BUT most government agencies currently require a court order as official proof of a name change. Government regulations to fight against fraud, like identity theft, are making it almost impossible to change your name without a court order.
There are several ways to change your name:
Note: If you want to legally change your name AND your gender, there is a separate court process and forms for doing that. Click for instructions to change your name and gender. If you just want to change your name for now and intend to change your gender later, continue with the instructions in this section for changing your name. Later on, if you want to change your gender, click for instructions to change your gender only.
If you have to file a Petition for Change of Name in court, the process can take up to 3 months. After you file your Petition for Change of Name, you will get a court date on your Order to Show Cause for Change of Name that will be between 6 and 12 weeks away. If your paperwork is correct and you followed all the required steps, on or soon after your court date, the court will give you a court order called a “decree” changing your name. Some courts are busier than others and it may take longer.
In some limited cases, the judge may not agree to change your name. The main reasons why this can happen are:
If you are on probation or parole, the judge may not agree to change your name unless your probation or parole officer is aware of your change of name and gives written consent. If you are incarcerated in a California state prison, the Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has to give permission to the court to let you change your name. If you are incarcerated in federal prison, get permission from the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
If, after getting divorced, you are changing your name to your maiden name or a prior married name you used, the process may not take that long. Usually the court will be able to process your paperwork within 2 to 4 weeks. Ask the clerk at your local court for an estimate of how long it will take. Click to change your name in your divorce case.
Once you have your court order changing your name (whether through your divorce or through the regular Petition for Change of Name process), you can use that court order to change your legal name on government-issued identification documents such as your driver’s license, passport, and social security card. You will generally need a certified copy of the decree changing your name. The court clerk can provide you with that. You will have to pay a small fee or qualify for a fee waiver.
Note: If you are a victim of domestic violence and are concerned about keeping your change of name confidential, there are ways for your new name to remain confidential and not appear on the court records. You can register with the Safe at Home program to keep the information confidential. Ask your local domestic violence shelter, victim services unit in the local District Attorney’s Office, or family law facilitator for help. Click for help finding your local domestic violence agency.
Fill out these forms:
Some courts also require you to fill out local forms to ask for a name change, like a criminal background information form. Ask your local court clerk if there are local forms you have to fill out. You may be able to find your court's local form on your superior court's website. Make sure to keep copies of any local forms you fill out.
The court will keep the original. One copy is for you; the other is for the publication in a newspaper.
The clerk will stamp your forms with “Filed,” keep the original and return the copies to you. The Order to Show Cause will have information on your court date, time, and department number.
You will have to pay a filing fee. Find out how much the filing fee is for a first petition (sometimes called a “first appearance” or “first papers”). If you cannot afford the fee, you can ask for a fee waiver.
In most cases you must publish the Order to Show Cause for Change of Name (Form NC-120) in a newspaper of general circulation once a week for 4 weeks in a row. Your court most likely has a list of newspapers that are approved for publishing legal notices.The cost for publication can vary greatly between newspapers and your court fee waiver will not waive your publication fees. So it is very important that you check the price of publishing BEFORE you put the name of the newspaper in the Order to Show Cause for Change of Name . This is because once the judge signs the Order to Show Cause for Change of Name you must publish in the newspaper listed on the form. You cannot change the form after it is signed by the judge.
Go to court on your hearing date and take your proof that the Order to Show Cause was published in the newspaper along with the Decree Changing Name (Form NC-130) for the judge to sign.
If the judge approves your request for a change of name, the judge will sign the Decree Changing Name
If you have any questions, contact the family law facilitator or a lawyer. The family law facilitator may also be able to review your forms to make sure you filled them out properly.
If your divorce was not in California, you have 2 options: