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"Common Law" Name Change in PA

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Here's the situation:

My wife, let's call her Sue X.  (her real name isn't Sue, but we need a first and last name for this situation).  She was born in NJ.  She used the last name of X as a child, and up through graduate school (Sue X is the name on her masters degree). 


While in college, however, she became estranged from her biological father, Mr. X, who had divorced her mother, Mrs. Y.  Around that time, she began referring to herself with her mothers maiden name, calling herself Sue Y.  Over time, and as per common law (I believe that's the formal term), she was able to legally call herself Sue Y.  This means her drivers license, social security identification, leases and all legal documents now identify her as Sue Y.  She also, unfortunately, lost her NJ birth certificate identifying her as Sue X born to Mr. X and Mrs. Y.  She now lives in PA.


Of note is that student loans taken out while Sue X continue to be held in her name as Sue Y (so she wasn't trying to avoid any financial obligations, just distance herself from her biological father Mr. X). 


Subsequently she and I got married and she did not take my name, so we are John Z and Sue Y.  (also, probably irrelevant, she did NOT list her biological father on our marriage certificate which was issued by the state of Maine) Thus the traditional marriage related name change does not apply.


Here's the underlying problem.  There are now situations where she needs proof that she was once Sue X.  NJ won't issue a copy of her birth certificate without some legal documentation showing her name changed from Sue X to Sue Y. In particular, she'd like to get a passport (actually renew her old one which expired and was issued under her Sue X name), and also prove she was born as Sue Y to Mr. X (to prove next of kin status for a modest inheritance). 


What steps would you recommend taking to be able to get her birth certificate, passport and/or legal documentation showing that she was once Sue X born to Mr X and is now Sue Y?


Thanks in advance.







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Common law name change is fine as long as it's accepted and acknowledged.


Unfortunately, in many states (and possibly with the federal government) it's not an "official" name change and, eventually, you run into somebody or some entity or agency that wants your court papers.


That's when you end up having to go to court and get an "official" name change order.


She now has no choice but to go through the court process for name change.


There are several sources for guides and forms at the following search:

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