How To Change Your Child’s Last Name In California
First, you need to know that you can do this. You can.
To change your child’s last name, or the first or middle names (or all of them at the same time) learn what you need to do, below. Then take the first step, then the next step, and so on. In a few months time, this will be done properly and behind you. Now, that’s something to look forward to with a smile.
This will tell you the steps, the costs, and enough about the process so you can get started with some confidence. When you’re done, and have an Official California legal name change document, you can get your child’s new ID and Official Records changed with school, social security, passport and birth certificate.
Can I Legally Change My Child’s Last Name?
To change a name with school, social security, passport office or other government agency, you won’t get their consent without a Certified Copy of a Decree Changing Name (changing name by deed poll is not available in the US). This form, is a court order you get after completing the Petition and Hearing process in Superior Court. A court clerk will Certify a Copy of your Decree Changing Name after your judge signs it at the courthouse. The primary government agencies will make name changes when you give them a Certified Copy of a properly prepared name change court order.
The difference between legal name change and informally changing a name (sometimes called Usage, or Common Law name change), is the legal petition and approval process. When you go through the court process you end up with name change court order. People and government offices must obey the court order. Without a court order, honoring the new name is elective and not required.
The Child Name Change Petition Process In California
A Petition for Change of Name is a court form. It’s one of a collection of court forms that are called a Name Change Petition. This is the official process if you want legally change your child’s last name, or any part of your child’s name. Authority for this process comes from the California Name Change Laws (CCP1275-1279.6)
Step 1: Go to a superior court and ask a court clerk for the name change forms. Or, look for them online. (Hint: many counties have additional “local” forms you need to complete and turn it too. Look for those or ask the courthouse filing clerk if they have any local name change forms you need to use).
Step 2: Complete the name change petition forms, sign them in the required spots, and make an extra copy of each page. Take both copies of your Petition to the civil unlimited filing window at your superior courthouse and pay them the filing fee. (Hint: chose a qualified newspaper and write in their name in section 3a of the Order To Show Cause Form before you make your copy or file at the court). The filing clerk will give you a hearing date to where you will get your court order, upon approval. Ask the clerk for a Conformed Copy of your filed petition, and an extra copy of the Conformed Order to Show Cause Form.
Step 3: Take one of the Conformed Order to Show Cause Forms to your chosen qualified newspaper and have them run your required publishing (see CCP 1277(a)(2)). Ask them to file a Proof of Publication with your court for you after the last publication AND give you a copy so you can take it to your hearing, just in case. Then go to your Hearing, where your judge can grant your petition, upon approval. Get your Certified Copy of the Decree right after your successful Hearing.1275
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Some Valid Reasons For Name Change Of A Minor
Changing Child Last Name After Marriage
If you or your spouse, or both of you, had children before this marriage, then you may want to help your kid(s) to share your family name or your new spouse’s last name. Your child’s name can be changed to the name of the person who raised the child instead of the biological parent. Older children, as they approach adulthood, may want the name they’ve been using as their legal name, instead of the one on their birth certificate. You can change your child’s last name to honor a grandparent or other ancestor, so that person’s last name might continue on. All these situations, and more, are valid reasons for changing your child’s name at any age up to 18.
Changing Child’s Last Name After Divorce
A parent can retake a maiden name in a divorce, but a child’s name doesn’t change automatically. You can petition to change your child’s last name after divorce, so that you can share a family name going forward. Whether you shared last names with your spouse or not, as a single parent you’re going to want last name connection with your child for school, medical, travel and all the other growing up situations that come with real life. Like most things for single parents, changing a child’s name with a non-consenting parent isn’t easy, but it’s doable and can be very important.
Changing Baby Last Name After Registration
When a child is born, you may have to make a hasty naming decision and may have a change of mind in a few days or after some years. Maybe one parent couldn’t be there to help with the final naming decision. Or, maybe the child’s name was chosen when 2 parents were going to be raising the child, but 1 parent isn’t in the picture any more. Sometimes the extended family chimes in with strong wishes for the child’s name and you want to honor those requests. As parents get to know their new baby, sometimes the parents come to want a different name than the one they chose. You can legally change your baby’s name within days, weeks, months or years if you want, and a whole lot of new parents do just that. When a baby’s name is legally changed, that child will grow up with the new name and all the ID and Official Records will be solidly established throughout childhood and beyond.
Change Baby’s Name On Birth Certificate in California
After a legal name change, you can get an amended birth certificate from the California Department of Public Health, if your child was born in California. Each state has their own rules for birth certificate name changes. In California, all birth certificates are issued and managed by the CDPH, who will prepare a new 2-page Amended Birth Certificate if you complete their Application (Forms VS-23 and Sworn Statement VS-20) and send a Certified Copy of your Decree Changing Name.
What If One Parent Is Not In The Picture Or Doesn’t Agree?
One parent, alone, has legal rights to petition for this. It happens a lot. However, your judge has to follow the law (CCP 1277(a)(4) if one parent doesn’t consent. Marital status doesn’t matter in this. Whether you were never married, still married, or divorced, all these same rules apply.
If one parent is out of the picture, you don’t need consent to change your child’s last name. You do need to serve him or her with a conformed copy of the Order to Show Cause form. The other parent still does not have to consent or agree, just get served. Once served, a Proof of Service form must be filed. If service can’t be done, you can submit a declaration to explain why you can’t reasonably do that. Only your judge can decide if the requirement to serve can be waived or done in some other way.
When 1 parent objects, name change judges are not likely to side with one parent over another. HOWEVER, if you already have a family law court order saying you have 100% legal custody, or other custody orders that apply, your name change judge may approve your application even if one of the parents object. (Hint: if you know the other parent will formally object, try and get cooperation or agreement before petitioning).
Both parents can sign the petition before filing, whether they live together or not. When both parents agree, the judge doesn’t have to decide about that issue in order to grant the petition.
Can A Mother Change A Child’s Last Name
Yes. When a mother is raising a child by herself, it’s important that the child’s last name makes all the growing up situations work with school, friends, travel, etc. Either parent can petition to change a child’s last name. It’s more complicated for a judge to decide such cases, but so long as all the rules are followed, no objections are made and the judge thinks it would be in the best interests of the child, the name change can definitely be granted in California (see CCP 1277(a)(1, 2, 3 and 4, particularly). If one parent objects, to the judge, the judge may resolve the objection, deny the Petition, or refer the parents to family court for resolution. However, in most situations where a mother is raising the child alone, she will be successful in changing a child’s last name if everything is done right. Same goes for a father raising a child without the mother.
Can You Change Your Child Last Name Without Father Consent?
Yes you can. Unfortunately, a father is often not in the picture when a child is growing up. Sometimes a mother drops out of a child’s life and the same thing is true for the father. The non-consenting parent has to be Served with Notice (Conformed NC-120, signed by a judge) OR the petitioning parent must provide a declaration to explain why the other parent can’t reasonably be served. The judge can excuse the petitioning parent from Serving the other parent, but may also require that Notice must be properly Served or may deny the Petition. The missing parent’s Consent isn’t needed. But the judge will want to be sure the other parent knows the Name Change is happening unless it’s not reasonably possible to do that (see CCP 1277(a)(4).
What Are All The Costs For the Court Order Process?
Court Filing Costs are the biggest part of the expense. In California, petitions are filed in a superior court where the cost to file is between $435 and $480. No court charges less that $435 for this. (Hint: All superior courts have a Fee Waiver Request form for if you can’t afford the filing charges along with your regular monthly living costs).
Publishing usually costs between $80 and $175, but can be as much as $500. Get that cost before you write in your chosen newspaper if you can. $90-$110 is a common cost for this. Publishing charges cannot be waived. However, conforming to gender identity and Safe-At-Home petitions have exemptions).
Petition Preparation costs nothing if you do it yourself. FULL SERVICE with EZ Name Change costs $190. A lawyer can do that for between $500 and $2500. You can get a Forms company to help you fill out the forms only for between $50 and $150. A paralegal may help for between $300-$500.
OTHER COSTS: Serving Notice can cost between $40 and $100, if done by personal service. Certified Mail service (for out-of-state or country) is about $10 or less. Help to prepare a declaration can be $75 to $150 or more. If you want to get an amended birth certificate, they charge $23 or so per Certified Copy. The court Certified Copy you need costs $25.50 each, but some courts give one or more to you without charge.
Typical TOTAL Costs for a child’s legal name change, with FULL SERVICE, are between $700-$800. You would pay $115 to start and the rest after you sign the documents prepared for you, just before they get submitted to court.
Can You Change Your Child’s First And/Or Middle Name Too?
Yes. None of the costs, or process, are different whether you want to change 1 single letter or every part of the whole legal name. So, once you start this process, get the whole name exactly the way you want. And, this process works the same whether you’re married, not married, divorced or never married.
Changing a Child’s First Name in California
You can change just your child’s first name if you want. Many times a child grows up with a nickname that becomes more the child’s real name than the one you put on the birth certificate. If you get a Decree Changing Name (court order), your child can take the nickname instead of the existing legal name, and take the New Legal Name into adulthood. As parents, you can petition for a first name change just because you changed your mind. That’s a perfectly good reason too.
Changing Middle Name Of Child
You can change only your child’s middle name if you want, without changing the first or last names. Changing a child’s middle name is often done to honor someone in the family. However, sometimes a middle name becomes the child’s first name in real life, and that kind of change can be legally made through the Name Change Petition process too. An older child might want a different middle name to match the child’s self identity. There’s an unlimited number of reasons why a child’s middle name can be changed legally.
Adding A Middle Name To A Child
A middle name can be added to a child’s legal name, whether the child has one or more middle names already or not. If the child has no middle name on the birth certificate, you may be able to add a middle name without using the court order name change process. For children born in California, search the website of the California Department of Public Health for information about correcting a birth certificate to add a middle name (when the middle name section is blank). To add a middle name, when the child already has one or more middle names, you will need to get a Superior Court Order, Granting the new middle name, and then you can have the child’s ID and Official Records changed to match.
The Pros And Cons Of Child Name Change In California
Pros: First and foremost, there is a deep personal happiness that people get from having the right last name for their life. This will likely change your child name for the better, with a sense of belonging within the family. But, is also true that school and medical situations will be easier when your share the same last name. You can get the birth certificate amended to the new last name if you want. The court process will legally change the name, but won’t effect anything else; child custody orders, child support, background checks later in life, who the parents are, whether a parent can visit or not, etc.
Cons: If you want to get an amended birth certificate, that will take another couple of months after you get your court order. You don’t need to do that, but you can. You will need to get social security changed, but that’s a pretty simple process. If you have foreign passport authorities to consider, check with them to see exactly what they require. Your California Certified Decree Changing Name is the gold standard worldwide. But, you may need additional documentation too.
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