably most of Pennsylvania.

1. Go to your local courthouse and retrieve their name change form. This will tell you exactly what you need to provide. In my case it was a fingerprint card, $127 for court fees, three envelopes, and the filled-out forms.

2. Get the trans-specific form from the Mazzoni Center's web site. This will work in all of PA. It includes a petition for waiver of publication. You may need to explain to the court secretary why this is necessary.

The Mazzoni form includes spaces for your state ID, birth certificate, social security card, and fingerprint card. These will most likely not all be necessary, but it may be beneficial to include copies of these documents as well.

3. Fill out and submit the form along with the required materials at your local courthouse's court of common pleas. The court will then send your fingerprint card to Harrisburg to be checked against the FBI database and ensure that you are not an escaped serial killer or some such. This takes approximately a month.

4. When the court receives confirmation that you are not barred from changing your name due to legal reasons they will contact you and inform you that you need to come in and set a court date.

5. Go back to your local courthouse and retrieve your file. You will be informed where you need to take it. In Pittsburgh there are (I think) twelve courtrooms in the courthouse, on the 7th floor. Take your file to the proper courtroom and give it to the legal secretary, who will ensure that it is in order and give you your court date. It will most likely be another month away. At this point you will be informed that you need to publish the intent to change your name in two publications. Inform the legal secretary that you have a request to have that requirement waived in your file due to the prevalance of violence against trans* individuals, and point out where that is in the file. The legal secretary will take the file to the judge and make a note of that in your file. If the request is denied, I would suggest contacting the Mazzoni Center immediately.

6. At this point you will need to contact the courts of all counties you have lived in over the past five years. For each of these you will need a judgment search run under your old name. Before I changed my name I lived in Indiana and Allegheny counties. Judgment searches tend to run from $5 to $25; Indiana cost $7 and Allegheny was $25. It should be noted that courthouses generally do not take credit or debit, you will have to send them a check or money order so allow some time for postage back and forth if you do not have the means or ability to go and pick the judgment search up in person.

The judgment search for Allegheny county can be picked up at the courthouse before your hearing. You will be scheduled for a time block, probably starting at 9:45; I'd recommend being at the courthouse at 9:15 or 9:30 to get your judgment search. This can be gotten from the Department of Court Records which is above the office for the Court of Common Pleas. You can pay cash, they also accept checks or money orders.

7. Wait another month, and finally the big day! You will be in a courtroom with a bunch of other people. Name change applicants tend to go up first as it is a quick case. The judge will look over your information, verify your new name, and send you on your merry way. All in all it takes maybe five minutes from the time the session starts. The judge that I and several of my friends have gone to was very discrete about it, and if your old first name is telling as to your trans* status she will probably not mention it.

8. Retrieve your file from the court, and go downstairs to the Court of Common Pleas again. Return your folder and give them the court order. You will now need to have a notarized copy made of your court order so that you can change all of your identifying documents and such. This costs $10 (cash, check, or money order) per copy and can be purchased at the Court of Common Pleas.

OK. So you're done at court! But your fun is not over yet. Now it's time to deal with all the agencies that have your old name on file. You'll need to go to the DMV if you have a driver's license or state ID. You'll also need to update your name with the social security administration and your bank, as well as your employer.

At the DMV, you simply need to present the court order to the clerk at the first desk. Many people take this opportunity to change their gender marker as well, which is now very simple in PA and requires a form signed by a licensed physician or therapist. The reissuing of a non-expired driver's license costs $13.50 in PA, they will only accept checks or money orders. If it is expired it will cost somewhere around $30. They will make a photocopy of your court order for their records.

They will take a new picture for your license so go in looking your best! Don't be dismayed if it ends up looking like crap anyway, most license photos do.

The Social Security Administration does not charge any fees for requesting a new Social Security card. Simply show them the court order, which they will make a copy of, and they will update your information. A new card takes 7-10 days to arrive in the mail.

Banks are similar to the SSA, they will make a copy of the court order and update your information from it.

Now go out and do something fun! You earned it.

The Mazzoni Center
==> Name Change Packet
==> Name Change Form

EDIT: The Pittsburgh Post Gazette ran an article today highlighting the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund's Name Change Project, which has recently been expanded to help trans* people in Pittsburgh. I highly recommend checking it out. These guys are pretty awesome, and I've had interactions with them in the past.


  1. what if the person might have a judgement?

  2. I am having trouble acquiring the form to file a petition of publication please help. Any ideas?


    Is where you find the guide and paper work now.