After a divorce, one might expect changes in living arrangements and child custody…but what many people do not think about are changes in name. You might want to change your child’s last name to your maiden name, or you may remarry and wish to change your child’s name to that of your new spouse. If you wish to change your child’s name in any capacity, prepare for a battle with your ex-spouse, who may not feel the same way you do. Also prepare for legal legwork to make the name change official.
Changing a Child’s Last Name After a Divorce
The first issue to contend with is a conflict with your ex-spouse. If you and your ex-spouse both share legal custody of your children (as is the case after most divorces), you will both have a legal say in the names of your children. Should your ex-spouse agree to the change, you can proceed with the legal process as usual. If, however, the other parent does not permit the change, you must notify that parent of your intention to change the name of the child at least 30 days before your arranged court date.
The notification to your ex-spouse of the intent to change the child’s name must be official. You must serve a Petition for Change of Name, Order to Show Cause for Change of Name and Attachment to Petition on your ex-spouse along with a written court date. Your ex-spouse must then fill out a Proof of Service of Order to Show Cause (Form NC-121) to show the judge he or she received the form. You may proceed with changing your child’s name without your ex-spouse’s consent, but he or she may appear at the hearing to give an opposing argument to your case.
The California Name Change Process for Minors
It is not always easy to change a child’s name after a divorce in California. The family courts will only make decisions regarding children – including their last names – according to their best interests. If the courts do not believe it is in a child’s best interest to undergo a name change, they may not grant the petition of your Sacramento divorce attorney. You must go through the official legal process to change your child’s last name.
- File the name change petition. To initiate the name change process, file Form NC-100 (Petition for a Change of Name), NC-120 (Order to Show Cause), CM-010 (Civil Case Cover Sheet) and NC-110 (Attachment to Petition) with the Superior Court in the county where your child lives. Make two copies of each form and keep one for yourself. On the Order to Show Cause form, request a court date at least six weeks in the future. Pay the filing fee.
- Publish the order. To properly notify others of the petition to change your child’s name, publish the Order to Show Cause form in an approved newspaper one day a week for at least four consecutive weeks before your court date. Request proof of publication from the paper.
- Argue your case. If no one enters a written objection within two weeks of your court date, you may not have to make a court appearance. If your ex-spouse or someone else objects, however, you will need to argue your case at your hearing. Neither parent – even if you are the custodial parent – has an absolute right to change a child’s last name. Instead, both may state their cases and have a judge decide what is in the child’s best interest.
You may also have to appear in court if a judge wishes to discuss the matter further before signing off on the change. Call the Clerk of Court a few days before the hearing date to find out if it is still scheduled. If you win the case and a judge approves your petition, you will receive a certified copy of the Decree Changing Name the judge signed. You may then use this form to change your child’s last name on all official documents, including a birth certificate, Social Security card and driver’s license.
If you are looking for assistance in this matter, contact our attorneys for a free consultation.