Everything You Need to Know about How to Legally 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.
Legal Name Change – Do You Really Need to go Through All That?
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.
What is the Name Change Petition Process and How can I do it?
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
NOTE: EZ Name Change has FULL SERVICE and can do all the steps for you to get your court order, on approval.
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.
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 $60 and $130, but can be as much as $500. Get that cost before you write in your chosen newspaper if you can. $80 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.
Can I Change the 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.
The Pros and Cons to Change Your Child’s Last Name
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.