CALIFORNIA NAME CHANGE
A People’s Choice can save you hundreds of dollars by preparing your
California name change documents instead of an expensive attorney!
Family Law Learning Center
Our online learning center provides quick access to valuable information contained in our web
site, California and Federal Codes, Court web sites and other legal sources of information.
Adult Name Change: An adult can petition the court to officially grant a name change. The process involves filing several forms and following the court’s name change procedures. The result is a court order recognizing the new name. An adult
name change court process takes approximately two months.
If a woman was divorced in California and did not change her name during that proceeding, she can later request the family
law court to restore her birth or former name at any time after the divorce becomes final. This is a much simpler process
than a formal adult name change and can be accomplished fairly quickly through the family law court (See Changing Name During or After Divorce below).
Special considerations pertain to adults who want to change their name and who are in prison, on parole or registered as
sex offenders. They include:
- If you are in State prison, the court will not hear your petition unless you have written approval of the Director of
Corrections. Whether or not to grant you permission is entirely at the discretion of the Director. [CCP Section 1279.5(b)]
- If you are on parole, the court will not hear your petition without the written approval of your parole agent or
probation officer. By state law, your parole agent or probation officer must determine whether your name change would pose a security risk to the community. [CCP Section 1279.5(c)]
- If you are a registered sex offender under California Penal Code Section 290, the court will change your name only
if the court determines that granting your petition “is in the best interest of justice” and will not adversely affect
public safety. If the court grants your name change, you must notify local authorities of the change within five days [CCP Section 1279.5(d)].
Reasons to Petition for Adult Name Change: The court will need an explanation for why an adult desires to change their name. Some of these reasons may include:
- Your present name is inconvenient, hard to spell, unappealing, embarrassing or confusing.
- The proposed name better suits your identity. For example, you have already used the proposed name for an
extended period of time.
- The proposed name is an ancestral name.
- The proposed name is your birth name.
- The proposed name is a combination of two family names.
Restrictions on your new name: If you seek to change your name through a court Petition, the judge can refuse to
grant your new name if a substantial reason exists for the denial. Under California law, “substantial reasons” include:
- You may not choose a name for “fraudulent purposes” (meaning you intend to do something illegal).
- You may not “interfere with the rights of others” which generally means choosing the name of a famous person
with the intent to somehow profit from doing so.
- You may not use a name that would be “intentionally confusing.”
- You may not choose a name that could be considered “fighting words,” which includes threatening or obscene
words, racial slurs or other words likely to incite violence.
- Unless the judge is aware of a substantial reason to deny your request for a change of name, the judge has a duty
to approve your name change.
Petitioning the Court to Change the Name of a Minor: In the case of a minor child, where both parents agree,
changing a child’s name can often be as easy as changing the name of an adult. One or both parents can also petition the
court to change the name of their minor child. Where both parents request the change, courts normally grant the request
automatically. When one parent alone files a petition to change a child’s name, the other parent must be given proper notice
of the proposed name change. If the other parent does not object or if the absent parent has abandoned the minor child, the court will most likely grant the name change.
If a minor child is being adopted, the minor’s name can be changed through the adoption proceedings without having to file a
separate court action.
Reasons to Petition for Child’s Name Change: If you want to change the name of a child, the court will need an
explanation for why you are petitioning to change the name of a minor child. Some of these reasons may include:
- You were awarded custody of the child and the natural parent has failed to support the child, does not show
parental interest in the child and has not exercised visitation rights.
- It is in the minor’s best interest, preventing embarrassment and inconvenience, to have the same surname as the
parent with whom the minor resides.
- The minor is mature enough to choose his own name and wishes to be known by the proposed name. The parent
petitioning for the name change consents to and prefers the new proposed name.
- The minor lives with their legal guardian and desires to have the same last name as their guardian to prevent
embarrassment and inconvenience.
Changing Name During or After Divorce: Some women desire to change a name after divorce. Changing your name
after a divorce is a very personal decision. If the parties have children, often the woman does not desire to change her
name because of the children. Furthermore, the process of changing records such as driver’s license, social security card,
credit cards, etc. can be very time consuming, and some individuals may not feel the need or importance to revert to their former name after a divorce.
In California, as in most states, you can request that the judge handling your divorce make a formal order to restore a
former name or restore a birth name. If your divorce decree contains such an order, you will only need to obtain a certified
copy of the Judgment. Once you have this official documentation, you can use it to have your name changed on your identification and personal records.
If you did not request your name change through a divorce proceeding, you can make a special request after the divorce is
final by applying to the court where your divorce case was heard.
After a divorce is finalized, a mother cannot change her children's last names to her maiden name without special court
petition for change of name. This is because historically courts have ruled that a father had an automatic right to have his
child or children keep his last name if he continued to actively perform his parental role.
A People’s Choice can save you hundreds of dollars by preparing your California name change documents instead of an expensive attorney!