If you want to change your name and you are not hiding from authorities or changing your name to hide from creditors, getting your name changed in California is as simple as collecting the right forms, filling them out, placing an announcement in the newspaper and presenting the information to a judge.
Go to the court house to pick up the necessary forms. The five county forms you will need to change your name are: Petition For Change of Name (Form NC-100), Attachment to Petition (Form NC-110), Order to Show Cause for Name Change (Form NC-120), and the Civil Case Cover Sheet (Form CSM-010). These forms will be submitted to the court when you file the name change application.
Gather together all your personal identification papers. You will also need to gather together your original birth certificate, your social security card and if you have one, your existing passport. Also pick up a Decree Changing Name (form NC-130) which you will give to the judge at the second hearing, along with your proof of publication of your name change request in the newspaper. These forms are available on line at the California court information website (See Resources).
Fill out each form in ink. Complete the Petition for Change of Name, the Attachment to Petition and the Order to Show Cause for Change of Name, using black or blue ink. Make two copies of each form. Some courts may require you to fill out additional local forms to ask for a name change, like a Criminal Background Information Form. Ask the clerk at the counter in your local courthouse if there are local forms you have to fill out.
Fill out the Civil Case Cover Sheet (Form CSM-010). This form goes on top of all the other forms and papers. It serves to let the court know you have everything you need to complete the name change process. File all your papers with the required number of copies with the court in one of the county courthouses near where you live. You do not have to go all the way to downtown San Diego to file your papers. If you live in the North County or in the South Bay areas, the courthouses in the Vista and Chula Vista currently are processing name change applications.
Take the papers to the courthouse and pay the filing fee. Be prepared to pay a filing fee with the court when you file your papers. The fees change from time to time, so check with the clerk at the counter when you pick up your forms; and be prepared to pay the filing fee in cash. Some courts will take cash only; some will take other forms of payment. Check to be sure, before you go back to file your completed forms.
Advertise your name change in the local newspaper. After you have filed the initial papers and forms at the court, you need to publicly announce that you are going to change your name. You do this by publishing the Order to Show Cause in a newspaper of general circulation once per week for four weeks in a row. You can get a list of newspapers from the court to learn what newspapers you must publish your announcement in. Not all newspapers are valid, and the advertising fees vary from paper to paper so take some time and call around for the best rate.
Bring your proof of advertising back to the court house. When you file the initial forms, the filing clerk will assign you a date to reappear. You must have proof of your published announcement before that date so it is best to do the announcement right away. At the second court date, you must bring the proof of publication from the newspaper. Bring the payment receipt and a copy of the newspaper announcement to the court. You will also need to bring the aforementioned Decree Changing Name (Form NC-130) for the judge to sign.
Pick up your court approved name change form. Once you get your court signed "Decree Changing Name", get a certified copy from the court. You may want to pay for two certified copies if you are prone to losing papers. You will need this certified copy to change all your legal documents, including your birth certificate, social security card and other papers like passport.