How to change your name in California

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Many things happen in life that influence people to contemplate or pursue a change of name including:

? Disliking one?s given name
? Religious conversion or other religion-related reasons
? Same-sex couples in states where such marriages are not recognized
? Couples combining surnames at marriage
? Divorce

California offers people the choice of an informal process for changing a name or a formal process that results in a court order approving the change. Which choice is best depends on whose name is to be changed and the purpose for which the change is desired.

Informal Change of Name

The easiest way to change your name in California is by simply using the new name. As long as it is not done for fraudulent or unlawful reasons, a person can take on any name they choose. All a person has to do is use the newly chosen name for all purposes.

A drawback to the informal method is that most government agencies, such as the department of motor vehicles or the Social Security Administration, will not recognize it. Getting a new government issued identification, such as a driver?s license, or changing government records to reflect the newly adopted name requires an order from the California courts.

Formally Changing Your Own Name

The forms need to petition the Superior Court of California to change your name can be downloaded from the court?s website or obtained in person at the clerk?s office in the county in which you reside. The forms necessary to obtain a court order include the following:

? Petition for Change of Name and attachments
? Order to Show Cause for Change of Name
? Decree Changing Name
? Civil Case Cover Sheet
? CLETS Background Information Sheet

The superior court?s probate division offers samples and instructions in a name change kit that is available. The website for the court advices people that a name change can probably be accomplished without an attorney, but it also offers the telephone number for the state?s Lawyer Referral Service.

Changing the Name of a Child

Only a parent or legal guardian can ask the court to change a child?s name. As in the case of an adult name change, the forms are available on the court?s website or at the clerk?s office.

Although the court?s website advices people that changing a child?s name can be accomplished without a lawyer, the fact that notice must be given to an absent parent might complicate the process. In such a situation as that, getting advice from an attorney might help to avoid problems.

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