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Name change after marriage in California

It is pretty simple to change your name after getting married in California. You can usually change your name at your local DMV and social security offices. You may only need to show your marriage license to change your name. In some cases, they may ask for a court order. Here’s how to do it.

What do I need to change my name after marriage?

There are not a lot of documents required (or are often requested) to change your last name to your new married name. You will need the following documents:

  • Certified marriage certificate: After you get married, you will file your marriage license with the county courthouse, and then you should receive a certified copy of your marriage certificate by mail in about two weeks. If you don’t have a copy of your marriage certificate, you can use the Marriage Certificate Request Letter
  • Photo identification: A valid driver’s license is common, but if you don’t have a driver’s license, you can use a California state ID card, which you can get from the DMV. If you don’t have a state ID or driver’s license, you can use your passport, military ID or another form of identification accepted by the DMV.
  • Birth certificate or other proof of age: A birth certificate is common, but this may also be an adoption decree or hospital record with an affidavit. If you don’t have a copy of your birth certificate, you can use the Birth Certificate Request Letter.  Both take only minutes to complete on Rocket Lawyer.

How do I change my last name after getting married in California?

Once you have your documents, you will need to request your name change at the Social Security office. They will also provide you with a new social security card that reflects your new name. You can prepare the SS-5 form that you will need ahead of time and then visit your local Social Security Office.  The staff will verify your personal documents and give you a certificate showing that the Social Security Office has approved your name change. Alternatively, mail your completed form SS-5 to your local Social Security Office with a certified copy of your proof of identification, marriage certificate, and proof of age and they will return your documents with your new social security card by mail.

Once you have the certificate approving your name change from the Social Security Office, you can take it to the Department of Motor Vehicles to change your name on your driver’s license while you wait for your new social security card. You have to do this step in person at your nearest California Department of Motor Vehicles. Your new license and Social Security Card should be mailed to you within six weeks.  These new forms of identification and the certificate from the Social Security Office may be used to change any further legal identification, like your passport.

Once you have received your new I.D. card, it is important to also change your name with any other government agencies or businesses that you work with, including any state or federal organizations, health insurance, life insurance, financial institutions, and other businesses. 

Name change after divorce in California

Changing your name in California after a divorce is relatively straightforward if you were divorced in California and you wish to change your name back to a former name, such as your birth name, maiden name, or other previous legal name. Also, you can change your name with your divorce (when your divorce is finalized) or after – even years after. 

Generally you can do this in conjunction with your divorce case by specifying this request as part of your Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation (form FL-170) and on the Judgment (form FL-180). Once the judge signs the Judgment, the Judgment is your legal proof that you changed your name. All you need to do next is get a certified copy of the signed judgment and take it to your local California DMV and Social Security offices. 

If you are changing your name after the divorce is finalized, you will need to fill out form FL-395 (Ex Parte Application for Restoration of Former Name After Entry of Judgment and Order), and file it with the court where your divorce case was filed. You may also need a self addressed envelope with appropriate postage. 

If your divorce wasn’t in California, you will need to reach out to the court that processed your divorce. Most states have a simplified process for divorce, but if they do not, you will need to petition for a name change. If you are changing your name to a name you have not had previously, you will also need to petition for a name change. 

Name change in California outside of a marriage or divorce

If you are changing your name separate from a marriage or divorce, you will need to petition the court to change your name. This process 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.

Which forms do I need to get a name change in California? 

To change your name with a name change petition, you will need to first complete the following forms:

  • Form NC-100: Petition for Change of Name.
  • Form NC-110: Attachment to Petition for Change of Name.
  • Form NC-120: Order to Show Cause for Change of Name.
    • If you are changing your name as part of a gender change, you will need to complete Form NC-125 (Order to Show Cause for Change of Name to Conform to Gender Identity) instead of Form NC-120.
  • Form CM-010: Civil Case Cover Sheet.

You may also need:

You can also complete these forms online.

What is the process to legally change a name in California?

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 and then will then file the Petition with the court. The Clerk then sets a court date for you to appear before a judge. When you get this date, you will want to make sure the court date is at least 6 weeks out. 

Once the Petition has been filed with the Clerk of Court, you need to publish the Order to Show Cause for Change of Name (Form NC-120) in an approved newspaper once a week for 4 weeks in a row (although this is not required for gender identity name changes and name changes that are confidential). This requirement must be completed anytime before the court date. You can ask the Clerk of Court for a list of approved newspapers. After publishing, request a proof of publication from the newspaper.

If you are incarcerated or on parole, you must also provide copies of your petition to the warden, sheriff or the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as appropriate to your situation. 

If no written objections are filed two weeks before the court date, the judge may grant the petition without a court appearance. You may not need to be present if no one has objected to your petition, but you should reach out to your court clerk to determine if you need to attend. If you need to attend, you will need to appear before the judge with a copy of all of your forms and the proof of publication obtained from the approved newspaper. 

If your petition is approved, the judge will sign the Decree (Form NC-130) making your name change legal. Once signed, you will need to get a certified copy of the Decree from your local court clerk. The certified copy of the Decree Changing Name can then be used to change all of your legal documents, including your birth certificate, social security card, passport, and driver’s license.

How long does it take to legally change your name in California?

The process takes at least 6 weeks, but usually 2-3 months and could be even longer depending on the availability and caseload of the court and the publishing schedule of the newspaper. Publishing in a local newspaper will take 4 weeks, and your court date will usually be at least 2-8 weeks from the last date you published. But usually this process often takes longer due to scheduling. Around major holidays, this process could take even longer. 

Do I have to publish the Order to Change Name in a newspaper?

If you are petitioning to change your name outside of the process of getting married or divorced, you will typically have to publish a notice in a local newspaper -- but there are some exceptions. 

If you need to maintain confidentiality for personal security reasons, you do not have to publish the Order in a newspaper. Specifically, 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.

You also do not need to publish if you are changing your name to match your gender identity. This is the case for both adults and minors looking to change their names as part of a gender or gender identity change. 

Can a judge reject my name change petition?

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.

Name change for a minor in California

There are many valid reasons to change a child’s name. Sometimes a child’s name is changed to add a middle name (perhaps to memorialize someone), hyphenate a child’s last name to represent both parents, match their given names to their gender identity, or just because the name given at birth is no longer the child’s preferred name. 

Most commonly, a name change for a child accompanies other changes to a family, such as adoption, marriage or divorce. Changing a child’s last name to match that of their parents can support a sense of belonging and may result in fewer uncomfortable questions about the child’s history and family structure. However, it is important to note that changing a child’s name will not affect parental rights or serve as an  “informal adoption”.

How do I legally change my child's name in California?

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. 

The parent(s) will need to first complete the following forms:

  • Form NC-100: Petition for Change of Name.
  • Form NC-110: Attachment to Petition for Change of Name.
  • Form NC-120: Order to Show Cause for Change of Name.
    • If you are changing your child’s name as part of a gender change, you will need to complete Form NC-125 (Order to Show Cause for Change of Name to Conform to Gender Identity) instead of Form NC-120.
  • Form CM-010: Civil Case Cover Sheet.

Once you have completed all of the forms, you will follow the same Name Change Petition Process as adults with the exception that both parents will need to grant approval, sign and attend the court date with the child changing their name.

Once you receive a certified copy of the Decree Changing Name from the Clerk of Court, you can then change all of your child’s legal documents, including their birth certificate, social security card and driver’s license or state I.D.

How do I change a minor’s name 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.

How do I change a child’s name if I’m a guardian and not the child’s parent?

The steps to change the name of a child are nearly the same as the steps for an adult name change. The main difference is that both of the child’s parents must consent; additionally, the guardians or parents are also often filing on behalf of the minor. 

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. 

Update these records following a name change in California

At a minimum, California requires you to update: 

  • Your state I.D or driver's license at your local DMV.
  • Your social security card at the social security office.

It is also best practice to update the following (and in some cases may be required):

  • Citizenship and imigration documentation, such as a passport or visa
  • Voter registration.
  • Payroll and administration records, such as your workplace or school. 
  • If applicable, military or veteran records. 
  • If applicable, licensing boards and associations.
  • Financial institutions, including banks, lenders, credit unions, credit cards, investment companies/brokerages, and retirement or pension accounts. 
  • Legal documentation and accounts for real estate or personal property (vehicles), including registration, titles, deeds, mortgages or lease agreements.
  • Any legal documents including those where you are listed as an agent or trustee, such as a Deed, Last Will and Testament, Living Trust or Power of Attorney.
  • Insurance documents, including auto insurance, home or renters insurance, and life insurance.
  • Bills, including utilities and subscriptions. 

You may also want to update the following:

  • Birth certificate (if you need to use it as legal proof of identification).
  • Social media and email accounts.

Get help with a name change

Although simple and straightforward for many people, changing your name can be confusing or challenging -- especially for people trying to change their names outside of a marriage or divorce. 

If you have questions, are unsure of how to move forward, or just want someone to review your paperwork, a Rocket Lawyer network attorney can answer your questions about changing your name and help you through the process. 

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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