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Changing A Child's Name On Their Birth Certificate

One of the more common questions I receive about child custody is changing the child's name. In normal circumstances, there is no issue as to the child's first and last name. Both natural parents are engaged in the child's life. However, in some instances, one of the parents has been absent for a prolonged period of time. So long in fact, that the custodial parent has begun referring to the child by their last name to avoid confusion for the child with school and others in the community.

The law provides that:

"when a child of at least 7 but no more than 14 years of age has established through usage a name different from the name originally recorded on the birth certificate, the Division of Vital Records may, upon application therefore by the subject's custodial parent, guardian or legal representative, issue a regular certificate in the name the subject is actually using. Before the certificate is issued, the applicant shall submit to the Division of Vital Records adequate proof establishing usage of the name." 28 Pa.Code Section 1.35.

Adequate proof of use of a name "shall consist of documents or official records demonstrating actual use of the name by the child during at least half of the child's lifetime." This would include school registration records, doctor's records, immunization records, baptismal records, a student I.D., welfare records and/or social security records. It would be a good idea to take every piece of information you have available to the Department of Vital Records (which is a department under the PA Department of Health) to show proof of the child's name to establish usage of that name.

Go to the PA Department of Health's website for the actual forms to review ahead of time. There is a printable form that needs filled out by a parent that must be notarized. The form on their website actually provides for correction of a name on a birth certificate from "birth to age 18." However, the Pa.Code section cited states what it states. The PA Department of Health has locations throughout Pennsylvania.