How to Change Your Name in California
How to Change Your Name in California
Emily Doskow, Attorney & Mediator and Lisa Sedano, Attorney
January 2014, 14th Edition
Change your name in California
Divorce, complicated spelling, tricky pronunciation, personal preference -- you can change your name for any reason you choose. And getting a court-approved name change is a straightforward procedure. You can easily take care of it yourself, without hiring a lawyer.
How to Change Your Name in California provides step-by-step instructions and all the forms you need to complete a court-ordered name change. You’ll learn how to:
- change back to a former name after divorce
- change your child's name
- get a new or amended birth certificate for you or your child
- get a new driver license, Social Security card and passport
- get a court to recognize a change of gender
- change government and business records to your new name
The new edition reflects the latest rules and regulations on changing your name in California.
Nolo has dozens of products created just for California residents. Check out Nolo's list of California products.
“Covers every aspect of changing your name in California.” -Oakland Tribune
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- Ex Parte Application for Restoration of Former Name After Entry of Judgment and Order
- Petition for Change of Name
- Attachment to Petition for Change of Name
- Order to Show Cause for Change of Name
- Decree Changing Name
- Civil Case Cover Sheet
- Supplemental Attachment to Petition for Change of Name (Declaration of Guardian)
- Decree Changing Name of Minor (by Guardian)
- Petition for Change of Name and Gender
- Order to Show Cause for Change of Name and Gender
- Decree Changing Name and Gender
- Medical Information Authorization
- Information Sheet on Waiver of Court Fees and Costs
- Application for Waiver of Court Fees and Costs
- Order on Application for Waiver of Court Fees and Costs
- Proof of Service of Order to Show Cause
- Missing Parent Search Log
- Declaration of Physician Documenting Change of Gender Through Surgical Treatment
- Petition for Change of Gender and Issuance of New Birth Certificate
- Notice of Hearing on Petition for Change of Gender and Issuance of New Birth Certificate
- Order for Change of Gender and Issuance of New Birth Certificate
1. Methods for Changing Your Name
- How to Change an Adult’s Name
- How to Change a Child’s Name
2. What’s Your Name?
- What’s Your Name?
- Multiple Last Names
- Multiple First Names
- Pen, Stage, and Other Business Names
3. Restrictions on New Names
- Famous Names
- Fictitious Names
- Initials, Numbers, Punctuation, and One-Word Names
- Racial Slurs, Fighting Words, and Other Forbidden Names
- Titles and Forms of Address
- Names You May Give a Child at Birth
4. Marriage, Divorce, and Custody
- Divorce and Annulment
- Custody, Remarriage, and Children’s Names
5. Birth Certificates
- Children and Birth Certificates
- Adults and Birth Certificates
6. Preparing Your Name Change Petition
- An Overview of the Process
- Special Situations
- Changing a Child's Name
- Getting Froms and Information
- How to Complete the Basic Name Change Forms
- Forms for Legal Guardians
7. Changing Your Gender Designation
- Forms for Change of Name and Gender
- Alternatives to Court Recognition of Your Gender Change
- Getting Court Recognition of Your Gender When You Have Already Changed Your Name
- Filing Your Court Forms
- Obtaining a New Birth Certificate
- Obtaining a New Passport
8. Filing, Publishing, and Serving Your Court Petition
- File Papers With the Court
- Applying for a Fee Waiver
- Arrange for Publication of the Order to Show Cause
- Minor's Name Change: The Service of Process Requirement
- Publishing Notice to the Other Parent
- Waiver of Publication Requirement
9. The Court Hearing
- Find Out Whether or Not the Court Will Hold a Hearing
- Prepare for hte Hearing If Required
- Attend the Court Hearing
10. Changing Your Name in Government and Business Records
- Documents You'll Need
- Public Records
- Private Business Records
11. Finding Additional Help
- When You Might Need a Lawyer
- Hiring an Attorney
- Legal Document Preparers
- Doing Your Own Legal Research
A. Using the Downloadable Forms
- Editing RTFs
- Using Pleading Paper
- Downloadable Forms
Methods for Changing Your Name
How to Change an Adult’s Name.................................................... 4
Filing a Name Change Petition.................................................. 4
Other Court Proceedings ......................................................... 6
How to Change a Child’s Name...................................................... 6
A Court Petition to Change a Child’s Name............................... 7
Changing a Child’s Name as Part of an Adoption...................... 7
Changing the Name on a Birth Certificate.................................. 8
California offers its residents several relatively easy ways to change their names. This chapter gives you some background and explains the different methods.
After you officially change your name in California, your new name will be valid everywhere. That’s because the U.S. Constitution guarantees that the legal procedures of one state must be recognized by all.
How to Change an Adult’s Name
In California, adults have always had the right to use the first, middle, and last names of their choice. You can change your name by:
getting married and notifying the Social Security Administration, the DMV, and other agencies and entities that you are taking a new name
filing a name change petition in court, or
obtaining a name change as part of another court proceeding, such as an adoption, divorce, or U.S. citizenship proceeding.
The Usage Method of Changing Your Name
In years past, you could change your name simply by using a different name consistently for a period of years. This approach, called the usage method, isn’t an option anymore. No longer can you just walk into a government office, tell the clerk you’ve changed your name, and have your name changed in the records.
Today, because of concerns over fraud, identify theft, and terrorism, you need official documentation of your new name. By going to court, you will receive a court order that will serve as proof of your new name.
The usage method has always been unavailable to inmates, parolees, and registered sex offenders. (Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § 1279.5(a).)
Filing a Name Change Petition
Petitioning the local superior court to grant an official change of name is the most widely accepted way to change one’s name. Unless you qualify to include a name change in another court proceeding, such as a divorce or an adoption, the court petition is the best way to change your name.
A name change involves filing several forms with the court and following some other steps, including publishing notice of your name change request. The result is a court order (decree) recognizing your new name. Fortunately, the forms you’ll need to fill out are straightforward, and the court procedures are streamlined. The whole process usually takes two to three months. This book will walk you through the process, step by step.
To use the court petition method, read this book and follow its instructions to complete the required court forms. You can use preprinted forms issued by the California Judicial Council that are available online. In the few instances where additional forms are needed, we show you how to create them.
The court filing fee for a name change petition is currently $435 in most counties. The court may waive your fees if you have a low income. (Chapter 8 has instructions about how to prepare and submit the necessary paperwork for a fee waiver.) By following the instructions in this book, you can easily and successfully do the job yourself. Or, if preparing the necessary forms is too much of a hassle, you may want to hire a nonlawyer legal document preparation service to help with the paperwork, either online or in person. If you hire an attorney, expect to spend upwards of $500 or more, plus filing fees, to complete the procedure. (See Chapter 11 for more on how this works.)
After your papers are filled out and filed with the court, you will be required to publish a notice in a newspaper stating that you are changing your name. The newspaper will normally charge a fee of between $40 and $200, depending on the area you live in and the newspaper you choose. Once you’ve done this, the process is nearly complete. California law requires judges to issue adult name change decrees upon request, unless there is an important reason not to do so. Unless someone objects to your name change (this is very rare), the court will likely approve your petition without your needing to attend a court hearing. Occasionally, a brief appearance before a judge is required. Either way, you can handle the procedure on your own using this book.
Other Court Proceedings
You can also ask a court to change your name if you’re already going to court for a divorce, adoption, or citizenship proceeding.
If you’re getting a divorce or annulment, you can simply ask the judge who handles the divorce to officially restore a birth or former name in the court’s decree. By California law, the judge must do so upon request, even if you did not include the request in the original divorce or annulment petition. (Cal. Fam. Code §§ 2080, 2081.)
If you did not ask for a name change during your divorce, it’s not too late. You can ask the divorce court to restore a birth or former name at any time after the divorce becomes final. All you have to do is file a one-page form with the same court that took care of your divorce. If you are divorcing or were divorced in California and want to return to a former name, we strongly recommend this procedure, which is cheaper and more convenient than other available methods. (See Chapter 4.)
Finally, if you are a permanent resident in the process of applying for citizenship, you can change your name without filing a separate petition. When you fill out the Application for Naturalization (N-400), simply enter your desired new name in Part 1, Section D, of the form. Assuming you are approved for citizenship, your new name will be official after the swearing-in ceremony. (However, this option is not available in jurisdictions where the swearing-in ceremony is conducted by an immigration official rather than by a judge.)
How to Change a Child’s Name
Where both parents agree, changing a child’s name can be as easy as changing an adult’s name. However, if the parents are at odds over whether to change a child’s name, it can be difficult or even impossible. There are three possible ways to change a child’s name. These are:
• Court petition. Petitioning a court is the most common method for changing a child’s name. This process, which is fully explained in this book, is much the same as that for an adult applicant unless one parent objects, in which case a court fight may occur.
• Adoption. You can change a child’s name during an adoption.
• Birth certificate. A child’s name on a birth certificate can be changed only in very limited circumstances, as discussed in detail in Chapter 5.
A Court Petition to Change a Child’s Name
Both parents or one parent alone can file a name change petition on behalf of a child. A child’s court-appointed legal guardian (a grandparent, for example) can also file the petition. If the child has no court-appointed guardian, an adult relative or close friend can file the petition. Chapter 6 describes the court process (for adults and children) and contains a special section on changing a child’s name when you are a legal guardian.
If both parents request the change, courts normally grant the request automatically. When one parent alone petitions to change a child’s name, state law requires that the other parent be given advance notice of the proposed name change. The court will require the petitioning parent to “serve” the court papers on the other parent or to provide an explanation of why this is not possible. (This is covered in detail in Chapter 8.) If the other parent agrees to the name change in writing or doesn’t respond at all, chances are good the court will approve it.
If the other parent objects to the child’s name change, the court will grant the petition only if the court is persuaded that it is “in the best interests of the child.” (Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § 1278.5.) In order to determine which name is in the child’s best interests, the court will hold a hearing and allow each parent to state an argument. If the child is old enough, the court may choose to interview the child. (For more on the “best interests” standard, see Chapter 6.)
Changing a Child’s Name as Part of an Adoption
Adopting parents often request that their adopted child’s name be changed as part of the adoption order. If for some reason the court fails to change an adopted child’s name, the adoptive parents may file a petition on their child’s behalf. In this case, the parents will use the general court petition process, and they can follow the instructions in Chapters 6, 8, and 9.
Changing the Name on a Birth Certificate
In certain very limited circumstances, including typographic errors and incomplete parental information, a child’s birth certificate can be changed or amended to reflect a different name. If you are able to change a child’s name on the birth certificate, the child’s name is officially changed and you don’t need to go to court. Chapter 5 describes the circumstances in which the state will allow a new birth certificate to be issued or an existing certificate to be amended.
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