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How to Change Your Name After Marriage in California

Changing My Name After Marriage in California

Taking up a partner's last name or hyphenating after marriage does not change a person, but records must reflect the new identity. Couples take this decision to build a family identity among other legal, cultural, or personal reasons. As a person's name is on several state and federal identity databases, a person with a new name must update his/her identity by informing the relevant agencies of the change.

Regardless of why an individual wants to change his/her name after marriage, interested persons in California must follow specific legal and administrative processes. For one, the individual must prepare several documents, especially a certified copy of the marriage certificate from the county clerk or the California Department of Public Health. The marriage certificate contains that person's new name and is the primary requirement for processing other official documents that reflect the name change conferred by marital status. Per state law, California marriage records are public information. Hence, interested members of the public may also access these records for reasons other than a name change request, provided the record is not closed or restricted.

How to Change Your Name After Marriage in California

Generally, a legal name change in California boils down to five steps:

  • Obtaining a marriage certificate or court order (see court guidelines)
  • Notifying the Social Security Administration
  • Updating one’s passport and travel documents
  • Getting a new state-issued ID
  • Notifying other government agencies, employers, and service providers

An individual who wishes to change his/her name after marriage may consult or hire a family law attorney. Besides explaining and simplifying the process, an experienced attorney may also obtain the necessary forms and act on his/her behalf.

Of course, persons who cannot afford to hire an attorney can still accomplish a name change in California. However, such persons must have preliminary knowledge of updating records with various entities, follow systematic instructions and make inquiries when necessary.

How to Update Your Social Security Card in California?

Every person who changes his/her name in California must inform the Social Security Administration and apply for a corrected card. This service is free and only available via in-person and mail requests. Generally, the process goes thus:

  • Gathering the required documents

These include a certified marriage certificate or court order. The applicant may also attach a copy of an identity document showing former name, e.g., driver's license. Note that the identity documents showing one's old name must reflect one's name as recorded in Social Security's records.

  • Completing a formal application

The applicant must download and complete the application form for a new social security card.

  • Mailing the application

Upon completing the application and obtaining the necessary documents, the applicant must enclose them in a self-addressed stamped envelope and mail them to the nearest Social Security office. Note that you will need your zip code to find the closest office. Persons who have additional inquires or concerns may read the official pamphlet. Alternatively, call the national helpline on (800) 772-1213 (toll-free) or (800) 325-0778 (TTY).

  • Receiving the new card

The Social Security Administration will process the request as soon as the applicant provides the necessary information. Depending on administrative workload and mailing logistics, it may take up two (2) to four (4) weeks to get a new card. Thus, interested persons must get started as soon as possible.

How to Get a New Driver's License in California?

Next on the list of significant changes a person must make following a name change is to obtain a new driver's license from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Generally, persons who wish to do this must have obtained a new social security card. Still, it is also possible to initiate the process with a marriage certificate and court order only. Still, the DMV may require other identity documents including, a certified birth certificate and two California residency documents for first-time applicants.

That said, the process goes thus:

  • Create a California DMV account or an ID.me account
  • Get your social security number
  • Complete the Online Application (with the DMV or ID.me account)
  • Submit the request and pay the necessary fees
  • Visit the local DMV to complete the application process

The DMV made a guide video containing systematic instructions for requesting a new driver's license in California. Meanwhile, persons who cannot complete an online application can schedule an appointment with the local DMV and complete paper forms instead. Just as in the online application, he/she will need to provide basic personal information, proof of identity, and the certified marriage certificate or court order. Note that an online application for a new driver's license takes up to two (2) weeks to process. Thus, concerned persons must begin the process as soon as possible.

How to Update Your Insurance Information in California?

The California Department of Insurance lists at least six broad types of insurance that California residents sign up for. These include health, auto, life, property, pet, and workers' compensation insurance. Other insurance types include medical supplements and long-term care insurance.

After a name change, an individual must contact the insurance service provider to update their records to ensure continued access to the benefits associated with enrolled policies. Generally, the insurance service provider will provide a change of status form. For example, a person who applied for health insurance through Covered California may update his/her name change and marital status by calling Covered CA at (800) 300-1506 or calling his/her insurance agent for free assistance.

Alternatively, he/she may DIY by:

  • Visiting www.CoveredCA.com
  • Logging in to his/her Covered CA account
  • Reporting the changes online

Note that insurance companies and service providers generally set a time limit on how long after the marriage a client can up his/her insurance information. This window is thirty (30) days for Covered Cal, while persons on Medi-Cal have ten (10) days to report a name change. As a rule of thumb, concerned persons must start as soon as possible, considering how typically difficult it is to reach insurance service providers. Likewise, a person who wishes to extend coverage to his/her spouse must also contact the insurance company as quickly as possible. Concerned persons may use this directory to find the contact information of various insurance companies, agents, and brokers in California.

Where Do I Go to Change My Last Name in California?

A person who wishes to change his/her last name must visit the local Superior Court to submit a petition for a name change. The process typically goes thus:

  • Completing court forms

Interested persons may complete the forms online or submit a form by mail or in person. Persons who choose the latter must complete a petition for Change of Name and an attachment. Furthermore, he/she must complete an order to demonstrate cause for change of name and a civil case cover sheet.

  • Presenting paperwork for review

Upon receipt, the applicant must present the paperwork to a family law facilitator for review and make two copies of all documents.

  • Paying the filing fees and publishing in a local newspaper

After that, he/she must submit the forms to the court clerk and pay a filing fee. California generally requires persons with granted petitions to publish a notification of name change in the local newspaper every week for four consecutive weeks.

  • Getting a decree changing name

Once the individual completes the requirements, the court shall sign the decree changing name and furnish the applicant with a certified copy.

How to Update Information With California Mortgage and Utility Companies?

According to the California Board of Equalization, persons who wish to update the name on their mortgage or real estate property must:

  • Make a copy of the certified Decree Changing Name or obtain a certified marriage certificate
  • Complete the grant deed with the old name as the grantor and the new name as the grantee (see sample)
  • Include a legal description of the home, including address, map, tract, and page of the parcel (available on original title)
  • Send a copy of the documents to the mortgage lender
  • Notarize the deed and submit it at the local county assessor's office along with a copy of the certified Decree Changing Name form

Meanwhile, nearly 1000 public and private utility companies provide access to energy, water, sewer, transportation, and communications services in California. Generally, to update one’s name with any of these utility companies, one must call the utility company and explain the situation: "I recently got married and wish to update my name on the utility bill."

Many companies can make this change over the phone. However, most mail a change of account holder information form to the individual's residential address. The requester must complete this form, attach a copy of the certified marriage certificate or court decree, and mail it out to the utility company. Likewise, certain utility companies allow customers to manage their account information and bills online. Persons who fall in this category may update name information on their account settings dashboard.

What Documents Do I Need to Change My Name After Marriage?

A person who wishes to make a name change after marriage must have the following:

  • All old identity documents in the person's possession, including the individual's birth certificate
  • Certified marriage certificate
  • New social security card
  • Driver’s license or state-issued ID card

How to Get Certified Copies of Your Marriage License in California?

Persons who wish to get certified copies of marriage license must visit the County Clerk's Office in the county where the marriage license was issued – this is usually where the marriage happened. Note that only the couples named on the marriage license obtain certified copies.

  • Find the local county office, i.e., the County Clerk's office that issued the marriage license
  • Download and complete the application form
  • Prepare a money order or certified check for the application fee
  • Enclose the request form in a self-addressed, pre-paid, and certified envelope
  • Mail the envelope to the Clerk's office or submit it there in-person
  • Wait for the Clerk’s office to send the requested document

How to Get a New Passport in California?

The US Department of State issues new passports and renews passports for California residents. The Department has outlined guidelines for this purpose (see instructions for name change). Generally, the requester must:

  • Download and fill out the applicable application form
  • Prepare and attach his/her most recent US passport
  • Obtain and attach the certified marriage certificate or court decree
  • Attach one color passport photo (see requirements for acceptable photos)
  • Enclose the documents in a self-addressed stamped envelope
  • Send the application form with supporting documents via USPS, UPS, FedEx, or DHL

Generally, it takes ten (10) to twelve (12) weeks to process the request, but it is possible to arrange expedited service if one qualifies. While waiting for the Department of State to return the old passport (with a hole punched through) and the new passport, a person may use his/her PAN card, state ID card, and social security card as travel documents. However, this is limited to domestic travels, traveling to Canada, Mexico, US territories, and closed-loop cruises. Note that persons who use travel documents outside the country will also need to present a certified birth certificate as proof of citizenship for reentry.

How to Change Your Name on Bank Accounts in California?

Persons who have a new Social Security card and driver's license can update bank account details, retirement account, and financial details, including credit and debit cards and checkbooks. However, a financial institution may require additional documents, especially a certified marriage certificate to process the update. Generally, concerned persons must:

  • Call the financial institution or visit the local branch
  • Inform the customer representative of your intentions to make a name change

Most banks will provide a form or direct the requester to prepare a letter requesting the name change and submit it at a local branch, e.g., Chase. Regardless of how one makes the request, he/she must also request credit/debit cards and checkbooks reflecting the name change.

Next, the requester must forward the new banking information to his/her employer and complete a new Form W-4. Completing this form is necessary – as the Internal Revenue Service explained the consequences of a name change for tax purposes.

Likewise, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommends updating name changes with a new Form I-9, i.e., reverification. The individual must state the original hire date in Section 2, attach the old form, a written explanation for the change, and a copy of the certified marriage certificate or court decree. However, reverification is not a statutory requirement, unlike updating payroll information with the IRS.

Meanwhile, California is a community property state where spouses have an equal obligation to repay debts incurred AFTER marriage (Cal. Fam. Code. § 760). Thus, a spouse listed as an authorized credit card user may provide his/her partner's financial information for automatic debt repayment. Creditors can also take debt recovery actions against a partner even if he/she did not incur the debt directly. However, these only apply if the couple opted in community property rules and terminated with a divorce, death of a partner, or changed residency to a common-law state.

Furthermore, the individual must review his/her financial statements to identify automatic payments for utilities and subscriptions. Then, he/she must contact the service to provide new credit card or banking information and update billing information with the new name. Depending on the service provider, it is often possible to accomplish this process online via a secure platform.

How Long Does It Take to Change Your Name in California After Marriage?

The time it takes to accomplish a complete name change in California varies with the individual and several external factors. Persons who initiate a court order for name change after marriage can expect to complete the court process and requirements in about eight (8) weeks. The time for other government agencies varies with processing time.

How Long Does It Take to Change Your Name in California?

One can legally assume the identity conferred by a change in marital status after getting the Decree Changing Name. The change begins to reflect in state and government databases when the Social Security Administration completes the request to effect a name change and issues a new social security card. Generally, one can expect name change requests on government databases to take several months, depending on how soon one initiated a name change.

Because the process of changing one's name can be overwhelming, concerned persons may hire a family law attorney or a trusted independent service provider to streamline this process. Nevertheless, one must know that the cost of performing a name change may run into several hundreds of dollars – even if one goes DIY mode.