How to Change Your Name in California

Changing your legal name in California involves a process with a local court. This process can take up to three months to complete. This article gives some general steps that are involved. Keep in mind these steps can change, and because there are many details that must be correct in the process of a name change, to get a name change completed as quickly and easily as possible, it may be helpful to have a lawyer assist you in the process of a name change.

Initially, a “Petition for Change of Name” must be filed with the correct court. This initial process may require multiple forms to be completed and different courts may require different forms. Before filing your “Petition for Change of Name” with the court clerk, it is strongly recommended that those forms are reviewed for accuracy before filing. Also, before filing, it is important to have at least two copies of all of the forms you are filing, as the court will keep your original copies and you will need additional copies for you records and other purposes.

There may be a requirement to publish the Order to Show Cause for Change of Name in a newspaper for a set period of time, four weeks for example. Typically, courts will have a list of approved newspapers for publishing legal notices such as this.

For a “Petition for Change of Name,” the court may or may not require a hearing. If there is a hearing, you will need to show up to court for the hearing.

If the court approves your request for a change of name, the Judge will sign a document called “Decree Changing Name.” With the signed decree, you can get a certified copy of the decree from the court clerk. From there, you can use the certified copy of the decree to change legal documents, such as your birth certificate, social security card, and other identification.

In this process, the court may deny a name change if it finds that a name is being changed to commit fraud or to avoid legal issues, to avoid the police, or for any other illegal reason.

Costs related to this process will including a filing fee with the court, fees to publish a legal notice (if required), and fees to pay a lawyer, if you decide to have a lawyer help you through the name change process. Note, for very low-income people, the court may grant a waiver of court fees.

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