What if Charlotte Elizabeth Diana Wanted to Change her Name in PA?May 6, 2015
A rose by any other name…but just try to change it!
With all of the public fascination surrounding the naming of the new royal princess, one might question just who has the right to select a child’s name and how that name can be changed if the child just cannot live with the selection. Suppose Charlotte Elizabeth Diana were born of Pennsylvania parents and decided when she was old enough to express a preference that she wanted to be called something less “royal”. If both parents consented to the child’s request for a name change, the matter may be as simple as filing a request to amend a birth certificate. If one parent objects then a petition would have to be filed with the court requesting that the change of name be granted. The court’s decision would be based upon what is determined to be in the best interest of the child.
Pennsylvania law requires that, as a general rule, it is “unlawful for any person to assume a name different from the name by which such person is and has been known, unless such change in name is made” pursuant to court order. However, notwithstanding that very specific provision, the Pennsylvania law permits a person to adopt, at any time, and use any name if such name is used consistently, nonfraudulently and exclusively. Given the apparent inconsistency in the language of the statute, it is recommended that the more formal court approved name change be sought and that the party seeking the change continue to use his/her given name until the change is court approved.
A less formal process exists for the resumption of a prior name by a divorced person. The general rule in this case is that the divorced individual may resume any prior name used by him or her by simply filing a written notice indicating the name they will resume and filing that notice in the office of the clerk of the court in which the decree of divorce was entered.