Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Back to the future

I got a lot of great requests for information concerning criminal justice --- and just plain myth debunking --- which I'm more than happy to provide answers for. In fact, most of the questions that were posed were somewhere along the lines of common sense inquiries which most people want to know about, but either forget to ask, or just feel embarrassed about.

A question that had me scratching my head was tossed my way by Drumwaster, who wanted to know the issues surrounding a name change.
When going through a name change where no fraud is intended (a woman claiming her pre-married name back again after the divorce from the husband whose name she took), is it a requirement that the courts record and acknowledge the switch (after paying court fees and all the trimmings)?
I know that when I'm looking through a RAP sheet, someone who has changed their last name, thus establishing an alias, sends a red flag my way. Now, this is a double-edged sword, because the name change could be due to the fact that the aforementioned person could be a victim of rape, stalking, or another violent crime, or she is going back to her maiden name, and dropping her middle name that she was given at birth, or adding another one. Either way, it creates a list of aliases that appear at the top of the sheet that we use for identification.

Luckily, Drumwaster is asking for the non-criminal version, which took a little bit of digging, but is more than worthy of an answer.

In the civil division of the Los Angeles Superior Court has specific directions for a case such as this, and believe it or not, it's not as difficult as it sounds.
Mandatory Judicial Council forms are required for changing your name. To change your name by the court petition method, contact your local Superior Court clerk for the proper forms or print them from the Los Angeles County Superior Court website at You will need the Petition for Change of Name, Decree Changing Name and Order to Show Cause for Change of Name.

It is not necessary to obtain a court decree to change your name. Generally, you just start using the new name, and change every place where it appears - driver's license, bank records, Social Security, etc. However, it is illegal to change your name to hide your identity in order to commit a fraud (such as concealing the fact that you're a registered sex offender).

Women are not required to obtain an order in a divorce decree to restore their maiden names, though it may assist in keeping vital statistics straight.

Women do not need to petition for a name change upon marriage. The marriage certificate is recorded and provides any and all documentation needed to provide a record at the state and county level of the basis for the change of name. This is true whether the wife decides to adopt her husband's name, use a hyphenated name, or just keep her maiden name.
Whenever anyone see's the word "forms," it makes them run faster than a chicken in Ethiopia, mostly because they know that government forms are longer than a Stephan King novel, and more confusing that last years IRS tax forms. I visited the Superior Court's civil website to look for the form, and it takes a bit of digging, as it's found on an external California Courts website. Now, for my readers outside of California, this information will be as useful as a snow plow in the desert, so I recommend using one of my name change forms, which is formatted for use in every state.

Chances are, regardless of whatever state your from, the process is going to be very similar. Despite the fact that I hate and despise bureaucracy and long forms as much as the next man, it is important to remember that with something as important as a name change, it's worth the time and effort. In Drumwasters case, we must make the assumption that all of the forms have been submitted to the court, and that all of the fees have been paid. As long as there is a seal on the document(s) at the time of filing, the process should be complete. While I highly recommend talking to a clerk in regard to validity, process plus county seal indicate the name change has been completed.

As far as there being court records, the only records that I can think of are the actual forms. When filing a DBA, you fill out the paperwork, pay a filing fee, and the clerk stamps a copy of the DBA paperwork, a process known as "sealing" it. Now, a lot of confusion comes into play when we refer to the process of sealing. People tend to think that sealing involves actual sealing of documents inside of a container, although sealing is just the process of stamping the county seal on the documents. If you think back to your college days, when you had to request a copy of your transcripts to be sent, they would ask for sealed copies. This is the exact same thing, only instead of the stamp of your college (or university), it's the stamp of the county you reside in. Once the DBA paperwork is filed and sealed, you then have to publish it. Publishing involves finding a newspaper or journal, such as the Daily Journal, who post legal notices. The process for a name change is virtually the same, minus the publishing.

You can access my name change forms here.

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