I noticed that there’s no guide for this and there is NO ONE you can call who can tell you how to do the whole process start to finish. It took me months to compile the information I needed to even start my legal name change process, as if it wasn’t stressful enough. So I’m making this guide to hopefully save others some time and frustration.
I’d also like to caution you that there are requirements and details that officials have purposely left out of their official online guides and docs. I’ll get into that later.
Whatever they say it costs to do this whole thing on their website, it’s quite a bit more.
[Insert Actual Total Price]
Sorting through the jumbled mess of bits of information from at least 40 different sources & people was complicated and hard on my brain. This is how I got my name change done and the information is correct as of this tutorial going up on [insert date] so “because government” they may change the process and notify no one, so good luck and godspeed.
I need a drink.
Step One: You Have To Go To Court
It’s a requirement that you get court approval before you can update any of your documentation to your new name. It’s not as scary as it sounds. I was personally terrified of going to court because in my mind, that meant that there was a chance my name change could be rejected for whatever reason.
I talked to the person at City Hall who runs the whole name change thing and she said that the only reasons why a name change may be rejected is if you;
- Are doing crimes (like felony level crimes, apparently normal crimes are ok)
- Have over $1,000,000 in judgments against you (this isn’t a set-in-stone number they gist was you have to be doing really shady high-profile finance stuff to be rejected).
- Are changing your name to a celebrity or public figure.
The only reason you even need to go to court is that they need to make sure that you’re not changing your name to do some ULTRA shady shit like skip out on significant debt or skip parole and leave town. Basically you’re probably fine (or not, I don’t know your journey).
List of documentation you need before you start the legal process;
- Birth Certificate
- Social Security Card
- Petition Form [combine pdfs and make download]
- FBI Finger Prints
About The Fingerprints
This is a wild ride so buckle up kids.
No. The link to that website for the finger prints is not a joke. That is the official site. This was also the most difficult piece of info I had to obtain and I’m about to tell you why.
When I called City Hall after I saw that they required FBI fingerprints BEFORE you even show up, I asked them where to get my fingerprints done since they clearly do not provide that service.
I was told by a City Hall Official that I need to get them done at a post office. I called a local post office to confirm this before making the trip down, and they told me that they discontinued that service over two years ago and that I needed to go to the Police. I called the Police and they told me that they don’t do that (I later found out that they DO the person I talked to just didn’t know what they were talking about). The Police person I talked to said that there was a third party company that does the fingerprints and to go to them.
This company did not have any locations in Philadelphia. The closest was in Cherry Hill. FML.
I got frustrated and after some more online research and like 10 more phone calls (ew) I found the actual place to get finger printed. Except it wasn’t a place, it was in the back of a truck parked at 15th and Callowhill.
Dispite the whole thing looking shady as hell and their website having a big fat yellow marquee tag up top, you will likely be fine and not get your kidneys stolen.
No I’m not fucking with you. You need to go to the back of a truck with just normal building doors on the back and one woman who’s been doing fingerprints for basically the whole city for over 22 years. She also needed to tell me how disapproving she was of my life choices after she asked what the fingerprints were for. Too bad I have no fucks to give.
There is no official Spot for the van, it’s apparently just in different places around that general area, so call and ask where the van is before you go. The truck apparently has a phone number. (215) 432 – 4622
So I got my fingerprints and went on my merry way.
About The Petition Form
They don’t even have the right form (it’s missing pages) on the official government site so here’s the actual correct and complete form to download. You’re welcome.
Step Two: Get The Ball Rolling
Make sure to fill out the form before you show up. It’ll be a much quicker trip if you do. Once you’ve got your docs & money together, and show up at City Hall. The initial cost to get the ball rolling is about $333 (check actual charge).
Go to city hall, [add what entrance to go to]. [insert security check warning and actual room number to go to]. You’ll make the first payment here and they accept all forms of payment. So you can use a card, check, money order, cash, whatever.
Don’t waste your time asking what room to go to. They’ll tell you the wrong room TWO times before you get to the correct room, this is so common that the two incorrect rooms are used to this. The actual room to go to is 2## (find the right room number).
After you’re done there, they’ll tell you to go to a room called Discovery. It looks like a court room. This is where they were all like “I know we have this price listed on the website but SURPRISE it’s going to be significantly more expensive than we lead you to believe”. They also told me that this was purposeful but wouldn’t tell me why. Fantastic.
Step 3: Wait.
They told me that I’d know my court date within ten days and that they’d email me. The didn’t email me. I got a letter in the mail after like 12 days. My court date was over a month away from the day I went to City Hall.
When I got there, they told me that I had the complete wrong info and that I needed to have the announcements in the news papers and background check and whatever other documents BEFORE the court date. Despite me going there IN PERSON and ASKING AN OFFICIAL.
AND WAIT THERES MORE APPARENTLY I DIDN’T EVEN NEED TO SHOW UP I COULD HAVE FUCKING EMAILED IT TO THE LADY RUNNING THE NAME CHANGE PROCESS I WANT TO DIE.
I had to re-schedule my court date. They said I’d get it in the mail within ten days again, I waited 42 FUCKING DAYS. My new date was 2 months out this time. Efficient as always.
You need all your docs together before the court date and you can only start after you get the letter. You can call and ask to just email the documents for your court date.
Step 5: Do The Legal Requirements
The letter they will send you will be written in non-english lawyer language and may be completely indecipherable to you. So here’s the instructions on it in actual english;
Newspapers – You need two newspapers (This one – The Legal Intelligencer is required to be one of the two). All you need to do is give the court order to the newspaper people & have
Background check – you go to city hall and pay for it at the same place you submitted the application to. They say there’s a rule about needing the background check to be conducted within a month of your court date, but they were pretty lax on this deadline for me.
Step 4: Court Time
[queue internal screaming]
I had to schedule my court date 3 times because;
1st time they told me the complete wrong information. I went to city hall and asked an official from the actual court room that the name change happens in, and they told me that I needed to get a background check AFTER the court approved the name change when you actually need to get it BEFORE.
2nd time I couldn’t get in touch with the newspapers you need to announce the name change in in time for my court date and had to re-schedule. Apparently I’m not the only one who’s had this issue according to another court employee I spoke to when I scheduled.
At this point it’s October. I started this process in FUCKING MAY. Hopefully third time’s the charm. (update: it was. ugh.)
Step 5: Updating Your Documents
You need to get you documents updated in a particular order, because you need your SSN updated to get the ID and you need both the SSN and ID updated to get your birth certificate updated.
Step 1: Your Social Security Number
You have to go down to the Social Security Office in person with all of your identification docs: SSN Card, Valid ID or Passport, Birth Certificate, Court Approval, and SSN Change Application (you can’t fill it out at the place you need to bring it).
You’ll need to locate your local SSN office, and you can do that here.
Then show up and wait in line for hours probably. Other than the wait it’s not that bad. It’s like a slightly different kind of DMV.
They open at 9am and close at 5pm.
Step 2: Your ID
They open at 8:30am and close at 4:15pm.
(the website and search results for their hours were wrong).
You CAN go on Monday if you’re updating your photo too. Otherwise they don’t do ID stuff on Monday.
But apparently they have to update your photo whenever you change your name ANYWAY, so the DMV is probobly just going to fuck with you a little.
I got my ID in February 2020, I started in May 2019. Fuck.
Step 3: Your Birth Certificate
Not everyone has one but if you do you’ll need to know what hospital you were born at.
(I haven’t gotten to this part yet because the government is SLOW AND MESSY AS FUCK [so I’m still updating this post as I go through the process])
How Much Does It All Cost?
- Finger Prints – $20
- Initial Payment To City Hall – $333 [actually price, they lie to you about the price.]
- Background Check – $58.82 [actually price, they lie to you about the price.]
- Newspaper Announcement One – $204 [actually price, they lie to you about the price.]
- Newspaper Announcement Two – $25 [check actual cost]
- SSN Card Update – Free
- ID – $30 ($60 for me because the courts took so long to get my name change through my ID expired and I had to renew it with my old name first. Ugh.)
- Birth Certificate – $20
- 10 months of my life
Total: $720.82 so far . . . this doesn’t include lost money lost due to them wasting my time, travel costs, and me missing work.