Many people are interested in a name change in California but are uncertain as to what it entails. It’s important that people realize that the courts do not approve all requests for name changes. Generally speaking,  the courts will not approve a name change for someone with a criminal record or unpaid traffic tickets.  In either case, the adult, with a criminal record, would need to consult with a criminal lawyer to see if his/her record can be expunged and if this would allow him/her to change the name. If there are unpaid traffic tickets, then it is best to pay the tickets before requesting a name change.

Once the attorney determines that a name change would be approved by the court, then a petition can be filed. There is a filing fee with the court that may be waived based on the income of the petitioner and other factors. Once filed, the name change is publicized in a court approved newspaper for 30 days. A court appearance is usually required. Typically the name change takes 2 to 3 months to complete, depending on the availability of the court.

If the name change is for a minor child (under the age of 18 years), the non-petitioning parent must be notified. If the petitioner does not know the whereabouts of the other parent, a search would be attempted. If the other parent is not found, the court may allow the name change to be approved. If the parents are not married, another alternative is to file a ‘paternity action’ which will establish the father and address custody, visitation and support as well as allow for a minor name change. Sometimes this is a good option in certain circumstances.

The best way to begin is to arrange for a confidential consultation with the attorney who can explain the process and complete the name change in a professional manner.

Once the name change is approved by the court, the process of changing the birth certificate, passport etc. can be started. This part of the process is addressed by the petitioner(s) and not by the lawyer or law firm. The petitioner would call the California Office of Public Records to complete the name change on certain documents and cards. Sometimes the approved court order is all that is needed to change the name on credit cards or a driver’s license.

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