There are two different ways to change your name in California. Sometimes an individual merely starts using a name that is different than their legal name. Although this may be sufficient with unofficial, non-legal matters, most people will find it difficult or impossible to change their name on a driver’s license, passport or Social Security card without going through a formal name change proceeding. In order to obtain a legal name change, an individual must file for a name change with the California courts and obtain a court order changing their legal name.
If a minor child is being adopted, the minor’s name can be changed through the adoption proceedings without having to file a separate court action.
If you want to change the name of a child, the court will need an explanation for why you are petitioning to change the name of a minor child. Some of these reasons may include:
If a woman was divorced in California and did not change her name during that proceeding, she can later request the family law court to restore her birth or former name at any time after the divorce becomes final. Returning to a maiden name after divorce is a much more straightforward process than a formal adult name change and can be accomplished relatively quickly through the family law court (See Changing Name During or After Divorce below).
Special considerations pertain to adults who want to change their name and who are in prison, on parole or registered as sex offenders. They include:
In California, as in most states, you can request that the judge handling your divorce make a formal order to restore a former name or restore a birth name. If your divorce decree contains such an order, you will only need to obtain a certified copy of the Judgment. Once you have this official documentation, you can use it to have your name changed on your identification and personal records.
If you did not request your name change through a divorce proceeding, you can make a special request after the divorce is final by applying to the court where your divorce case was heard.
After a divorce is finalized, a mother cannot change her children’s last names to her maiden name without special court petition for change of name. This is because historically courts have ruled that a father had an automatic right to have his child or children keep his last name if he continued to perform his parental role actively.
Social Security and the Department of Motor Vehicles will not allow a person to change their name using the marriage certificate unless the new name is shown in the new name fields. These agencies require you to get a court order to change your name after marriage.
1. You can use your current last name or the last name of the person you are marrying;
2. You can use the last name you were given at birth or the last name given at birth of the person you are marrying;
3. You can hyphenate your current middle name with your last name or hyphenate your current middle name with the last name of the person you are marrying; or
4. You can hyphenate your current middle name with your last name given at birth or hyphenate your current middle name with the last name given at birth of the person you are marrying.
1. You can use the current last name of either person getting married;
2. You can use the last name given at birth for either person getting married;
3. You can combine into a single last name all or a portion of your current last names or your last names given at birth of each person getting married; or
4. You can hyphenate the two last names.
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