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As my previous blog discussed before, petitioning to change one’s name is done through the judicial system. The form needed to do this, which is called “Name Change petition,” explicitly states that the petitioner has to be 18 years or older to be able to go through the whole process without the consent from the guardians. This certainly does not indicate that the minors (under the age of 18) do not have the rights to change their names; the guardians can certainly file the petition on behalf of their minor children. Here is the case that I dealt with an actual litigant last week:

Lisa*, a 37 year old mother of two children, recently divorced her husband due to his violent behavior toward them. She has full custody of both of her children and wishes to change both of their current last names to her maiden name Adajehi. However, both of her kids are minors, a 7 year old (Bart*) and an 11 year old (Maggie*), which means that Lisa has to petition on behalf of both children. How can this be done? Also, does this mean that she has to pay $790($395 x 2) as the total cost for both children?

Here’s the solution to Lisa’s problem: the magic phrase that she needs to use over and over again to inform the court that Lisa is petitioning on behalf of her children is “guardian’s name on behalf of minor children, children’s names.” In Lisa’s case, she would write “Lisa Adajehi on behalf of minor children, Bart Gonzales and Maggie Gonzales.” This phrase must be written everywhere on the form that asks for the petitioner’s name. Here’s the CM-010 Civil Cover sheet:

 

Do you see the part that asks for the petitioner’s name and the address at the top? This is the exact place where Lisa would put down that magic phrase. Also, completing the CM-010 can be confusing so here are the steps to check the correct boxes:

  1. Once you are done with writing down your name (or the magic phrase) as well as your address, write down the court’s address. The address of downtown Superior Court of San Diego is 330 West Broadway, San Diego, CA. 92101.
  2. Note that the Case Name would be your last name even if you are petitioning on behalf of your minors.
  3. Check “Unlimited” under the section “CIVIL CASE COVER SHEET.”
  4. Question #1: check “Other petition” under the section “Miscellaneous Civil Petition;” this indicates the type of case you are trying to file.
  5. Question #2: check “is not” to indicate that your petition is not COMPLEX.
  6. Question #3: check “non-monetary” to indicate that you are not seeking money as the remedy.
  7. Skip Question #4;
  8. Question #5: check “is not” to indicate that your petition is not a class suit.
  9. Print your name, date and sign at the bottom.

Another often asked question is “about the forms where they ask you for not only the petitioner’s name but also for both of the petitioner’s current and proposed name.”

 

NC-130, the form also known as the “DECREE CHANGING NAME,” is the page that asks for both of the petitioner’s name but also current/proposed names.  On this page, you put down the magic phrase that asks for the petitioner’s name; but for the parts that ask you for current and proposed names, you can just answer the questions without mentioning about guardian’s intention of filing a petition on behalf of his minor child: in Lisa’s case, she could just list “Bart Gonzales” as the current name and “Bart Adajehi” as the proposed name. Simply put, the petitioner is the one actually filling out the form.

I have yet to address the cost issue mentioned above. The petitioners do not need to pay by the number of people trying to change their names, but need to pay by the number of petitions they are submitting. Thus, in Lisa’s case, she will only be responsible for $395 for her two children. If your financial situation does not spare you this amount of money, be sure to file the Fee Waiver to request the court to waive or lower the filing fee (also be sure to check out my blog that talks about how to file the Fee Waiver forms).

*Pseudonym was used to protect litigant’s privacy.

 

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It is not surprising to witness litigants repeating the information after me, as a way to confirm whether they heard it correctly:

[After assisting a litigant with his/her packet]

Eric (me): “Sir, the cost to file a restraining order is $395.”

John (litigant): “What, $395? I don’t have the money to pay for it”

Eric (me): “Ma’am, the cost to file an unlawful detainer answer is $225,”

Casey (litigant): “What, $225? I have bills to pay.”

Eric (me): “Sir, the cost to file a restraining order is $395.”

John (litigant): “What, $395? I don’t have the money to pay for it”

Eric (me): “Ma’am, the cost to file an unlawful detainer answer is $225,”

Casey (litigant): “What, $225? I have bills to pay.”

As this dialogue demonstrates, with the actual costs written as above, filing court documents are expensive. Needless to say, one should not file a request without having a legitimate reason, but this is not to say that people with financial hardships should not seek legal remedies to solve their cases. To aid those in need, the court provides an application called “A Fee Waiver” to anyone who wishes to request the court to waive the fees for these processes. Anyone can file it: in fact, everyone is welcome to file one, but the court has the choice of granting it or declining it depending on how “severe” the applicant’s financial situation is. Therefore, as fair as it sounds, both the rich and the poor have the right to fill out the Waiver, though it seems more likely the former would have a higher chance of receiving the aid as they have to meet higher standard of burden of proof to demonstrate that his financial situation calls for it.

Every packet costs $3 when purchased in the court business office, and it includes the Fee Waiver Form. If it is not included, one should feel free asking for the Waiver. All Fee Waivers look the same and are universally used for every type of petition.

Below are the instructions to file a Fee Waiver (more specifically, the first page or FW-001)

Sample: Fee Waiver

  1. Question One: write your name and your current address
  2. Question Two: Put down your workplace information (the title of your position, the address of the work/business and the name of your employer)
  3. Question Three: if you are represented by a lawyer, then complete this question with corresponding information; if not, write “Pro Per.It is a Latin word indicating “for oneself,” and this tells the court that you are a self-represented litigant.
  4. Question Four: check the first box
  5. Question Five: this question is the most important one of all, because it is asking you “why” you are filing a Fee Waiver; there are 3 criteria that will determine whether you are eligible to have all the court fees waived:

Option A

  • Criteria #A: if you are currently receiving any benefits listed on the option A, such as food stamps, SSI (Social Security) or Medi-Cal, then the court fees will be waived automatically. In other words, if this applies to you, then you are guaranteed to have all the court fees waived.

Option B

  • Criteria #B: this option depends on the size of your family. First, you must determine the number of your household; second, you need to add up all the incomes of your family members; third, once the total income is determined, you need to compare that number to the corresponding table.If your total income is lower than the corresponding table number, then you check option B, and if otherwise, you move on and check option C.

For example, if you are currentlyliving with your spouse and your son, then the size of your family is three. Then, you try to guess you and your spouse’s monthly income (assuming that your son is 5 years old and thus, has no income) which, for our purposes, comes out to be $1800. The table indicates that in order to be eligible to check option B, the total income of a family has to be lower than $1988.55. Since your family makes less, you are eligible to check option B.

Option C

  • Criteria #C: Check this if option A and B does not apply to you. Also, for this option, you could ask the court to waive all the fees,partially waive the fees or allow you to make install payments. The decisions will be made by a Judicial Officer.

6. Question #6: check if it applies to you

7. Once you are done up to question #6, then flip to the back page of FW-001.

Backside of FW-001

 

8. The number of questions that you need to answer on the back side varies depending on which option you have checked for question #5: if you chose option A, then you do not need to do the backside; if you chose option B, then you need to only answer question #7 to #9; or if you chose option C, then you need to answer all the questions, which are from #7 to #11.

9. Questions from #7 to #11 are self-explanatory. They are dedicated to calculate your total household monthly incomes and expenses. Read the questions very carefully and answer accordingly.

10. One thing to note: if you look at the bottom left side of the page, there is a box you could check. You check this box if you or your family has gone through “unusual financial events” such as medical expenses and more. If this is the case, then make sure you attach a “declaration page” on the back of the Fee Waiver Packet to provide the reasons for checking this box.

 

11. When you are done with FW001, then fill out FW003, but fill out only question #1 that asks you for your name and the address.

12. You are finally done!

Every litigant should be able to seek legal remedies regardless of his or her financial situation, and this is exactly what the Fee Waiver forms are for. The court is usually very generous. Thus, it is important for litigants to fill out the forms correctly and as exactly as they can, so that the forms can be processed successfully. More often than not, the primary petitions are not accepted with an incomplete Fee Waiver Form, unless the petitioner is willing to pay for the case, so it is essential to turn in complete forms for the convenience of both the litigant and for the court.

 

It is truly sad that school bullying has become a big societal problem in America. USA Today reported on 5/19/2012 that a documentary called “Bully” was featured in Sioux City, Iowa to show the seriousness of bullying amongst children at school. The news interviews one of the victims of bullying, Gass, whose testimony tells a horrifying story that he once had a switchblade pointed at the back of his neck on a school bus. To the bully that did this, it may be a funny prank, but it certainly is not funny to Gass. Just evaluating the situation is terrible enough but the fear and trauma our young Gass experienced is unimaginable.

 

Children experiencing any level of bullying should report the situation right away and seek help. Often, the level of violence elevates and the situation may call for a legal remedy against the bullies. Unfortunately, California does not allow minors under 12 to be legit petitioners, so they would need the help of their guardians to file the restraining order. I feel that this “age cut off” restriction exists just to make the matters more complicated.

 

Below is the real-life scenario I recently encountered:

 

Peter* is a nice 11 years old kid, who attends Pacifica elementary school. His mother said that Peter has not been to school for a while because his friends have bullied him so much to the extent that he no longer wishes to be educated. According to his testimony, the bullies have hidden his personal belongings, called him names to publicly humiliate him, and more. Now, both his mother and Peter want to file a restraining order against the bullies as a preventive mechanism to stop any future harassment. As you can see, Peter has a legitimate reason to be protected by the court, but the problem remains that he is not yet 12 years old. What should he do?

 

As previously mentioned, one solution to this dilemma is for his mother to file the restraining order on behalf of her minor child. And this is where the complication can arise: if she becomes the “primary petitioner” and if she lists her son as the “additional protected party,” everything becomes really messy. The “primary petitioner” is assumed to be the one that is under credible threats or violence, and the court requires the primary petitioner to justify the reasons for pursuing the court’s protection. As you can see, in Peter’s case, his mother is not the one suffering from harassment. Peter needs protection, and thus, this is not the preferred path.

 

An alternative to this complication is to wait until Peter turns 12. This would make court proceedings simpler, but meanwhile Peter could be in real danger and this will not alleviate the nature of the problem. Obviously, Peter’s withstanding of the bullying for another year is not an option. Taking all the above circumstances into consideration, we can ultimately conclude that the last resort for Peter and his mother would be a document called “Application and Order for Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem.”

 

The complex name of the application usually throws people off, but this is the form to request an adult to represent on behalf of the petitioner under conditions that either the petitioner is a minor or is an incapacitated person. Using this form, Peter can be the primary petitioner as long as his mother will be present on the day of the hearing to represent him. Other than overcoming the age requirement, this form could be used further advantages. The form has a box called “Ex Parte” which means “one party.”  In court terms, this means that no orders will be issued unless both parties, the plaintiff and the defendants, are present. By checking this box, the judge can allow his mother to represent him without having the consents from the other party in regards to this order. It sounds wonderful, but one must remember that this is still a request document that the court may allow or decline.

So, the legal age for the restraining order is 12, but it is not to restrict the protection for the minors. Depending on the circumstances, the court makes many exceptions when necessary. Therefore, restraining order can be a good legal remedy designed to provide anyone who is under recent and credible threat or violence, regardless of the petitioner’s age. There is no age limit to feeling safe and protected in this country, and I hope my blog can aid and educate those who seek these legal solutions.

*Pseudonym was used to protect the litigant’s privacy.

 

America has long advocated the freedom of the press, where journalism and media are considered as the Fourth Branch of the government and the medium for distributing and providing information to the citizens. Such advocacy is embedded with the most important principle of the public’s right to know. The same values apply to the court’s procedures on its documents. One specific case is for the “Proof of Service” paperwork.


Once the defendant successfully completes the answer to the complaint, he/she has to let the opposing party know that the complaint has been answered, which directly indicates “I will see you in court.” There are various ways to do this, which include personally serving the paperwork or mailing to the plaintiff’s address, but if the plaintiff has an attorney, then the defendant must give or mail the paperwork to the attorney. Also, it is illegal for either party to serve the court documents to the opposing party. Thus, many attorneys hire “court carrier” to serve the papers; unfortunately, this method costs money, so many self-representing litigants can ask someone over the age of 18 unrelated to this case. It can be a friend, a relative, or even a stranger, but it is very important to abide by these requirements stated above.

Finally, this is where the Proof of Service comes in. Once the server has successfully delivered the paperwork to the opposing party, he/she has to fill out the Proof of Service form to inform the court that both parties have been notified about the case and have agreed to come on the court hearing date to solve their disputes. This is an example of Proof of Service. However, the Proof of Service document can look different depending on the type of case. It is very important that the right one is filled out. Here’s another example of Proof of Service to exhibit the different types of this document.

This form is filled out by the server. It asks for his/her information, what methods of delivery was employed for paperwork delivery, and more. The questions are self-explanatory, and it ultimately requires the server’s signature, not that of the plaintiff or the defendant. Once it is filled out, just someone and anyone can bring back the completed Proof of Service to the court, time-stamp it by the stamp provided by the court, and put it in the drop-box. When this process is completed, the only thing left for the defendants or the plaintiffs to do is to wait for the hearing date and show up on that day. Though this process seems tedious, it is important for fairness that it should be done as exactly as mentioned. And because this process is a bit complicated, not answering or not letting the other party know about the pending court case is never a good idea, highly not recommended. Always follow procedures, then the process will run more smoothly.

On April 25th, 2012, the bill known as the “Kathy’s Law” was introduced to the state Assembly Committee to strengthen the restraining order. This utilizes the modern technology GPS tracking system on defendants who violated the restraining order and would provide more security and protection for the petitioner. The problem with this bill, however, is that it is designed to strengthen the “domestic restraining order” and not the “civil restraining order.” It is good news to some because Kathy’s Law would be strictly applied to specific orders.

 

The circumstance behind the introduction of this bill was a famous case involving the death of Kathy Scharbarth. She was reported missing on Thanksgiving Day of last year, and was found dead the next day. The police determined that she was strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend Robles, the suspect. Before this tragic incident, Mrs. Scharbarth had filed a domestic restraining order against Robles, but he violated it numerous times which caused Kathy to live in constant fear.

 

When the bill was first introduced, it was rejected with the reason that “placing a GPS system on defendants is too costly.” However, the bill was passed on April 26th with the following modification: instead of a petitioner or the State having the obligations to pay for the GPS system, the violator of the restraining order is the one that has to bear the financial burden.

 

Obviously, Kathy’s Law is highly welcomed as it would provide better protection and a greater sense of comfort to the petitioner. Most of the time, many petitioners have a misconception about the restraining order; they fantasize it to believe that once it is granted, the defendants will magically gain the “North Pole” property to repel themselves also having the “North Pole” property. However, this was very far from reality. Since defendants were not required to wear any tracking device or alerting systems for police to detect the violation, the “actual” power the petitioners gained was the paper copy of the court order that states only this: if they believe that the opposing party has violated the order, then they would call the police and show them the court order to relieve the situation, and nothing more. Evidently, the petitioners didn’t have any tangible medium to use when feeling threatened. This was before Kathy’s Law.

 

Kathy’s Law provides this medium. Due to the GPS, the defendants are wearing this tangible medium. This assures and allows the petitioners to know their whereabouts. Additionally, this law specifically applies in restrictive manner to the “domestic restraining order” and to those who have actually violated the court order. Thus, this bill is not an instance of cruel and unusual punishment. No violation (as one is supposed to comply) means no GPS!

In other words, Kathy’s Law is a great preventive mechanism. With the help of this enacted law, restraining orders became a more effective legal remedy to seek refuge from fear and retaliation both physically and mentally. There should be no more of these unfortunate events and victims, and the laws will continue to change with the trend in technology to enforce protection and safety.

 

 

By the third year of college, a student most likely has developed a “circle of friends” to which he/she is exceptionally close to. The members of this group form a tight bond with each other and usually arrange to live as roommates upon moving out of one place to another. At UCSD, the third years get to live at off-campus housing with less abiding rules set by the college dormitory. However, most of time, even the closest of friends encounter “roommate troubles” when they move in to live together. It seems only natural that it is so because everyone comes from a different family and social backgrounds, thus exhibiting a certain “activity or habit” that could bother another occupant. Like responsible adults, many develop a contract to stipulate the rules (as demonstrated by Sheldon from the CBS Big Bang Theroy) or some communication method to discuss them, but even so, sometimes they enter a conflict of interest. Let’s look at a real case that involved roommate problems.

Lisa* and her roommate Judy are living in a 2-bedroom apartment. They both agreed on a payment of 50% of the total rent before moving in, but soon this became too burdening. Thus, Lisa decided to allow a third roommate, Sunny, to live in their living room. Sunny seemed great at first, but with time, she started exhibiting eccentric behaviors. She wouldn’t leave the house, she wouldn’t eat, and she wouldn’t talk. Lisa was greatly concerned for her well-being, so she tried talking to Sunny, but the effort was fruitless and disastrous; Sunny broke the veranda windows with an iron. Now having witnessed this, Lisa fears that Sunny will hold a grudge against her and get violent again. Lisa and Judy either need to move out of the apartment to be away from her. But here’s a rather weird problem: when they move out, Sunny also needs to be gone. Sunny is not on the lease and there is no “legal” way to evict her unless the landlord or the leasing office files an “unlawful detainer complaint” against her. Not only that, but their contract does not terminate for another 7 months. What should Lisa and Judy do?

An instinctive solution would be to find an attorney, call the cops, or ask the landlord to do something. These processes could be arduous and costly. Better answer would be to evaluate this situation further and determine what Lisa and Judy really want to do. What they want to do is to move out of the house despite the fact that the lease has not been terminated. In this situation, the perfect legal remedy is a restraining order against Sunny. Once it is issued, Lisa and Judy will be able to move to somewhere else because the order dictates that Sunny has dangerous characters that could potentially pose threats to other tenants Lisa and Judy. Therefore, the apartment would be considered as an “undesirable or unlivable” premise.

 

Let’s look closer into restraining orders. There are two types: one is temporary, and the other is permanent. They are both essentially equivalent court orders, but they are different in terms of temporality. Temporary restraining orders, also known as the “immediate orders,” are issued if the court finds that the threat is recent and imminent. It is effective from the day the petitioner files to the court hearing date. Permanent restraining orders are different in that it is issued after the hearing date. If the court still finds that the respondent can pose threats to the petitioner, the petitioner can either obtain a year long, two years long, or three years long restraining order. In Lisa’s case, we can see that either the temporary or the permanent restraining orders are applicable. Once it is granted, they can move out of the apartment.

Furthermore, the outcome of this case was highly in Lisa’s favor. The result of this case was that Lisa obtained both temporary and permanent restraining orders of three years in length, and she and Judy were able to move out of the apartment. I asked her whether she would do this again for another roommate problem, but she firmly answered “no,” because “the process of doing all the paperwork, going to court hearing date, and dealing with this whole situation were all too difficult.” She added, “I was constantly under pressure and had to go through moral dilemmas. I was emotionally distressed until I moved out. I should have been more careful about letting someone live in my apartment in the first place.”

I was personally very glad to hear that response because her response told me that she is not the type of person who would abuse the legal remedy and use it arbitrarily. Her circumstance definitely seemed to call for it, but it is important for everyone to know that filing a restraining order against another person is a BIG deal. The reasons are as follows: first, the civil records can never be expunged on contrary to criminal records, and second, having a restraining order on the civil record would be damaging and will lower the chance of getting hired because it portrays “bad” characteristics.

When seeking legal remedies, it is necessary to think about the consequences and implications of using them. In Lisa’s case, it was necessary and had justifiable reasons for this interference. However, there are so many petitioners who come and think that obtaining a restraining order is more of an expression of hatred towards another person. This is a wrongful usage. Legal solutions should be sought and employed upon necessity and need, not because someone “feels like getting one.” Only when they can be applied properly, it will have the legal power and successful resolution.

*The litigant’s name is a pseudonym as well as both of her roommates’ are to protect their privacy. Also, I received her consent for sharing her case.

 

By the third year of college, a student most likely has developed a “circle of friends” to which he/she is exceptionally close to. The members of this group form a tight bond with each other and usually arrange to live as roommates upon moving out of one place to another. At UCSD, the third years get to live at off-campus housing with less abiding rules set by the college dormitory. However, most of time, even the closest of friends encounter “roommate troubles” when they move in to live together. It seems only natural that it is so because everyone comes from a different family and social backgrounds, thus exhibiting a certain “activity or habit” that could bother another occupant. Like responsible adults, many develop a contract to stipulate the rules (as demonstrated by Sheldon from the CBS Big Bang Theroy) or some communication method to discuss them, but even so, sometimes they enter a conflict of interest. Let’s look at a real case that involved roommate problems.

It is always difficult to accept a death of a loved one, especially if the person is question suddenly died of an accident. On March 4th, one of the students of Eleanor Roosevelt College of UCSD named Ernest Andrew Martinez accidentally fell off the Pangea Parking Structure and passed away. In the e-mail sent to all the ERC students, it was reported that it was an “unquestionably an accidental death.” As a fellow ERC student, I was greatly affected by this tragedy, but according to the reports, I believed it be a very sad accident.

But at the same time, as unfortunate as this event is, I thought I should interview those who conducted the investigations and handled this case to find out more details with regards to Mr. Martinez’s death since I am taking a journalism class. Though I might have employed unsuitable methods, In order to do so as my class project, I sent out numerous emails to potential candidates who can answer my questions. The candidates included the Dean of Student Affairs (the sender of the previous email), the UCSD police department, the chief of UCSD detectives and more.

My email said the following: “Hello (whom it may concern), my name is Eric Ha and I would like to interview…. who conducted an investigation on Martinez’s death… I would be using the digital camera to record the interview (a minute and a half, top)… if I were to visit you tomorrow, would you be able to provide who did it ( or at least general information in regards to the incidence?) It would mean a lot to me! Thanks.”

My plan for covering recent news for my class project was soon eradicated once I found out that my requests were declined and if not directly, there were replies with string attached, such as “I need you to review your interview questions” or “I need to know more about your class project first.” I sincerely did not mean to be insensitive, and I wanted to find out more about this accident. At the time, I could not believe that not a single person gave me permission to pursue this further.

As a Justice Corp member at the Superior San Diego Court Central Division who deals with restraining orders, unlawful detainers, ex-parte hearings and name change, I understand their worries. They are primarily concerned with liability issues: they don’t want a lawsuit against them because they provided answers that could potentially infringe one’s rights such as rights to privacy.

I supposed, other than protecting Mr. Martinez’s personal rights, my request were denied in an effort to prevent interference or a “frivolous lawsuit.” People in the past may have been more frank than those nowadays; now, people are more careful of what comes out of their mouths. In this fast paced society, a single word can instigate something that nobody wants and often result in “frivolous lawsuits.” As a Justice Corp member, my job is to provide legal information regarding the four categories of cases to the petitioners. I have witnessed numerous cases in which a petitioner wanted to achieve something that may abuse laws and personal rights. Though every citizen has a right to file a lawsuit against someone for any wrongdoing, it is not right to abuse that right. One time, a petitioner told me that he/she wanted to file a restraining order against the San Diego Police Department because he/she received a ticket. As a public service provider, I could not deny this request so I aided them for filling out the form, but I feel that this is an example of a frivolous lawsuit.

The theme of the COMT 175 class project was “making the invisible, visible.” Ironically, what the UCSD authorities wanted to emphasize was “making the invisible, more invisible.” Before this attempt, I had always thought that interviewing people is easy; now I certain think otherwise, and I have greater respect for all reporters and journalists. I thank them for overcoming these obstacles to bring out the truth to the world, and since I cannot pursue this any longer, I hope the UCSD authorities do make the invisible more visible with their reports to us.

 

Removing stigmization!

In the beginning of the year, especially on the first day of class, the teachers read off the names on the roster to check for attendance. As the instructor reads the name down an alphabetically organized list, they also note as such: “if I am mispronouncing your name or if there is another name you like to go by, please let me know.”

There is always at least one student who can’t handle the “standardized form” of his/her name. They say,” I don’t go by Jonathan, so please call me John,” or “please call me Nicole, not Nicolette.” If you fall into this category of students, I totally know how you feel.

It actually isn’t very difficult to go by a different name. We just have to let them know the other name. But legally, it presents a more difficult scenario: what do you do when you want to change your name for all of your documentations?

It’s a new trend that people of different ethnicities are more attentive to this issue, and this trend was evident especially with the Middle Eastern people. Though it is racist and is unfair, but since the 9/11, there have been many signs of hostile attitude towards the whole ethnic group. Thus, many 18 year old Middle Eastern adults would come to me to ask about changing their names. 99% of the time, they wish to do so to find a job because they feel that their last names function as an obstacle in the hiring process. This is a clear indication that one’s name plays a major role in their adjustment to society and often than not, petitioning for name change seems essential to some.

So, these minority groups seek legal remedies to eliminate their social stigma. However, the legal process of achieving this purpose can be arduous. Firstly, almost no one seeks for a lawyer to solve this matter though it is recommended. Even when they look for one, it is rare for any pro bono attorneys (volunteering lawyers) to help someone change his or her name because this matter is not of great priority at most times. Also, the courts do not consider them priority, as there are so many other immediate concerns that are more relevant to securing people’s well-being. For example, the court process for eviction would take precedence over the name change, unless there is an immediate threat. Secondly, people usually turn to court clerks for aid when they can’t get help from the attorneys, but most clerks would just hand you a packet of paperwork. Officially, they are not allowed to give you any kind of “legal advice.” If you have questions about filling out the forms, their answers would be the same always: “sorry, we don’t give out legal advice. We are only authorized to provide legal information.”

 

So, how can we change your name legally?

Here is a list of steps to take in order to change your name (with the assumption that you are over 18 years old, otherwise you would have to ask your parents or guardians to do it for you).

NOTE: Your current ZIP code determines the location of the court that you have to go to file your paperwork. For example, if you live in the East County like El Cajon, then you need to go to the East County Court; or if you live in the downtown area, then you need to go to the Central Divisions Court. Thus, make sure you check your zip code and go to the corresponding court. This information can be found on the Zip Code Directory:

  1. You need to have a completed name change packet/form to submit the petition. The form can be either obtained when you visit the court, or you can simply download it and print it out yourself. However, when you choose the first method, then you would have to purchase the packet for three dollars.
  2. You need only five pages out of the whole packet: Petition for Change of Name NC-100; attachment to Petition for Change of Name NC-110; Civil Case Cover Sheet (Case Cover Sheet CM-010;Order to Show Cause for Change of Name (Change of Name) NC-120;Decree Changing Name (Change of Name) NC-130. Remaining pages are irrelevant unless you are petitioning on behalf of your minor child.
  3. Unfortunately, courts usually don’t help people filling out their “name change packet.” The clerks would usually refer the petitioners to an attorney or to a legal service. Good news is that the San Diego Superior Court Central Division does. There will be college students in blue shirts with the sign “Judicial Counselor.” They are the members of Justice Corp, and they have been trained to help people fill out their packets correctly. Thus, even if your ZIP code indicates that you have to go to the Easy County Court, visit Central Division for assistance. Trust me, it will be worth it: judges will reject any incomplete or incorrectly-filled-out paperwork, and you’d have to redo it.
  4. California requires every petitioner who wishes to change his or her name to publish that name in the adjudicated newspaper. The list of approved adjudicated newspaper publishers can be obtained at the court. There are about 100 of them and you need to choose one prior to filing out your forms; more specifically, form NC-120 will ask for the name of the publisher. You will be required to publish your “proposed name” for four consecutive weeks. At the same time, the cost to do so varies depending on which publisher you choose, so it’s always recommended that you call about three to four places to see which one is financially suitable. Those newspaper publishers are expert in name change, so if you have any questions in regards to how it will be published and more, they would be more than happy to answer your questions.
  5. The cost to file a name change petition is $395. Yes, it is quite expensive but everyone is eligible to file a “fee-waiver.” If the fee-waiver is granted, then you don’t have to pay a cent. Another good news is that every court in San Diego tends to help petitioners with their fee-waiver form. But, it’s always a good idea to seek Justice Corp members to get those forms filled out correctly. Here is the link to the fee-waiver form.
  6. Once the paperwork is ready, then you are ready to file it. Stand in line to file it to the clerks. Once it is successfully filed, then you would get a hearing date through the mail. You would have to come back to the court on that particular date. Then, either the judge would grant your request or deny it, or possibly ask some questions about your responses on paperwork. But usually, it takes about 7 weeks to finish the whole process.
  7. Once granted, then you will get a court decree on the day of your hearing. With this decree, you can do anything you want, starting from changing your birth certificate’s name.

The 6 steps mentioned above give a general overview of how to petition for the name change. Follow those six items according to your needs and some variations may exist as every petitioner has his or her story to tell and comes from a different background. Thus, it is inevitable that some would fill out their packet differently than others do.