California Requirements to Legally Change a Person's Name

By Brenna Davis

People change their names for a variety of reasons, including marriage, divorce, or adoption. Changing your name in the state of California generally requires a petition for name change, and a court order if you are changing the name of a minor. Name changes are filed in the Superior Court of the county in which you reside.

Child Name Changes

Although a child generally doesn't need to consent to a name change, the change can still affect her life. Therefore, California typically requires a court order to change a child's name. This may occur as part of child custody proceedings, for example, or when the father of a child is legally established and requests a name change. In some cases, such as the adoption of a child, a court order may not be necessary as the name change is part of the adoption proceeding itself. If you don't want to change your child's name, but only want to correct errors on her birth certificate, file a request to amend the child's birth certificate instead.

Name Change Petition

If you aren't getting married or divorced and want to change your name, you'll need to file a name change petition in the Superior Court of the county where you reside. You must then advertise the name change in a general circulation newspaper for four weeks, once per week. This advertisement must state the reason for the name change and both the old and new names. In some situations, you might not be required to advertise the name change, so consult an attorney for clarification.

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Marriage Name Change

If you want to change your last name to your spouse's name, visit your local DMV or Social Security office. In most cases, they can change the name for you when you show them your marriage license. The California Judicial Branch website states that the DMV or Social Security office may not be able to change names in all cases. In some situations, you may need to file a petition for name change instead. Men are especially likely to experience difficulties with name changes; a California man sued in 2007 when he was prevented from changing his name to his wife's.

Divorce Name Change

If you want to change your name back to the name you had prior to being married, you can request this in your divorce settlement and, in most cases, will not have to file a notice of name change. If, however, you changed your name and now want to change it back--without getting divorced--you need to file a petition for a change of name. California law requires that a return to a previous name without a divorce must be advertised in a newspaper of wide circulation.

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