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Changing your name can be done at the time of divorce or at a later date, and is easy and cost-free. It is slightly easier to restore your last name or change your current name during the divorce process. If you are considering this, notify your divorce attorney before the divorce is finalized so it is handled as part of the judgment or settlement. However, if you were not ready to make a name change at the time of divorce, and now you are, it is neither too late nor too difficult or expensive.
Change of Name Process
If you have to file a Petition for Change of Name in court, the process can take up to 3 months. After you file your Petition for Change of Name, you will get a court date on your Order to Show Cause for Change of Name that will be between 6 and 12 weeks away. If your paperwork is correct and you followed all the required steps, on or soon after your court date, the court will give you a court order called a “decree” officially changing your name. Some courts are busier than others and it may take longer.
In some limited cases, the judge may not agree to change your name. For example, this can happen if the judge finds that you are changing your name to commit fraud, or if the judge finds that you are changing your name to hide from the law or the police or for some other illegal reason.
Changing your name to your former name if your divorce is final and was granted in California. Contact the court clerk in the county where the case was filed and give the court clerk the case number, case name (names of the parties), and the date of the order/judgment/filing, if possible. Include a copy of your Notice of Entry of Judgment (Family Law — Uniform Parentage — Custody and Support) (Form FL-190), if possible. Complete an Ex Parte Application for Restoration of Former Name After Entry of Judgment and Order (Family Law) (Form FL-395). Include a self-addressed, stamped, return envelope, if necessary.
If your divorce is NOT yet final. If you are getting divorced in California and the divorce is not final yet, you can ask the court to restore your name to your former name. You can ask for this when you submit your proposed Judgment (Form FL-180) for divorce. Talk to a Family Law attorney to find out how to do this. If you want to change your name to something other than your maiden name or to a prior married name you used in the past, then you have to follow the steps for filing a Petition for Change of Name.
Sharing Your New Name
If you have children, consider the impact of your decision to change your name, and give them a simple explanation for the switch. The children will likely continue to use their father’s last name after the divorce is completed, so tell them the truth so they feel pride in their birth name. Telling your family, friends, and acquaintances may require a more in-depth explanation, or none at all depending on if they knew you before you were married. Be prepared to answer these types of questions.
A name change should not be an impulsive decision, nor is it alone the measure of your recovery from divorce. Before you change your name, make sure you have thought your decision through and it is best for you.
When filing for a California divorce, be sure to let the your attorney know if you wish to change your name. It is much easier to do it at the time of divorce. When you elect to change names later additional work and costs are involved.
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