How to Change Name Legally in California
There’s a Common Way – There’s a Legal Way
Change Name (or Name Change) is free and easy until you need someone to change their records for you. But when you ask them to please Change Your Name, or Change Your Child’s Name, they say they will as soon as you give them a Court Order or some other acceptable proof. That’s because a person’s name is a valuable possession and it’s protected by a lot of safeguards all over our lives. So, you can “Change Name” officially … You just have to invest a little time and money to get it done right.
There’s probably one pressing reason you want to Change Names (yours or your child’s). Maybe it’s for school, work, Social Security, Passport, for Honor (or dishonor), etc. But, if you need one important record changed, you’re going to need others changed too. Sooner or later, you’ll need to get them all squared away with your Changed Name. So, here’s the simple path you can take to make your Change Name situation work for you. This will take some time and a bit of money, but it’s the quickest way to get this done…officially and fully. Here goes:
1. What Change Name Proof is required?
Find out from whichever place is the one where you tried to do or need to Change Name records first, (but they won’t let you yet) exactly what proof they will accept to make the records change you’re requesting. Every government or private organization has a process to Change Names. Get a copy of it or have them explain exactly what you have to show them so they will make the change you want.
Almost every one of them will probably accept a Change Name Court Order. Every State Court system has a process for granting them. They’re called different things in different states, but they are all established by Court Order. Make sure it’s what they will accept AND find out what else they may want in addition to a Change Name Court Order. A Marriage Certificate is often acceptable when your Change Name request is to go to your married last name.
A little bit of time is required for this. No money is required to find out what they’ll accept.
2. Get the Change Name Proof
If you need a Court Order, get it. If you need a Marriage Certificate, and hopefully that’s readily available to you, get it in your hands.
Depending on your Change Name situation, you may need a copy of a Court Order where your Changed Name was already the subject of a Court Order. For instance, after a divorce or an adoption proceeding. If you went through one of those procedures, you might still be able to get a Court Order from that same proceeding if you didn’t get one at the time. Contact your attorney, if you had one, or the court adviser where you had your proceeding to see what can be done to get what you need.
If you don’t have a prior court proceeding to try for, you can always file a Change Name Petition in the proper court where you live now. You can usually do this without needing to hire an attorney, though you may want to hire a service to do your Petition for you and give you instructions. A Court Order from a Change Name Petition proceeding is accepted proof of legal name change in all 50 states and the Federal Government (Hawaii Change Name Orders are a bit of an exception). (to see representative source information citations, see “**” below)
EZNameChange.com produces completed ready-to-file Petitions for Change of Name, with step-by-step instructions for completing the Court Order process. We charge $115.00 online for the States we do.
Getting your Court Order by Petition will usually cost you a court filing fee, commonly between $50-$500, and a publishing fee of between $Free and $500. The prices vary by County and by State all over the country. Also, single parents ( to Change the Name of a child) may have costs to serve an uncooperative parent ($Postage – $100) and, in some places, a background investigation and/or fingerprinting costs are also a required part of the court process to Change Names.
California Costs, generally on the high side, are about $7-800 unless you use a lawyer (add $300-$1,000 for a lawyer). That amount includes a Certified Copy of the Change Name Court Order (the actual piece of paper you’ll show to get your records changed).
3. Present your Change Name Proof
and get your Records Changed.
If you have an original copy of the Change Name Court Order, it will probably work to change your records if you don’t mind handing it over while the change is being made. Otherwise, you can use a Certified Copy to get the job done. BUT…don’t assume. Ask the place where you want the records changed exactly what they require, get it in writing if you can, and get the name of the person giving you the answer.
Make a list of all the places you need to get Changed Name recorded officially and go after them one-by-one until they’re all done correctly. You can usually get some sort of proof the Change has been properly done (e.g. A new Social Security Card).
Getting Your Changed Name accepted is a big deal.
To Change Names, unofficially, is pretty simple. You just decide to do it, start using the New Name, and pretty soon it’s done. But to get it done so it’s accepted in all the official ways,…that’s not so simple. And the people who do go all the way through with it all say it’s worth it!
When it’s worth it to you, invest the time and money to get it done right. A Change Name Court Order is a kind of golden ticket to get all the most important records changed to reflect your Name exactly the way you want it to be shown…now, and for a very long time to come.
** You can research some acceptance requirements online:
See Social Security Change Name rules, click here.
See the Form for Pennsylvania DMV (Penndot) Change Name, click here
Every state has their own motor vehicles department Change Name rules. Every school has a Change Name policy. Most every other State or Federal Government operations have a printed policy for Change Name that may well be available to you online. (for online inquiries, make sure you’re getting accurate information from the correct source).
Hawaii has an administrative process through their Lt Governor’s Office, which is not a Court process. To see that process, click here.