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There are four ways to change your name in California:

Petition for a name change
If you need to petition the courts to change your name, it can take up to three months after you submit your paperwork. You can complete your forms online or download them. You may also need to complete paperwork for your local court. You can find the full instructions here: File a Petition to Change your Name.

Divorced or getting divorced
If you are getting divorced and want to change your name back to your birth name, you can often do this in conjunction with your divorce case. The California Courts website provides instructions for finalized divorces, non-finalized divorces and out-of-state divorces here: Name Change After or During a Divorce Case.

Gender and name change
In California you can legally change your gender with or without a name change. In this case, you do not need a court order unless you want one. You can change your driver's license, social security card and US passport, as well. However, you may need a court order if you want to change your birth certificate. To learn more, see Gender Change.

Getting married
If you recently married in California, you can usually easily change your name by contacting your local DMV office and the social security office. You may only need to show your marriage license to change your name. In some cases, they may ask for a court order. See, Change an Adult Name for more information.

Why might a judge deny my name change?

If you require a court order to change your name, you may be denied for several reasons, including:

  • The judge finds that you are attempting to commit fraud.
  • You are trying to hide from the law, police or other legal agency.
  • You are on parole.
  • You are incarcerated

What documents do I need to change my name?

To change your name, you may need proof of citizenship or lawful immigration status such as your passport or birth certificate, marriage license (if taking a married name), and other forms of ID such as driver's license and social security card. If you do not have these documents, you can request that the issuing government agency send you these items (usually for a fee). After your name change, you may want to notify personal and business contacts that you have changed your name using a Name Change Notification Letter.

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.

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