The Ultimate Guide to Changing Your Name After Divorce in California

When couples reach the decision to divorce, one can change their last name to reflect a fresh start, the beginning of their next chapter, and the rebranding of one’s image after their divorce. Here’s how to change your name after divorce in California.

There are many factors one can take into consideration when embarking on the process to legally change their name in California. There are also several questions that may arise along the way, especially when one’s motivation to change their name comes after their divorce. One may seek to change their name for a plethora of reasons, some of which may be very personal. Their marriage may not have ended well, and this name change represents their path forward. A name change after divorce may also be a relieving and liberating step one takes to pave their new path.

Reaching the Decision to Change Your Last Name

Making the decision to change one’s name can be emotional. Perhaps the individual shares children with their former partner, and their children will continue to use their partner’s name. While a name change can certainly be a positive step toward a new, refreshing reality, a name change can also be a difficult point of closure to reach, especially if the marriage ended poorly.

A name change is a great option for people to consider after their divorce. However, it can take time for some to feel comfortable with this in their own life. There are also logistical matters that will need to be taken care of once a last name change is complete, such as the re-registration of one’s debit/credit card(s) and updates to be made to their personal records.

Should you change your name after divorce?

It is important to recognize that this decision is personal, and those supporting the individual affected should encourage them to take the time they need to make this decision for themself. Although a name change appears to be a simple–– even logical–– choice to make at the end of one’s marriage, this may be difficult for one to do. There are many memories connected to a marriage, regardless of its length, and a name change can signify a premature halt to these memories before the person has properly healed.

What are my first steps?

Firstly, one will complete the following California name change forms:

The subsequent step-by-step process for filing a petition to change one’s name in California can be found here. After completing these steps, be sure to make two photocopies of the forms and file them with the court clerk. They will be stamped as “filed” and the fees discussed in the following section will be paid.

How much does it cost to change your last name in California?

There are typically fees associated with asking the court to change one’s name in California. Individuals can apply for fee waivers if they qualify. More information about fee waiver options can be found here.

Upon filing the California state filing fee, one will have to pay $435 to change their name.
In addition to this servicing fee, individuals seeking to change their name will have to pay to publish a notice of the hearing on their petition, entitled the Order to Show Cause for Change of Name in a local newspaper.

Is there a time limit to change your name after divorce in California?

There is currently no time limit for when a person can change their name after divorce in California. This provides women in particular the opportunity to take their time in reaching their decision to change their last name and begin their new chapter in life post-divorce. It is never too late to decide to drop an ex-partner’s name once the marriage is over.

How many times can you change your name?

Similar to the unlimited time on changing one’s name after divorce in California, there is no limit on how many times a person can do so. The one caveat, however, is that the person demonstrates a genuine reason for requesting a name change. The discretion on a person’s intent to change their name is left to the courts. An individual can initiate the same name change process each time by filing a petition, even if they have changed their name in the past.

Can you legally have 2 last names?

You can legally have two last names in California. For instance, when someone gets married, they can either keep their maiden name or take their spouse’s last name. People can choose to hyphenate their maiden name and married name as well. Even in divorce, one’s name is still legally theirs, unless they take the necessary steps to change it. However, if one’s name is not hyphenated, they will need to choose one last name and use it consistently on their driver’s license, employment and income tax records, passports, or any contracts they may have. It can be very confusing from a legal stance if this is not the case.

Can I use a different name without legally changing it?

A person can choose to use whatever [first] name they would like in a general sense. For example, people can call someone by a different name than their birth name, and they can change their username, name tag, or any other way that someone can commonly identify them. They would not be able to change their name on any government-issued ID, such as their driver’s license, passport, or other legal documents without following the formal name change process. If the person does wish to change their name permanently, they can do so at any time.

Can you change your name back to a previous married name?

One’s legal name is their own unless a petition is filed to change it. It is one’s legal right to keep their married name even after they have divorced. Even if their ex-partner has remarried, a person can still keep their former married name. This would change, however, if the person ever decided to request a name change in court.

Can I keep my maiden name and married name?

Married couples are not required to have the same last name in California. According to Family Code 306.5, one or both parties to a marriage can adopt the current or former last name of their spouse, or either of their last names given at birth. One can also hyphenate their maiden name with their partner’s last name.

It is worth noting that any of these combinations will legally become their name in marriage, and thus would need to be legally changed after divorce if desired. Otherwise, the person would keep their name(s) as if they were still married.

Can I revert to my maiden name after divorce?

Yes, it is possible for a person to change their married name back to their maiden name after their divorce. This action is usually carried out in the divorce case.

How much does it cost to go back to your maiden name in California?

Any fees associated with this specific service can vary based on the divorce case, as well as the California county in which the clients reside. Options to pursue if the divorce is finalized, has not yet been finalized, or if the divorce did not take place in California can be explored here.

Related: Stipulated Judgments in California Marriage Settlements

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