Legal Documents to Complete
In order for a parent to get a legal name change for a child in the state of California, the parents need to file a Petition for Name Change with the Superior Court of the county in which the child lives. Within the Petition for Name Change, you must also file an Attachment Form for each child whose name you are changing, an Order to Show Cause for Change of Name, and a Decree Changing Name. Most courthouses will also require a Civil Case Cover Sheet used to identify your Petition. These forms are available at the links below:
- Petition for Change of Name: Form NC-100
- Attachment to Petition: Form NC-110
- Order to Show Cause for Change of Name: Form NC-120
- Civil Case Cover Sheet: Form CM-010
Fill in all applicable information on all four forms and make two copies of each form. Note that the Order to Show Cause form asks you to request a court date. You should request a court date that is at least six weeks in the future. Once you have completed all of the forms, make two copies of each form and bring them to the county clerk’s office. The clerk’s office is typically in the county’s superior courthouse. The locations and contact information for the California County Courthouses are available here: California Judicial Branch.
At the clerk’s office, tell them you want to file a Petition for Change of Name and give them the two copies of the documents you have already completed. The Clerk’s office for individual counties may have additional forms for you to fill out such as a Criminal Background Information Form. They will then file the Petition with the court and you will be required to pay a filing fee. Filing fees vary by county. The Clerk then sets a court date for you to appear before a judge.
Publishing the Order to Show Cause
Once the Petition has been filed with the Clerk of Court, you need to publish the Order to Show Cause in an approved newspaper of general circulation one day per week for four consecutive weeks, anytime before the court date. Be sure to ask the Clerk of Court for a list of approved newspapers. After publishing, request a proof of publication from the newspaper.
Note: For personal security reasons, you do not have to publish the Order in a newspaper if you are a participant in the State Witness Program or in the Address Confidentiality Program.
There are additional notification steps you must follow if you want to change the name of your child without the other parent’s approval if you want to change the name of your child if you are the child’s guardian and not a parent.
The Judge’s Approval or Denial of the Petition
If no written objections are filed two weeks before the court date, the judge may grant the petition without a court appearance. You should contact the Clerk of Court two days in advance of your court date to find out if a court appearance is still scheduled. If the court date is still scheduled, you will need to appear before the judge with a copy of all of the forms listed above and the proof of publication obtained from the approved newspaper. If the judge approves the Petition for Change of Name, he or she will sign the original Decree Changing Name you previously filed. Once the Decree is signed, you should obtain a certified copy from the Clerk of Court. The certified copy of the Decree Changing Name can then be used to change all of your child’s legal documents, including his or her birth certificate, social security card, passport, and driver’s license.
Note: If you don't have a certified birth certificate, you can use Rocket Lawyer's Birth Certificate Request Letter to get one.
Additional Steps For Specific Cases:
- Security Reasons for not publishing the Order to Change Name
For personal security reasons, you do not have to publish the Order in a newspaper if you are a participant in (1) the State Witness Program; or (2) in the Address Confidentiality Program and the petition states that you are (a) petitioning to avoid domestic violence, or (b) petitioning to avoid stalking, or (c) you are filing as a victim of sexual assault. If you are enrolled in the Domestic Violence Confidentiality Program, the Petition for Name Change and the Decree should indicate that your child’s name is confidential and on file with the Secretary of State instead of giving the proposed name.
- One parent wants to change the name of a minor without the other parent's approval
To change the name of your child without the permission of the other parent, at least 30 days before the court date you must also notify the other parent of your intention to change the child’s name. You must serve the Petition, Attachment, and Order to Show Cause with the written court date on the other parent.
If the other parent lives in California, you need to have someone 18 or older, other than yourself, find and present the papers to the other parent, in person, and have him or her fill out a Proof of Service of Order to Show Cause (Form NC-121). Make sure you get a copy of this form, because you will need it on your court date to show the judge that you informed the other parent of your intention to change the child’s name.
If the parent lives outside California, you will need to have another adult, other than yourself, mail the paperwork to the other parent by first class certified mail with a return receipt requested. The return receipt will be your proof that the other parent received the paperwork at least 30 days in advance of the court date. The adult who mailed the paperwork for you will need to fill out a Proof of Service of Order to Show Cause (Form NC-121) and give it to you for your court date appearance. The remainder of the steps will remain the same as above.
- You are the child's legal guardian (and not the parent)
The steps for a guardian to change the name of a child are nearly the same as the steps for one parent to change the name of their child (see above). The guardian should follow the steps for changing the name of the minor and also serve the parents, if living, with the Petition, Attachment, and Order to Show Cause at least 30 days prior to the court date. If the parents are not living, the guardian should serve all surviving grandparents at least 30 days prior to the court date.
If the parents or grandparents live in California, you must have someone 18 or older, who is not yourself, find and present the papers to each parent or grandparent in person and have them fill out a Proof of Service of Order to Show Cause (Form NC-121) for each person and give it to you. You will need these forms on your court date in order to show the judge that you informed the parents or grandparents of your intention to change the child’s name. Each parent or grandparent must receive their own copy of the papers, and a separate Proof of Service must be completed for each parent or grandparent by the server.
If the parents or grandparents live outside California, you will need to have another adult, not yourself, mail a separate copy of the paperwork to each parent or grandparent by first class certified mail with a return receipt requested for each. The return receipt will be your proof that each parent or grandparent received the paperwork at least 30 days in advance of the court date. The adult who mailed the paperwork for you will need to fill out a Proof of Service of Order to Show Cause (Form NC-121) for each parent or grandparent and give it to you for your court date appearance.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.