California Dreamin’: Crafting Your New Name Legally

by | Apr 18, 2024 | Divorce, Firm News

In the realm of California family law, name changes are often an item that come up during dissolution proceedings, paternity disputes, and custody proceedings involving minor children. While the facts specific to the case type may impact the ability or requirements needed to obtain a change of name, there are some general requirements which this blog seeks to provide an overview of for your consideration. Ultimately, it is best to obtain a licensed California attorney experienced with these issues to provide case specific advice on how to affect a name change and this blog’s purpose is solely to provide generalized relevant information as to how this process functions within the State of California.

General Requirements:

  1. Petition for Name Change: To change your name or your minor child’s name in California, you typically start by filing a petition for a name change in the county where you reside. The petition form can usually be obtained from the Superior Court in your county or online through the court’s website. Alternatively, your California Counsel will likely be knowledgeable about how to obtain and execute this form as well.
  2. Fill Out the Petition: The petition will require you to provide information such as your current name, the desired new name, the reason for the name change, and any other relevant details. If you’re changing your child’s name, you’ll also need to provide information about the child’s current name and the other parent’s consent if applicable. *

*Please note that minor children’s name changes may have additional considerations and requirements.

  1. File the Petition: Once you’ve completed the petition, you’ll need to file it with the clerk of the Superior Court in your county. There will likely be a filing fee associated with this process, though fee waivers may be available for those who qualify based on financial need.
  2. Notice to Interested Parties: After you file the petition, you may be required to provide notice of the name change request to certain parties, such as the other parent of your child if you’re seeking to change their name. This typically involves serving a copy of the petition and any required notices to the interested parties.
  3. Court Hearing: In most cases, you’ll need to attend a court hearing where a judge will review your petition and any objections that have been raised. If the judge approves the name change, they will issue a court order formally changing the name. This is generally no an issue where an adult is simply seeking to change their name but where there’s an ongoing dissolution proceeding or where a minor child’s name is being sought to be changed, there is an increased likelihood that there may be some objections raised by the other Parties to the litigation which must be addressed at this hearing.
  4. Updating Documents and Records: Once you have the court order granting the name change, you’ll need to update your identification documents, such as your driver’s license, passport, and Social Security card, to reflect the new name. If you change your child’s name, you’ll also need to update their documents and notify relevant parties, such as schools and healthcare providers.

It’s important to note that the process for changing a name can vary depending on the circumstances, and there may be additional requirements or steps involved in certain cases.

Additional Considerations Seeking to Change a Minor’s Name:

As noted above, there are additional considerations and requirements potentially where a minor child’s name is sought to be changed in California. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Best Interests of the Child: The court’s primary concern in family law cases, including name changes, is the best interests of the child. This means that any decision regarding a name change will be made with the child’s well-being and welfare as the top priority.
  2. Consent: If one parent seeks to change the name of a minor child, they typically need the consent of the other parent unless that parent’s rights have been terminated or they cannot be located. If both parents agree to the name change, the process may be relatively straightforward. However, if one parent objects, the court will consider the reasons for the objection and make a determination based on the best interests of the child.
  3. Notification: Even if both parents agree to the name change, there may be requirements for notifying other interested parties, such as relatives or legal guardians, depending on the circumstances.
  4. Court Approval: A judge must approve the name change before it becomes legally effective. The court will consider factors such as the reasons for the name change, the child’s relationship with each parent, any potential impact on the child’s identity or well-being, and other relevant factors.
  5. Avoiding Fraud or Harm: The court will also ensure that the name change is not being sought for fraudulent purposes or to avoid legal obligations. For example, a parent cannot change a child’s name to evade child support obligations or hide from law enforcement.
  6. Public Interest: In some cases, the court may consider the public interest in allowing or denying a name change. For instance, if the proposed name change is offensive or likely to cause confusion, the court may deny the request.
  7. Age of the Child: Depending on the child’s age, their wishes may also be taken into consideration by the court, particularly if they are old enough to express a reasoned preference.

It’s essential and strongly recommended that you take the opportunity to consult with a family law attorney in California if you’re considering a name change for yourself or your child, as the specific requirements and procedures can vary depending on the circumstances of your case. While this provides a general overview of common steps and requirements, this is not a “one size fits all” application and analysis and licensed California Family Law Attorney will be best positioned to advise you and assist with this process on a case specific basis.