Name Changes And Relationship Building

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The Atlantic recently published an article about the increasing importance of name changes for same-sex couples, both who are married in the eyes of the law and who are not.

While opposite-sex couples who marry may decide to change names based primarily on personal beliefs or professional obligations, for same-sex couples a name change can indicate a single family unit. This can have importance for issues as varied as having or adopting children, and for trips to the hospital.

Generally, when changing a name, it is more of a conversation, unlike among heterosexual couples in which it is predominantly the woman who changes her name. Sometimes one person will adopt their partner’s surname, and in other cases both partners will change their names to a different name, usually a significant name from a related family line.

In some states with fewer legal protections and rights for same-sex couples, the decision may come down to economics. For example, in Alabama, as in some other states, same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt as a pair, leaving one partner to legally adopt the child. Andy Page from Birmingham, Alabama explains, “[his partner] Lee would be the one to adopt. He has a great job, insurance, a pension. I would take Lee’s name, of course. It would just be easier for the child to have all of us have the same name.”

Changing names to one shared name may also be a measure of safety. While same-sex marriage is recognized and protected in many states, in other parts of the country being openly gay is less safe. Sharing the same last name may provide a measure of protection, as Victoria Dunn explained. She knew that she and her partner may not be able to open about their relationship everywhere they go, and “[She] didn’t want to deal with any nastiness. [She] just hoped that people would see [them] as sisters.”

There are also, of course, many couples who do not change their names, rejecting the idea for the same reasons that many hetero-sexual couples do. Some also choose not to change their names because many states require publication of the name change in newspapers.

In Pennsylvania, the name change process (aside from retaking your maiden name after divorce) varies by county, but it generally requires an application to be filled out and filed with the court. There is a requirement that the name change be published in newspapers, however you may ask the court for a waiver if you have a reason to fear for your safety, as well as a notice requirement to anyone who may be impacted by your name change. You then have to appear before the court, and if there are no objections then the court generally grants the name change.

If you have any questions about the name change process, contact our Pittsburgh name change attorneys today!