Serve the Order to Show Cause

After you file the papers, you must have someone deliver a copy of the Order to Show Cause (form NC-120) and other forms to your child’s other parent at least 30 days before your court date. This is called serving papers. 

Before you start

Serving means another adult, not you, delivers a copy of your forms to the other parent. This person is your server. Your server must deliver the papers in person

After delivering the papers, your server must sign a form saying they delivered the papers. You file this form with the court. 

Personal service is almost always required. But there are some situations where you can use a different process:

If your child's other parent is out of California, your server can mail them the forms by certified mail, return receipt requested. Keep in mind this type of service requires more time so pay attention to the deadlines. 

First, you will have to look for them. You will have to show the judge that you tried everything reasonable to track them down. This is called a “due diligence search.” 
If you searched for them and still can’t find them, you can ask for permission to serve them by publication, since you have to publish already. In some cases, you may find how to reach them but not an address, like if you find their account on social media. In that case, the judge might order you to also notify them through social media.

How to serve your Order to Show Cause and other forms

  • Choose a server

    You can't serve papers yourself. Ask another adult – a server – to deliver the papers.    

    Your server must be:  

    • 18 or over, and  

    • Not part of your case  

    Your server can be:  

    • Someone you know 

    • The county sheriff (in most, not all, counties)  

    • A professional process server you hire  

    The sheriff charges to serve papers unless you have a fee waiver. And not every sheriff’s department may serve name change papers so ask first.  

    Contact the jail or prison to find out how to get papers served on an inmate. Sometimes, the staff at the jail or prison will do it for you. Other times, you may have to arrange to do it during visiting hours, or some other way.
  • Figure out the deadline to serve

    Your server must deliver the forms at least 30 days before your court date. 

    If the other parent is outside of California and you will have them served by certified mail, return-receipt requested, you have to add 10 days for the mailing. That means the forms must be mailed to them at least 40 days before your court date. 

  • Have your server deliver the forms to the other parent

    Your server must find your child’s parent and hand them the Petition with attachments, and the Order to Show Cause

    Your server must write down the address where they gave the other parent the forms, along with the date and time. The server needs this information to fill out a Proof of Service form. 

    Your server can leave the papers next to them and tell them what they are. For example, your server can leave the papers on the ground next to them and say, "These are important legal papers for you."
  • Have your server complete Proof of Service form

    You can use Proof of Service of Order to Show Cause (form NC-121). 

    It helps if you fill in the top part of the form with the case and court information. 

    Your server can then fill in the information about how, when, and where they served the forms. They also have to fill in their address and write in the name of the forms they served, the Petition for Change of Name (form NC-100), the Name and Information about the Person Whose Name is to be Changed (form NC-110) and the Order to Show Cause (form NC-120) . 

    Your server must sign at the bottom. 

    Unless your server will file it for you, your server should then give the Proof of Service form back to you to file. 

  • File Proof of Service form

    Make one copy of your filled out Proof of Service form. 

    • File the original and copy at least 5 court (business) days before the court hearing. 

    • The court will keep the original. 

    • The court will stamp and return the copy to you. 

    • Keep the copy for your records and bring it to the hearing. 

Change your child's name when only one parent files

What's next?

Once you've served the forms, you need to have your request published in a newspaper if you haven't already.

Then, you can start to prepare for the court date. This date may be cancelled if the other parent doesn't object to your request. If that happens, if you followed all the steps, the judge will sign your request.

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