How to Change Your Name in California

Overwhelmed? Don't be. Get our guide to name changes in the Golden State.
by Scott Christian

By the time your wedding day arrives, all the hard work should be over. Months of planning, tastings and being photographed like a celebrity have undoubtedly yielded one gloriously happy celebration. You can now coast into wedded bliss without anything left to worry about. Well, almost. There's still the matter of legally changing your name after marriage. And while you should definitely start the process before tying the knot, most tasks can't be tackled until after you're already spouses.

A legal name change in California (and across the US) involves four major steps: filing a marriage license or court order, sharing your new title with the Social Security Administration, updating your passport and getting a new state ID. Sound like a lot? Fortunately there's HitchSwitch, a name change service that seriously simplifies the swap. They'll give you the exact documents you need for your specific situation (including where you live), autofill most of the paperwork for you and answer all your questions along the way. So if you're not a DIY kind of person, sign up for one of their packages (which start at just $39) ASAP.

Still want to learn more about the process? We've broken down exactly how to change your name in California, including what's specific to the Golden State and what's standardized across the country, below. Of course, for the most up-to-date information, always double check with the offices involved—we've linked out to resources for your convenience.

Marriage Certificates in California

Just as in every other state, your marriage certificate is the key to changing your last name in California. The first step is to apply for a marriage license. Both of you must appear together at a local county clerk's office with valid photo IDs. Some counties require additional documentation, so always call your nearby office and ask what else they might need from you. (FYI: You can find all the offices listed in our California print issues.) You'll also want to ask about fees, as those vary by region too. Finally, inquire about your intended type of name change. Are you taking your spouse's surname? Combining both yours? Creating something entirely new? The legal process could look different depending—and might even require a court order. This will inform how you fill out your license.

Once you've tied the knot, you'll have to request a marriage certificate, which serves as proof of a legal name change in California. It costs $15 per certified copy—we recommend getting at least two or three, as you'll have to submit them to change your name elsewhere. All in all, if you go this route, a legal name change after marriage in California will cost you around $100.


For more information about California marriage licenses, check out our comprehensive guide to getting married in the state. Then visit the California Department of Public Health's website.

Court Orders in California

If you want to legally change anything other than your last name after marriage in California—either your first or middle name—you'll have to file a petition for a name change and go through the regular legal name change process. And if you're wondering, "How much is it to change your name in California?" The answer is, several hundred dollars. It's a long process too, generally taking around three months, although, as some courts are busier, it could take even longer.

The first step is to fill out all the proper California name change forms, which you can download on the California Courts website. The name change forms you'll need are the 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) and a Civil Case Cover Sheet (Form CM-010). Some courts may ask you to fill out local forms as well, like a criminal background form. Check with your local court clerk and ask if there are any additional name change forms you'll need to fill out. Click here to find your local court clerk.

Once you've filled out all your name change forms, make at least two photocopies of each. Take all the original name change forms as well as the copies to your local court clerk's office and file them. The clerk will stamp "Filed" on them, keeping the original and returning the copies to you. On your Order to Show Cause, you'll be given all the information for your court date.

When you file your name change forms, you'll have to pay the California state filing fee. The California name change cost is $435. You might also have to pay a small surcharge depending on what county you're in. If you can't afford the filing fee, you may be able to apply for a waiver.

Next you'll probably have to publish your Order to Show Cause in a newspaper (yep, we're serious). The purpose of this is to publicly inform any potential creditors, law enforcement agencies or anyone else who may be looking for you that you intend to change your name. You can check with your court for a list of newspapers approved for publishing.

Once that's done, submit proof that your Order to Show Cause was published, as well a Decree Changing Name (Form NC-130) for the judge to sign. The court may grant it with or without a hearing, depending on the situation. If the judge approves your name change request, they'll sign the Decree. Once signed, you can get a certified copy of the Decree from the court clerk. This is what you'll use, much like your marriage certificate, to change your name on all your legal documents.

Note that you may need to petition the court when changing your last name in California depending on the type of name change and how you fill out your marriage license. To avoid spending that extra time and money, consider working with the experts at HitchSwitch to ensure everything's done correctly and as seamlessly as possible.

Social Security Name Change

Once you've obtained your marriage certificate or you've successfully changed your name through the court, the next step is your Social Security name change. Great news here, though: The Social Security office doesn't charge you for a new card. To get the name change process started, visit SSA.gov/ssnumber, download the application for a new Social Security card (SS-5), and fill it out following the instructions. You'll need to include an original or certified copy of your name change document, as well as proof of identity (your current state ID will do) and proof of citizenship (like your birth certificate).

To process the name change form, you can either mail it in to the Social Security office or you can submit it in person. Click here to locate your nearest Social Security office. Once you change your name on your Social Security card, make sure to inform your employer of your name change. You don't want there to be any mishaps when tax refund season comes around.

Passport Name Change

Changing your name on a passport in California is the same as it is in any other state, which requires completing one of three forms:

  • DS-5504 if your passport is less than a year old. It's free but you'll need to submit your current passport, your name change document and a new passport photo. (Did you know HitchSwitch can print one for you?)
  • DS-82 if your current passport is in your possession and undamaged, you were at least 16 years old when you got it, it was issued within the last 15 years and you have a name change document. This costs $140 for a passport book and card. You'll have to submit all the documents you need for the DS-5504 as well.
  • DS-11 if you aren't eligible to use the other two forms. You'll need proof of citizenship plus a photocopy, a valid ID plus a photocopy, a passport photo and name change documentation. There's the standard $140 fee for a passport book and card plus an extra $35 execution fee.

If you're traveling in the very near future and need your new passport expedited, you can apply in person at the Department of State Passport Agency in one of three locations in California: Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. You'll need to schedule an appointment first, and make sure to bring your original passport, marriage certificate or court decree, a color passport photo and the proper passport renewal form. The processing fee for expediting your passport is $60 on top of the regular renewal fees.

Be sure to visit the State Department's website for a more thorough breakdown of fees, requirements, application instructions and form eligibility.

State ID Name Change in California

Don't forget a California DMV name change. In California this requires an actual visit to the DMV, although you can schedule an appointment to help speed up the process. The fee in California for changing your name on your driver's license is $28 (it's $30 for an Identification Card). First, you'll need to fill out the Driver License or Identification Card Application form and then submit it at the DMV.

Once at the DMV, you'll have to provide a certified copy of your marriage certificate, give a thumbprint and have your picture taken—hey, who knows, maybe this time you'll finally get a good photo. Make sure your name is changed with Social Security first, because the DMV in California will electronically verify your name, birth date and social security number with the SSA. When everything is filed and paid for, you'll be issued an interim license until your new card comes in the mail. You should receive your new card within 60 days. If not, call 1-800-777-0133 to check on the status.

Final Tips

While the steps listed above are the biggest you'll have to take for a name change in California, don't forget the smaller tasks too. We've outlined them all in our complete name change 101. FYI: Services like HitchSwitch can also help with all the little things. They've got instruction sheets for name changes on social media and beyond.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, some of which may be sponsored by paying vendors. 

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