Name Change after Divorce in California
- 3 ways to change your name
- During divorce
- After divorce
- Change your name to something new
- Easiest way to change your name
- What to do after name change
- Take charge of your name
Marriage is a big step, and plenty of people decide to mark the occasion by changing their names. In the United States, up to 30% of women retain their names after marriage. Most do not. And plenty of men change their names, too.
But what happens after a divorce?
Just as you might want to change your name to mark your changing status as a married person, you might also like to change it due to a divorce.
If you’re changing your name back to a previous version of a legal name, it’s a relatively easy switch. If you want to move to something new and different, the process is a little more complicated, but it’s still very possible.
Keep reading to find out how name changes work and how to make this happen.
3 ways to change your name during or after a divorce
Your name is one of the first things people know about you, and for many people, it's a deep sign of identity and belonging. If you'd like to change your name along with your marital status, three options exist.
To change your name, you can do any of the following:
- Change your name as part of your divorce case. If you'd like to return to a formal legal name (like your maiden name), you can take care of this step quickly and easily within the divorce process. Many of the forms you must use to end your marriage include checkboxes involving a name alteration.
- Change your name after your divorce is final. Some people don't change their names during the divorce, but they regret the decision later. You can file an additional form months (or even years) later with the court that processed your divorce. This process only works if you're reverting to a former legal name.
- Work within the court system. If you’d like your name to change to something new and different, you can start an entirely different court process, fill out forms, and change your name at any time. You’re not required to tie this process to your divorce.
How to request your name change during your divorce
Divorces involve plenty of paperwork and time, especially in California. When you're nearing the end of the process, you'll turn in one last set of forms for the judge. Two of them include spaces for name changes.
Those forms include the following:
- Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation (form FL-170): Item 12 on this form allows you to specify a return to a former legal name.
- Judgment (form FL-180): Write your former legal name on Item 4(f).
Once the judge signs the Judgment form, you have legal proof of a name change. You should request certified copies, so you can share the news with other entities (like the DMV). Prepare to pay $40 per certified copy.
How to finalize your name change after the divorce
Once your divorce is final, and all the paperwork is signed, you've missed one easy way to revert to a former legal name. But you can still use your divorce as an easy way to change your name, even if months or years have passed since the document became official.
Follow these simple steps:
- Find your divorce paperwork. You'll need your case number and the location of your divorce court to get started.
- Fill out a form. The Ex Parte Application for Restoration of Former Name After Entry of Judgment and Order (form FL-395) is required to change your name. Fill it out, and make one copy of it.
- File the form. You must work with the court that certified your divorce. You can head to the court in person, or you can file the documents by mail.
- Pay a fee (maybe). If you paid fees as part of your divorce, you may not owe anything more. Otherwise, you may need to pay between $435 and $450.
You'll still need certified copies of your paperwork. Prepare to pay $40 per certified copy.
How to change your name to something new
If you're hoping to change your name to a version you've never used before, you can't tie this to your divorce. Instead, you'll follow a legal process to change the name legally.
The process involves several steps: filing a petition, publishing a notice, sitting through a hearing, and gaining a decree to get your new name. It typically takes three months from start to finish.
Several forms are required, such as these:
- Petition for Change of Name (form NC-100)
- Attachment to Petition for Change of Name (form NC-110)
- Order to Show Cause for Change of Name (form NC-120)
- Civil Case Cover Sheet (form CM-010) (some courts do not require this form)
- Decree Changing Name Form (form NC-130) (fill out the boxes at the top and Item 3)
You must pay a filing fee of $435 to $450. If you can’t pay that fee, you can ask the clerk to waive it for you. Officials may need time to process your request.
With your paperwork filed, you must publish a notice in the newspaper once per week for at least four weeks before the hearing begins. This notification allows people who know you (or to whom you owe money) to understand what’s happening with your legal name.
At the end of your hearing, your judge may change your name and give you the paperwork that proves it. You may need more than one copy, but be prepared to pay $40 for each one.
How much will it cost?
If you revert to your former legal name during or after your divorce, you may not have other fees to pay (aside from those you paid during the divorce process).
If you didn't pay fees during your divorce, or you're hoping to change your name to something original, prepare for a filing fee that ranges from $435 to $450.
You'll likely need multiple copies of your paperwork, and each one costs about $40.
What's the easiest way to change your name?
The quickest and easiest way to change your name is to revert to a formal legal version during your divorce. You're already paying associated fees, and you won't even need different forms. If a former name will work for you, make the switch during your divorce.
What to do after your name change
Your name is part of your legal profile. You'll need to notify at least three agencies that you have a new name, so you can do things like renew your driver's license and collect Social Security benefits.
These three agencies must hear from you:
1. U.S. Social Security Administration
You must complete an Application for a Social Security Card and attach documents from the court about your name. Find the office nearest you, and file the paperwork there. The team will send you a new card in the mail in a few weeks.
2. California Department of Motor Vehicles
You must tell this agency about your new name, so you can appropriately renew your driver's license, register your car, and more. Visit the office near you and bring along your paperwork.
3. California Department of Public Health
The Department can provide you with a new birth certificate that has your amended name. Complete the VS 23 form, and attach a certified copy of the court order.
Mail the documents, along with a $23 fee to:
California Department of Public Health
Vital Records - M.S. 5103
P.O. Box 997410
Sacramento, CA 95899-7410
Take charge of your name
While the process involves several steps you must get right, you can effectively change your name after a divorce in California. By getting the proper documents in order, you can simplify the process for yourself.
Changing your name can make you feel a sense of some control in the unusual days after your divorce. Don't be afraid to have people call you what you want in your new life.
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ReferencesWhy Women Do or Don't Change Their Names When They Get Married. (July 2022). CNN.
Change Your Name in Your Divorce Case. Judicial Branch of California.
Change Your Legal Name. Judicial Branch of California.
Start the Name Change Process. Judicial Branch of California.
Publish Form NC-120 in the Newspaper. Judicial Branch of California.
Get Your Name Change Decree. Judicial Branch of California.
Update Your Identity Documents. Judicial Branch of California.
How Do I Change or Correct My Name on My Social Security Number Card? (November 2022). Social Security Administration.
Amending a Birth Certificate After a Court Order Name Change. (January 2018). California Department of Public Health.