Are you planning on getting married or going through the process of getting a divorce? If so, you may be thinking about changing your name. At Fernandez & Karney, our Los Angeles family law attorneys have created a short guide to help you navigate the name-change process successfully. If you have any questions about changing your name, do not hesitate to contact us for help.

When Can I Change My Name?

Your name is your own, and you have the right to change it at any point in your life. However, there are certain times in life when changing your name may be more realistic. Name changes are commonly performed when a person:

  • Gets married
  • Gets divorced
  • Transitions to a different gender, or
  • Wants to escape danger and domestic violence.

The process for legally changing your name can vary, depending on the reason for the change.

Changing Your Name After Marriage

If you have recently gotten married and want to take your new spouse’s last name you have the right to do so. There are three main steps that you must take to legally change your name:

1. Get a Copy of Your Certified Marriage Certificate

This will prove to the government that you have been legally married. The Marriage Certificate will be required when you visit any government agency to initiate the name change process.

2. Visit Your Local Social Security Office

You must visit your local Social Security office to formally change your name. You will be required to complete Form SS-5, which is an application for a new Social Security card. Present your certified Marriage Certificate, passport and/or driver’s license, and the completed SS-5. The Social Security Administration will review your documents and, if everything is in order, issue you a new Social Security card with your new name.

3. Notify the DMV

Your driver’s license will have to reflect your new name, so a trip to the DMV is necessary. Apply for a new license by providing your Marriage Certification, new Social Security card, and other identifying information.

4. Get a New Passport

When you change your name, you will be required to apply for a new United States passport. Provide your new documentation (Social Security card and driver’s license) to support your request.

Changing Your Name After Divorce

Have you recently gotten a divorce and no longer want to go by your ex-spouse’s last name? You have the right to take your old name back. The process for reverting back to your old name is slightly more involved than applying for a new name.

Once you decide to revert back to your old name you must contact the Clerk in the county in which your divorce was finalized. You must provide information about your divorce, including your case number, name, and the date the divorce was finalized. The Clerk will also want a copy of the Notice of Entry of Judgment that was signed by the judge.

You must also complete Ex Parte Application for Restoration of Former Name After Entry of Judgment and Order [Form FL-395]. This Form requires you to provide information about your relationship, including your spouse’s name and the date the divorce was finalized.

Once the court approves your request, you must visit the Social Security office and the DMV to change your official documents.

Changing Your First Name

If you want to change your first name in California- in addition to, or instead of your last name – you must file a petition with the court to request its permission. Many people opt to change their first name as a protective measure against domestic violence or to transition to another gender.

The process begins when you complete and file all required forms, including:

  • Petition for Name Change [Form NC-100]
  • Order to Show Cause for Change of Name [NC-120]
  • Attachment to Petition for Change of Name [NC-110], and
  • Decree Changing Name [Form NC-130]

Once the documents are filed, the court will set a date for a name change hearing. You will also be required to publish a public notice of your name change (and pay all applicable fees) in a California newspaper. If you are requesting to change your name for gender identity or confidentiality purposes, you do not have to make the change public.

At your court hearing, you will be required to present proof that your name change was published in a local newspaper. If the court approves your request, it will sign the Degree and authorize you to take a new name.

Get Help Changing Your Name in California

Are you thinking about getting a divorce? Do you want to change your name to protect yourself from threats of domestic violence? Call the Los Angeles family law attorneys at Fernandez & Karney for help securing your new (or old) name. We offer a free consultation, so do not hesitate to call us today.