Transgender and Name Changes

Legal name changes are an important topic for transgender individuals. Today, the world has begun to grow increasingly aware of individuals who identify as transgender. Those who recognize themselves to be transgender do not confirm unambiguously to the conventional notions of female and male gender roles. According to, when we consider ourselves to be either a female or male, this can be known as our “gender identity”. Everyone, no matter how young or old has a gender identity – it is the inborn and innate sense of ourselves as a male or female entity.

Transgender awareness has been made more explicit in the news recently too, as Bruce Jenner changed the history of gender awareness through an interview conducted with Diane Sawyer.  According to Jenner, “For all intents and purposes, I am a woman”. Jenner commented that people “look at me differently” seeing a “macho male”, however, “my heart, and my soul and everything I do in life, it is part of me, that female side is part of me. It is who I am. I was not genetically born that way”.

Statistically, most people find that their gender identity matches up with their anatomy, however those who identify as transgender find that their identity is different to their physical appearance. Commonly, transgender individuals suffer with the challenge of living within a body that they believe to be disparate to their true selves. Often, many transgender people suggest that they feel as though they are trapped in another person’s body. In simple terms, transgender individuals who are born as females believe they should be male, and those that are born as male believe they should be female. Legal name changes can help individuals choose a name to better suit their identity.

The journey towards embracing and expressing your true self can be somewhat complex if you are a transgender individual. There are a lot of different steps involved, and for many, the concept of securing a legal name that matches their true chosen identity is a crucial step in ensuring their legal identities match their internal experience. Those who do not have the correct identity documents on hand may find that they struggle to apply for important considerations through life, from public benefits, to jobs and schools. What’s more, living with the wrong name can lead to further turmoil and discrimination. Like many legal procedures, securing the appropriate name change as recognized by the law can be a challenging experience, which requires people to interact extensively with a court system that is foreign to them.

Filing a petition for a legal change of name is something that should be done with an experienced family law attorney on your side. The petition for the leave to assume another name can be made by the resident of a state to the county or supreme court in which he or she resides. For those residing in New York, outside of New York City like in Nassau and Suffolk County Long Island, the petition may be made at the Supreme Court or in New York City at any branch of the civil court in the city of New York. The petition to change the name of a child may be made by either of his parents, his general guardian, the guardian of his person, or a “next friend”. The aforementioned individuals will also be entitled to receive notice regarding the application submitted for a change of name for the child if another party makes the application.

A court then must be able to find that no reasonable objection exists to prevent the name change from taking place so that they may grant it. In regards to children, it is always important for the court to determine that the change of the name is within the best interests of a child. Recently, this office managed to obtain a name change successfully for a transgender child suffering from a condition known as “gender dysphoria”. This is a significant medical condition in which the child does not identify with the sex that was assigned to them at birth. According to the child’s therapist, the child would benefit more from changing the name to one that is more neutral in regards to gender.

You or your family law attorney will have the capacity to submit a petition for a change of name, alongside a filing fee, and the order that you would like to be signed by the judge permitting the name change. It will be required that you include a proof of birth or birth certificate along with the papers that you produce for the judge, and if the petition that you submit is approved you will be required to make a notification of that change known through newspaper publication. Though typically, all applications for name changes are matters of public record, some courts may choose to dispense with the requirement for publication in specific circumstances. Usually, this will only happen if the court is shown that there may be issues of personal safety should the name change be disclosed.

The court will need to consider a number of different issues during the process of a name change, therefore it is important to disclose certain information on your petition. The concern is whether the name change is being sought to avoid financial obligations or for fraudulent intent. Some of the factors that may need to be examined include, but are not limited to:

  • Whether there has been any liens or judgements made against the applicant
  • Whether the individual submitting the petition has any criminal convictions, or has been determined bankrupt by a judge
  • Whether the applicant has obligations of child or spousal support, and whether they are currently up to date
  • Whether any cases are currently pending in which the applicant is a party

All people have a common right under the law to either change their names or retain their old ones, provided that the action is not embarked upon with any intent to defraud. According to the law, the state is typically not supposed to charge any fees to individuals who would like to change their names on methods of identification or driver’s license to reflect their new name as a result of a change in name outlined above, or a change in marital status.

Our office is highly familiar with the concept and production of name change applications both outside of, and within marital cases. To learn more about the legal assistance that we offer, please continue to click around our blog. If you would like to discuss your personal situation further, then feel free to call us, it would be our pleasure to speak with you.

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