No, however, the process is easier to change your legal last name if you qualify for a life change event. Washington state considers marriage and divorce as a life change event when changing your last name to reflect either your spouse’s after legal marriage or reversing back to your given last name after a divorce.

Both opposite sex and same-sex marriage is legally recognized in the state of Washington. If you do not have a life change event, or wish to change your whole name including first or middle names, then you may need to petition your local Washington court to do so.

Does Washington Acknowledge Common Law Name Changes?

Yes, it is free and legal to begin using a different name including changing your first name to reflect your gender identity. Under common law, a person can simply start using a different name, however, they must do so consistently and exclusively in order for that name to recognized.

In dealing with the government or other formal institutions, you may be required to formally change your name with the court to receive a name change on official documents. For example, if you commonly go by another name, but not legally, and try to use that name for a plane ticket, then you will be barred from boarding your flight.

How Do I Legally Change My Name in Washington?

You must file a formal petition and pay any related court fees to change your legal name. The following are the usual steps for transgender people aged 18 and older to legally change their name in Washington state:

  1. Find the local state court for the county you reside in Washington;
  2. Complete a Petition for Name Change. Some counties have an online form you can complete and print or you can pick up a petition at the courthouse in your county. You will need the following information to complete the petition:
    1. Current legal full name: first, middle, and last. 
    2. The full name you wish to change your name to: first, middle, and last. 
    3. Indicate whether you are a current resident of the county where you are applying. 
    4. Indicate whether you are required to file as a register sex offender. If you are required as a result of a sexual based criminal conviction, you may have to submit additional notice to local law enforcement before filing the petition. 
    5. Indicate whether you have had a name change prior to this filing and if so, provide a detailed explanation including date, prior name and reason for the last change. 
    6. Be prepared to offer an explanation for why you are requesting a name change now. You may include that the new change will positively reflect your gender identity.
  3. File the petition with the court clerk; 
    1. You may need to show a government issued identification such as a state driver’s license or passport with your current legal name.
  4. Be prepared to pay the filing fee at the time of filing; 
    1. Fees may be different for each county.
  5. Depending on the county court, there may be a hearing scheduled with a judge; and 
    1. If a hearing is scheduled, you need to appear in court.
  6. If the petition is approved, you will receive an official court order with a judge’s signature approving the name change. Keep this document for future use.

Once a Legal Name Change for a Transgendered Person is Approved, Can Their Birth Certificate be Changed?

Yes, if you were born in the state of Washington, get a certified copy of the legal order changing your name and send it to the Department of Health, Center for Health Statistics along with your birth certificate.

A new birth certificate should be issued after all documentation has been received. If you wish to change your gender marker on your birth certificate, you may also make that request with the Department of Health. If your request is denied, you may appeal that decision in court.

Do I Have to Supply Special Information Because of My Transgender Status?

No, you should not be treated any different by the court or clerk due to your transgender status. As long as your petition meets the legal requirements, your request should not be denied simply because you are a transgendered person.

Are there Any Legal Reasons to Deny a Name Change?

Yes. A name change may be denied by the court if the change is found to be used for fraudulent purposes, to avoid a debt or other legal obligation, or for the petitioner’s failure to properly notify law enforcement authorities when required after criminal conviction.

Does a Transgendered Person Need a Lawyer to File a Name Change in Washington?

A Washington lawyer can help you file your petition and prepare you for a hearing with a judge. If your request is denied, they can help you to re-file correctly or appeal the decision. However, changing your name is typically done without any problem and often doesn’t require the help of a lawyer/attorney.

If you believe you have been discriminated against based on your transgender status in attempting to legally change your name, a civil rights lawyer may be able to investigate the claim and represent you for any civil rights violation.