There are many reasons a person may way to change their name. In California, there are two different methods a person can use to change their name. One way to informally change your name is to simply use a different name. (usage method). This happens when a person has used a name different than their birth name over an extended period of time. The other way to change your  name is request a legal name change through the courts.

Often we hear from people who, for whatever reason, have used a different name for most of their life and have not run into any difficulties. Sometimes the name of a young child can be changed on school records just by registering the child under a different name. The child is able to use the name until they hit a roadblock from an agency that requires a formal court order before issuing documents in the new name.

California Name Change by Court Proceeding

If someone wants to legally change their name through the California courts they must file a Name Change Petition in the court that has jurisdiction over their case. The court that has jurisdiction is typically determined by the residence location of the party seeking the name change. At the conclusion of the name change process, the court will issue a formal Decree Changing Name. Presentation of this Decree will allow government agencies, schools and private organizations to formally change your name on the applicable record.

How To Name Change in California

The 4 Steps to a California Name Change.

The process to change your name in California is fairly procedural and can be summarized in four simple steps.
1. Prepare and File the Petition for Name Change
2. Give Notice of the Name Change proceedings
3. Obtain a Certified copy of the Court Order of Name Change
4. Change Your Legal Records

Step 1 – File the Petition – How to Name Change in California

The documentation required to file a Petition for Name Change in California includes several different forms established by the California Judicial Council. These are standardized forms, however, some counties also require supplemental local forms in certain cases. The standardized judicial council forms, depending on your particular Name Change situation, include:

  • Civil Cover Sheet form
  • Petition for Change of Name form
  • Informational Attachment form
  • Order to Show Cause form
  • Proof of Service (used in name change proceedings for children)
  • Decree / Order Changing Name
  • Request To Waive Court Fees form (requests to waive court filing fees if you cannot afford them) and  Order on Court Fee Waiver form
    [order approving fee waiver request)

Several California counties also require an extra form to investigate the criminal history of the person seeking a name change. Some other counties need other forms if someone is representing themselves and do not have a lawyer. When filing a name change proceeding in California, you should always check with your local court to make sure there are no other local forms required when you file your Petition for Name Change. Both the Judicial Council forms and local forms are updated from time to time and courts will reject documents if the current form is not used.

When you hire A People’s Choice, we will prepare all required forms, including any local forms necessary by your court. You will not need to worry if your forms are prepared properly, if they are out-of-date forms or if you are missing any necessary forms.

After the Petition has been properly signed, the documents are submitted to the Superior Court for processing. Pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1276, the documents must be filed in the Superior Court assigned to process Name Change Petitions in the county where the person whose name is being changed lives. At the time the documents are submitted for filing, a court filing fee must be paid. A Fee Waiver can be requested to waive the court filing fees if you qualify. Upon receiving the documentation, the Court will assign a case number to your Petition and schedule your hearing date. The hearing date is usually scheduled approximately 6 to 12 weeks out. Sometimes you can request a specific date for your hearing.

A People’s Choice not only prepares all the required documentation to file a Petition for Change of Name, we also file all documentation we prepare with the proper court and schedule the hearing.

 Step 2 – Notice and Publication

California Code of Civil Procedure 1276 requires notice of all name change Petitions be published in a legal newspaper. Every court has a list of approved legal newspapers for their particular county. It is important to note that every newspaper in an area is not a qualified newspaper for legal publications. You should get the list of approved newspapers from the court and choose a qualified newspaper to handle the required publication. There is no standardized fee for the publication process and fees between newspapers could vary as much as $200.00. It is worth calling around to check pricing between the various qualified newspapers in your area. The newspaper will publish notice of the name change petition once a week for 4 consecutive weeks. Once the publication process is complete the newspaper will give you documentation verifying Proof of Publication. Some newspapers file this Proof of Publication with the court and some do not.

A People’s Choice will arrange for the mandatory name change publication with the most cost-effective, qualified newspaper and make sure that the Proof of Publication is properly filed with the court before the scheduled hearing.

Filing a Name Change for a Child

If you are a parent who is petitioning to change your child’s name the court requires that both parents be aware of the proceedings. If only one parent is petitioning for the name change, the non-consenting parent must be provided notice of the name change request. Rules about service of the notice can be found in California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1277(a). If the non-consenting parent resides in California, they must be personally served a copy of the Notice. Anyone over the age of 18 can serve this notice on the non-consenting parent or service can be accomplished by hiring a legal process server to serve the papers. If the parent resides outside California, you can serve the other parent notice by mail.

If you are seeking the name change of a minor child with the other parent’s consent, A People’s Choice will help you comply with the notice requirements and make sure that the proof of service is filed with the court.

Step 3 – Obtain Your Court Order

Although it is up to the judge to decide whether to grant a Decree Changing Name, these types of Petitions are rarely denied. Once the Judge has signed the Decree Changing Name, you should immediately go to the Court Clerk’s office after the hearing and get several certified copies of the court order. You will need these later when you are attempting to change your legal records to formalize your new name with governmental agencies.

Step 4 – Change Your Name on Legal Records

In order to change your name with the Social Security Office, Department of Motor Vehicles, Passport Office and other agencies, you will need to give each agency a certified copy of the Decree of Name Change. A People’s Choice will give you information that will easily guide you through this process with the most common agencies to help you successfully change these important records.