Name changes are an important part of the family law landscape which can apply to a wide range of cases. There are various instances wherein a person might decide to change their name, their identity, or even their designated gender identifiers in today’s modern world. With the introduction of the new Gender Recognition Act, New York’s laws governing name changes have been updated and revamped.
The new guidelines, signed into law on June 24th, 2021, allow Transgender and non-binary residents of New York to have the documentation they need to accurately represent their gender identity. The act also ensures individuals seeking these forms of identification can access the right forms of protection.
If you’ve been looking into name change law or are considering changing your name in legal documentation to represent your gender identity, the following insights might prove useful.
Protecting Individuals Following a Name Change
The guidelines implemented by the Gender Recognition Act introduced in 2021 mean there are now no publication requirements for name changes in New York law. Previously, indivduals who wanted to officially change their name would be required to publicize this information in a newspaper, along with information about the state and city in which they lived, and the year and month of their birth. The courts would only allow for publication to be waived if the evidence suggested publicizing the information would put the personal safety of an applicant at risk.
Notably, while the court was required to consider threats to personal safety if they were raised, the requirement for publication did present a problem for some applicants. In situations where publication requirements were waived in the past, the court would also allow for the record of the proceedings to be sealed.
Now, a publication is no longer necessary, and the process of sealing the record surrounding the name change is simpler too. Previously, records were sealed only when the courts waived the publication requirement. Now, the amendments allow courts to consider the applicant’s status as transgender as a reason why a record may need to be sealed. If the name change in question is being made alongside a sex designation change petition, records can be sealed either via the court’s own motion, or upon the applicant’s request, without the need for a finding that an open record puts the applicant at risk of harm.
Further Changes Made By the New Act
The amendments to the name change law implemented by the Gender Recognition Act also require all private and public entities to comply with the name change. Before this, the name change laws simply said petitioners “shall be known” by their new name. Now, the new amendments go further and say a name change order is enough for an applicant’s name to be changed on all documents maintained by New York State and its subdivisions, as well as documents maintained by private entities.
The Gender Recognition Act also highlights that failure to comply with these new requirements may be treated as a violation of local and state non-discrimination laws, leading to an opportunity for individuals to file a complaint with the NYS Human Rights division, perhaps other agencies, and/or other actions.
Further, the amendments also clarify circumstances in which a court might require consent and notice of a name change. For instance, the only person who will need to provide consent at this point is the petitioner in most cases. However, there are possible exceptions, including, but not limited to the case of individuals convicted of certain crimes, and minors. In these instances, pre-hearing notice will be provided to the correct parties, who can subject their objections to any name changes.
If parents are filing the petition for a name change on the behalf of a young child, notice must be given to the child’s other parent if they’re still living if a consent of the other parent is not submitted with the petition. If the petition is delivered by the legal guardian of a child, notice must be given to both parents if living and if consents are not included with the petition. In situations where individuals on parole or convicted of certain crimes request a name change, notice must be given to the district attorney and sentencing court of the county where the individual was convicted.
Notifications and Name Changes
If the name change is granted, the court can also deliver notifications to certain parties in some circumstances. For instance, when the courts grant a change of name for someone convicted of certain felonies, a copy of the name change order may be delivered to the New York division for criminal justice services. In cases where petitioners are responsible for child or spousal support, the court may deliver a copy of the order to the court which entered the support order. Other parties may also be notified when the correct reasoning is available.
Notably, the amendments also make it clear the court can not require notice to be given to federal agencies for immigration.
If you have concerns about changes to the name change law, or you would like to learn more about how name changing has been altered in New York, you can contact me to discuss your requirements. We offer free initial consultations with my office of up to 30 minutes whether by phone, in office or Zoom. You can also find additional information and guidance on our other blog articles and website.