Jerry Sandusky's Son Matt Seeks Name Change in Court

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on July 18, 2013 4:32 PM

Following the tide of scandal that's plagued convicted child abuser and ex-Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, his son Matt is applying to have his and his family's names changed.

One of Jerry Sandusky's six adopted children, Matt Sandusky revealed in a 2012 police interview that Jerry had abused him as a child, reports CNN.

Although the details of the name change petition are not currently public, Matt Sandusky is not the first to want to change his name to avoid the past.

Matt Sandusky's Name Change Request

Whatever Matt's specific arguments for his name change may be, in Matt's home state, there is a specific procedure for a legal name change. As described in one Pennsylvania county's guide to getting a name change, the procedure involves:

  1. Filling out a petition;
  2. Submitting several copies of the petition plus a filing fee to the Prothonotary's Office;
  3. Having the petition reviewed and an order issued by a judge;
  4. Getting fingerprinted and undergoing a background check by police;
  5. Publishing notice of the name-change court hearing in two local newspapers; and
  6. Attending the name-change hearing.

In addition, the petition needs to state the "intention" and "reason" for the name change, which is easy to imagine but also unavailable to the public.

The name change motion that Matt Sandusky filed in Centre County, Pennsylvania, is sealed, meaning the court is keeping the documents under wraps for privacy purposes. Matt's exact reasons for ditching "Sandusky" (and perhaps even his first and middle names as well) are unavailable.

New Name Options

His reasons for not preferring "Sandusky" aside, the notorious coach's adopted son will have various name options to choose from, although a few are already taken.

One current Knicks player was born Ron Artest, but decided in 2011 to petition the court to change his name to "Metta World Peace," a name that is now officially recognized.

The law allows for a certain creative flair in renaming yourself, but doesn't look too kindly on changing your name to escape a debt. You also generally can't change your name to:

  • A racial slur;
  • Something obscene; or
  • Someone else's name, especially when it's someone famous (e.g., "Tom Petty").

These considerations are especially relevant, considering Matt Sandusky wants his wife and children to bear this new name.

Family Considerations

Even the NFL's famed Chad Ochocinco gave his made-up moniker a rest for the sake of his new (now-ex) wife. Similarly, Matt is likely changing his name to help his wife and children lead a normal life.

In cases of divorce, children are often allowed to use their mother's maiden name if it's in the kids' best interest. One option for Matt Sandusky is to change his family's name to his wife's maiden name in order to streamline the process.

Barring any surprises from Jerry Sandusky, his son's name change petition will probably succeed. Here's hoping that Matt and his family receive the peace and closure they desire from their new names.

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