Legal Name Change in California
How to get what you need
You’re reading this because you need some information about changing your name, your child’s, or both. The reason you need the information is clear to you. But, it can mean so many different things, depending on your unique situation. This article is divided into sections, so you can see the part that applies to you. Either you already have the legal name documents you need, and just need your ID paperwork fixed. Or, you need to get the proper name change documents and just need to know how to make all that happen. Maybe you need both. Here we go.
How Can I Know What My Official Legal Name Is?
Your first legal name was printed on your birth certificate. That is still your legal name unless you got a legal name change in California or some other place.There are only 2 ways to prove your name has been changed from the way your name is shown on your birth certificate:
- By Court Order – In California, you can request a Decree Changing Name, which is the gold standard of court orders.This court order is honored for ID throughout the U.S. and around the world. There are costs for Legal Name Change by Court Order.
- By Usage – This is the way people did it for thousands of years before there were laws, courts, ID, terrorists, etc. Generally, if you use a name exclusively for 5 or more years in a row, and you have legally changed your name by usage. This method is common, but doesn’t work in all situations. While it is legal, others aren’t required to honor it without a proper court order to do so.
If you need a Court Order, you can have FULL SERVICE help to get that.
Do You Need a Name Change Document?
Since 9/11, Officials have been increasingly concerned with people’s identity. Since your name is a major piece of your identity, requirements have stiffened about tracing it back to when you were born. That record is an essential record about your identity, including your name at birth. Maybe you have been using, or want to use a different name for yourself than the one you were born with. In that case, you’re going to need a proper name change document. If you need government ID, you will need a court order to require the ID agencies to print it for you the way you want (Social Security, Real ID, Passport, marriage license, etc.).
Usage name changes used to be acceptable, but no longer satisfy certain key ID issuers. For Social Security, California Real ID/driver’s License or state ID, increasingly for passports, marriage license, school registration, professional licensing and banks, you’re going to need legal proof documents. Get a court order, properly done, and you should have no problem getting your ID printed with your name exactly the way you want.
What’s a Name Change Document and Do You Already Have One?
If you already have a valid document, you just take the original or certified copy of it to the most convenient Social Security or other government office and have your documents printed with the name you’ve taken. See below, to read about which ID to do first, etc. A valid name change document has certain characteristics that make it universally accepted. If you know what to look for, you can see if you have what you need already. If you don’t have one yet, just complete the process for legal name change in California and you’re all set.
Valid Name Change Document Must have Specific Characteristics.
Do your documents already have this?
- The name you were born with, and your new legal name, printed in full (both of them), on a single official document
- Examples can be (must be done correctly to work): Court order from Superior Court or other high court; Marriage Certificate officially printed, processed, reviewed and approved; Adoption Order with your original name and new name each written out in full; Citizenship Certificate with correctly prepared documentation.
- Judicial or other authorized government officer’s signature. State or Federal Law citation should be showing for the government officer’s authority to approve it.
- Official Letterhead, or other Official identifying symbols or graphics on the document, showing that the name change was an authorized function of the institution identified in the letterhead.
- A Clear showing of a government seal, or other symbol showing the authority of the review process and legislative authority to approve. (Example: The Seal of the State of California)
If you’re still not sure if your documents meet the test, take it to your nearby social security or driver’s license office and ask them to make the change for you. If your document satisfies both social security and driver’s license/state ID requirements, you’re in! The rest should be easy. You get a Decree Changing Name, upon approval of a Legal Name Change from a California Superior Court. A Certified Copy of that Court Order is honored everywhere.
How Can You Get A Valid Name Change Document If You Need One?
You can file a petition in California Superior Court. If granted, you can obtain Decree Changing Name from the clerk. That’s a court order and its the gold standard for change of name documents. Every US state has a set of laws allowing for this kind of Petition case within the state. Hawaii’s process, only, is not recognized in other states. Each country also has its own rules for sanctioning legal name change. But if you live in the US now, you need to follow the process where you live now if you want to change your name for every purpose. The Legal Name Change California process satisfies every state, federal, and international standard for integrity and security.
Your Marriage Certificate may, or may not be a valid change of name document. To be valid, it must have your full maiden name, or other legal former name, AND your full new name (married). Not every kind of change of name is permitted through the marriage license, so your new name must also be a change of name legally allowed through marriage. You can test the validity of your marriage change of name by taking your original document (or certified copy) to a social security office and ask them to issue you a new social security card showing your full new name. If they do that, do the same thing with DMV, to get your Real ID issued in your new name. If both of those are done, the rest will be pretty easy.
Filing a petition in Superior Court is a sure way to get the court order you need. If your California divorce is final, you can retake your maiden name (or other former name) in California by court order through your Superior Court divorce case. If you want to change your name in California, to conform to your gender identity, you can file a Superior Court name change petition for name and gender change. All 3 of these types of court orders will satisfy the requirements for changing your name on ID reflecting your legal name in everyday life.
EZ Name Change is a FULL SERVICE Specialist: a Legal Name Change California Service. So, the following process to change your name is valid in California. Each state, and each county within each state, has its own rules for name change, but they will all have most, or all of these basic characteristics:
- Complete a set of application forms called a Petition. Fill in your current legal name, your proposed legal name, your birth information, your current address, criminal history status, and enough other personal information so the court can do a confidential criminal history assessment on you. File all that with the correct high court in your county and pay the fees your court requires (or submit a court fee waiver request, subject to court approval). California filing costs are between $435 and $480 depending on where you live now. When you’ve filed your Superior Court change of name case, you’ll get a Hearing date.
- Provide public notice, and private notice as may be appropriate, stating that you are petitioning to change your name. The notice, in California, will invite and allow people to object to your requested name change and have any such objections considered by the judge. Pay the fees for notices and provide proper proof of publication and/or service. California publishing costs are between $45 and $500, depending on your choice of publishing and residence county.
- Attend an approval hearing, or otherwise subject yourself (according to the requirements of your court) to the court’s review of your petition, any objections, your criminal history assessment, and decision.
- Upon approval, get a Certified Copy(s) of the Decree Changing Name (court order).
- Take your Certified Decree, go change your name on your California and US ID.
- Maiden Name Change – After being divorced, If you want to change your name back to your maiden or other former legal name, you may be able to do that by application through your divorce case. In California, either divorced spouse can do this. To use this process to change your name in California, you must have a final California divorce judgement and be changing your name exactly back to your maiden (or any other former legal name). You can use this either before your divorce is final, or after. Fill out the Judgement form or the Application to Restore correctly, depending on if your divorce is final or not.
- Gender Identity – If you are changing your name in California to conform to your gender identity, you can file a Petition for Change of Name, Recognition of Change of Gender, and Issuance of New Birth Certificate. This process was established by law in California, in 2018. It does not require publishing or a Hearing date, but does require correctly completed documents and a background check. This process also does allow for objections, but not in the same way as other name change Petitions.
The steps to change a minor’s name are the same as for an adult. Whether it’s for a child just days old, or for children with ages up to 17. These same steps and procedures have to be undertaken in order to have school registration, and all the other child’s ID corrected. If both parent’s petition for a name change, no extra steps are necessary. When only 1 parent will be signing the petition, it can still be done but will require additional steps to complete.Divorced parents can start the Petition together, or either spouse can by his or herself.
A non-consenting parent will have to be properly served notice of the minor’s Hearing. Serve that notice, promptly and file your Proof of Service form, so the judge can grant the petition. Sometimes, it’s not possible to serve a non-consenting parent of a minor child or children. In those situations, the Petitioning parent can supply a declaration to explain. A judge can dispense with the petitioning parent’s duty to Serve, if it can’t reasonably be done. If one parent objects, the judge may decide based on the best interests of the child. If the petition is in civil court, and a parent objects, the decision may be to have the parents seek a decision from a family law judge. it’s best for parents to reach agreement, if at all possible, before filing a petition for a child.
Once you have a Certified Copy of the Court Order, it’s effective immediately for changing a child’s school registration and all the other ID that will need to be corrected.
How to Change Your ID and Official Records AFTER Legal Name Change in California or Anywhere
Your goal should be to change your name to have all your ID proof reflect a single, complete name for you. It should be your new name, not your former name. That will allow you to eliminate a lot of questions and time later on as you move around in your life. Each ID place has its own rules and protocols for printing your name on their ID and cards for you. Try to get them all to change your name on your ID to match your name change document exactly and fully. You may have to decide how much to push, so please be practical. The object is to make things easier for you, not more difficult.
When you change your name, use your “new legal name” in everything you do. Ask anyone using your old name in written communications to please change it to reflect your new name. Again, be practical. Don’t get in unnecessary arguments about it, but be persistent. We suggest that you let close friends and family call you whatever they want, but you decide. As soon as reasonably possible, change the name over to your New Legal Name with all your essential ID first (SSA, DMV, Passport, school, work, your bank, professional licensing). Tackle the less important places (utility company, charge cards, taxes, etc.) as those statements come up. If you’re persistent, the less important places will all change over in a couple of months just by asking them to do that.
If you’re going to apply for an amended birth record in California, or any other state, you’ll need to supply them with a certified copy of your change of name Decree from Superior Court, and they will keep that one. All the other places will return your original or certified copy after they change your name upon your request. Use your name change document to prove your legal name from that point forward.
Priority List For Changing ID and Official Records
- Social Security Card – Make sure your name is correct on your social security card first. Get their Application (SS-5) from their website or any convenient office near you. Take your government issued birth record when you go, and your name change documents. They can change their records to your new name while you’re there. You may get a temporary social security card right before you leave their office. Then, you’ll get a new permanent card in the mail within a couple of weeks. Social Security is an anchor ID for you. Get that exactly right first.
- Real ID – Real ID is our nation’s new personal security clearance system. Show your Real ID for access almost anywhere throughout the U.S. Check their website for Real ID Checklist and bring all that to their office. Since they will check with social security, wait a day after making the change with social security administration. You will need your birth certificate, your Certified or Original name change document(s) and certain other documentation they need to verify your residency, etc.
- Main Bank/Employer – Take your Certified or Original name change document to your main bank (where you deposit your checks). Have them change your name on your signature card and bank registration information to your new legal name AND keep the record of your former legal names(s) so you can continue to deposit checks in that name as may be necessary. Keep depositing checks made out to your former name. Just have your bank recognize the additional former legal name(s) too. Make the change for all the documents where you have checks or contracts for income, with your request that all further checks be sent in your new legal name.
- Professional Licensing – Find their application for name change. Every professional licensing organization has an established name change process. Submit their completed application, along with a certified copy or original of your name change document. Get started as soon as it’s practical, because making these changes can take a bit of time. This will be for lots of professions and they will all have a well-established process to follow.
- School – Each school has a process for changing legal names in registration. Schools do this a lot, for minors and for adults. These changes are so you have your school credit associated with your new legal name. The registrar or registration office is where you want to make the change. This won’t take much time. 1 office visit, with your certified or original name change document, should do it.
- Passport – You may need to prioritize this if you intend to travel under your new legal name soon. Contact The Department of State, Passport Office if you have ticketed travel set to begin soon. Satellite Offices, such as post offices with a passport office inside them, are not necessarily going to be fast moving for you, so plan accordingly. There’s a 1 year grace period for name change after getting your passport or a renewal. It’s “no charge” to get a replacement with your new name within the grace period. If your current ID is in your former legal name, consider waiting until you return. For travel right away, you can change your ID when you get back. Less stress that way. If you do that, don’t change any ID until you are back for consistency.
- Birth Certificate – In California, the Department of Public Health controls and manages them for anyone born in California. If you were born elsewhere, you’ll need to contact the corresponding agency for the state or country of your birth. Most adults never bother getting an amended birth certificate after legally changing your name. Parents of infants born in California do often want to get one.
All the other places where your name is registered and recorded are of lesser priority. You can change your name with most places with a simple request. Email, phone call, or a note sent back with a payment will satisfy most accounts. In one or two billing cycles, most places will just change your name the way you want. Particularly, if you’re paying them. Once you change your name with the main places, you’ll be amazed at how quickly the others will fall in line. Your marriage license, marriage and citizenship certificates never need to be changed. Whenever you want to prove you were married, you can show your marriage certificate. Your citizenship certificate still proves you’re a citizen. Once you have a legal name change document, that’s how to prove your name from then on. It’s unnecessary to alter those certificates, but you can if you want to.
Name Change can be a life-changing event. Legal Name Change in California, whether its for your last name, first name, middle or all of them, is very personal. So, it’s important to get it right. It’s not simple or free. You have to dot “I”s and cross “t”s in order to get your own name the way you want. But if you know what to look for and what to do, It’s definitely worth it. Pretty quickly, you can have it right for the rest of your wonderful life. Get your smile on! You can do this.