Domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault survivors often enroll in the Safe at Home program while in the process of filing a restraining order or in anticipation of participation in court hearings. Survivors enroll to protect their residence address on court documents that may be served to the other party in the case. Survivors may also enroll in the program to become eligible to petition for a Confidential Name Change for themselves and/or their children. The Secretary of State's office greatly appreciates the continued cooperation, sensitivity to victim needs, and ongoing information exchange our office has with California's Superior and Family Courts.
- The Safe at Home P.O. Box address (designated by the Secretary of State) when used by a program participant, shall be accepted by the courts and law enforcement officials.
- A police or investigative report pertaining to a Safe at Home participant must list the Safe at Home address rather than the participant's physical address.
- The participant should present the Safe at Home Authorization ID card, a laminated card provided by the Secretary of State ( view sample ID card) , which contains the participant's name, Safe at Home P.O. Box address, enrollment and expiration dates and the participant's signature. The ID card also includes the Secretary of State’s toll-free number, (877) 322-5227, if you want to verify a participant’s active enrollment or with inquiries about the program.
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- The Secretary of State may provide the confidential address location of a Safe at Home participant under the following circumstances, only:
- If the address is requested by a law enforcement agency, to that specific agency.
- If directed by a court order, to a person identified in the order.
- After the participant's termination or withdrawal from the program, at the discretion of the Safe at Home manager.
- An Agency Exemption Request Form must be completed and signed by the head of the agency and submitted for review by the Safe at Home program manager prior to the release of address information. If you have any questions, please contact the Safe at Home program at (877) 322-5227.
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Confidential Name Change Process
- Active participants of the Safe at Home program are eligible to petition for a confidential name change through their county’s California Superior Court. A confidential legal name change prevents the current and proposed new name from being documented on court records, published in the newspaper, or made available through any type of public media or display. The confidential legal name change differs from a regular name change in that the new name is not listed on the court name change decree but as confidential and on file with the Secretary of State’s Office. (per Government Code §6206.4, Code of Civil Procedure §1277)
- The confidential name change is intended to be used to prevent an abuser or stalker from finding a participant, not to avoid legal or financial obligations. A parent petitioning for a name change for their child will be required to notify the child’s other parent of the name change, unless the other parent’s rights have been terminated.
- Because the confidential name change is used to establish a new identity, a person’s ability to receive credit; purchase, rent or inherit property; obtain a passport; start a business; or apply for school programs or grants may be delayed. Participants are advised to seek the assistance of an attorney, legal advisor or to consult with their local Legal Aid Foundation prior to initiating the process to find out how their lives may be affected. Participants are also encouraged to contact the Social Security Administration, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the California Office of Vital Records to clarify whether or not they meet the qualification requirements to make changes to their Social Security Card, California Drivers License or ID, and/or California Birth Certificate prior to initiating the process.
How the confidential name change process works:
- The Safe at Home participant requests, completes and submits to Safe at Home the Name Change Packet. The packet contains a guide to the name change process; the Notice of Intent of Name Change Form, which the participant completes with his or her previous and new name; and a new Safe at Home ID form, which the participant signs with his or her new name.
- Once these forms are completed and submitted to Safe at Home, they are checked for accuracy. If the forms are approved, Safe at Home mails a letter to the participant as he or she needs to present this letter to his or her local superior court along with the name change petition.
- The court staff then verifies with Safe at Home that the participant has submitted the Notice of Intent of Name Change Form and sets the hearing date.
- The participant attends the hearing and a judge decides whether or not to grant the name change. Once the name change is granted and within seven days of the hearing, the participant sends a certified copy of the confidential name change decree to Safe at Home.
- Safe at Home then sends the participant a new enrollment packet with documents under their new legal name and additional information to update their identifying documents with the Social Security Administration, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the California Office of Vital Records.
Children's Name Changes
- The court is responsible for determining whether or not a person is eligible to petition for a confidential name change for himself/herself or his/her child. (per Code of Civil Procedure §1275 through 1279.6)
- Safe at Home does not conduct background checks on applicants or participants before they petition to the court for confidential name changes for themselves or for their children, nor does the Safe at Home program verify child custody orders before children are enrolled in the program.
- The court is responsible for determining whether or not the other parent of the participant's child must be notified of the confidential name change.
- The court is also responsible for determining whether or not the participant is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections or is a registered sex offender before granting the confidential name change. Enrollment of a minor in the Safe at Home program does not qualify as evidence of abuse.
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Custody and Visitation
- Safe at Home program participation will not affect custody or visitation orders in effect prior to enrollment. However, participation in the confidential address program does allow a participant’s physical address location to become confidential and protected from public records access. The Safe at Home P.O. Box address should be accepted for placement on court/legal documents. (per Government Codes §6207 and 6209.7)
- The Secretary of State’s office is required to send notification to the other parent of a participant's minor child instructing him or her to serve the participant with court documents related to child custody and visitation through the Secretary of State's office. (per Government Codes §6206(d))
- To execute a process service, the server must prepare two copies of each document being served. One copy is immediately forwarded to the participant via certified mail and the other copy is retained by Safe at Home. Service of process is accepted for active participants only. (per Government Codes §6206(a)(5)(A)(B)) The documents must be delivered (Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.) in person, through a server to: Secretary of State's office, 1500 11th Street, 4th Floor, Room 460, Sacramento, CA 95814. (per Government Code §6206)
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Mailing to Safe at Home Participants
- The Secretary of State serves as the legal agent to accept and forward mail on behalf of all participants of the program. (per Government Code §6206(a)(5))
- Please be sure to include the participant’s four-digit ID number (provided on the Authorization ID card) when mail is addressed to the participant at their Safe at Home P.O. Box.
- If possible, the ID number should be placed adjacent to the participant’s last name or in a fourth address line below the entire address. This is very important because the Safe at Home P.O. Box address is shared by other participants and the ID number serves as the sole identifier to expedite the sorting and mail forwarding process.
- If it becomes necessary to execute a service of process, please prepare two copies of each document being served. The documents must be delivered to:
- Secretary of State’s office, 1500 11th Street, 4th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814 between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excepting state holidays.
- One copy is immediately forwarded to the program participant and the other copy is retained in the participant's file for reference.
- Note: Participant enrollment in Safe at Home does not constitute evidence of domestic violence or stalking for the purposes of making custody or visitation orders. (per Government Code §6209.7)
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- The Safe at Home participant should notify the court prior to the scheduled hearing date of his or her enrollment in the Safe at Home Program.
- The Safe at Home participant’s assigned P.O. Box should be used on all new court documents.
- The Safe at Home assigned P.O. Box should be accepted when the Safe at Home ID card is presented to judges/officers of the court and law enforcement.
- Please exercise caution with the other parent(s) who may attempt to use the courts and the legal system to gain access to a victim’s confidential address, which is protected under Safe at Home.
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Reasons for Termination
Program participation may be terminated for any of the following reasons: (per Government Code 6206.7)
- The participant requested to withdraw from the program and returned his or her Safe at Home ID card.
- It was discovered that false or misleading information was provided in the application process.
- It was discovered that the participant applied to the program to evade law enforcement or to avoid detection of illegal or criminal activity (including avoiding child custody, visitation or support orders).
- Mail forwarded to the participant's current California mailing address was returned to Safe at Home, marked as undeliverable, or indicated that the participant moved to a new address without notifying Safe at Home seven (7) days prior to moving.
- A service of process document sent to the participant was returned as undeliverable or refused.
- There was a change in the participant's current residence address information and he or she did not provide the required seven (7) day notice to Safe at Home.
- The participant completed a legal name change or confidential name change process and did not notify Safe at Home within (7) days, as required by law.
- The participant's four-year certification period expired and his or her renewal was not completed and submitted to Safe at Home.
- The participant turned 18 and did not renew his or her certification within sixty (60) days of turning 18 years old.
- The Secretary of State may refuse to renew a participant's certification if he or she has abandoned his or her domicile in California.
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- It is recommended that court officials contact the Safe at Home program to verify enrollment.
- Please also feel free to notify our office of any suspected misuse of the Safe at Home benefits. You may contact Safe at Home at (916) 653-1769 or toll-free at (877) 322-5227.
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