Legal Documents You Should Change after a Gender Reassignment

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 What Legal Documents Should I Change for a New Name?

If you have undergone gender reassignment surgery, you are starting a new life with your new identity. To make things easier, you will want to change your legal documents to reflect your new gender and name.

The primary documents that you will need to change to reflect your new name and gender are your:

  1. Court Order Granting Name Change
  2. Social security card
  3. Driver’s license or state ID
  4. Birth certificate
  5. Passport

While you may change other documents, such as your name on a credit card, these are the four documents to change first. These are also the four forms of identification that most other entities will ask for to change your name on other things, such as bank accounts or utility bills.

Which Legal Documents Should I Change First?

If you plan to change your name to reflect your identity better, there are a few things to consider. You can streamline the process by changing your documents in a particular order since different government agencies require different documentation to process your paperwork. To make the process smoother, you may want to follow this order.

First: Get a Court Order Changing Your Name

The very first thing that you will need to do is have your name legally changed in the court system. Since many states require a court order finalizing the name change to proceed with changing any other documentation, this should be your first step.

Different states have different requirements regarding documentation for name changes. Some states require a note from the doctor who performed your gender reassignment surgery to verify the change. Some states require that you bring a witness to the hearing who has known you for a specified period. This witness must testify that they know you well enough to know that you are not changing your name for fraudulent purposes (e.g., to avoid paying debts).

To legally change your name, typically, the procedures require that you:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Meet your state’s residency requirements
  • Fill out a petition to legally change your name
  • File your petition with your local civil court (the specific court where you file your petition depends on where you live) and pay the associated filing fees
  • Attend your court hearing to see if the judge has approved your petition

It’s a good idea to get extra certified copies of the court order finalizing your name change since some government and non-government offices require either signed originals or certified copies to be submitted with your application to change your name on an account.

Second: Change Your Social Security Card

You can get new identification documents once you have the court order showing your new legal name. Your next stop should be with Social Security. Unfortunately, you cannot apply for a new Social Security card online. However, you can either go to your local Social Security office or file your application by mail.

When changing your Social Security records, you need proof of your identity under your old and new names. Usually, this means you provide the document proving your legal name change—like a copy of your court order. You will also need to show a document that serves as proof of identity, like a driver’s license, state-issued identification card, or passport.

If your name change occurred two years ago, you may also need to provide additional documentation to prove your identity in your prior name. All documents that you provide must be originals or certified copies.

Your new Social Security card will have the same number as your old card but will show your new name.

Third: Change Your Driver’s License or State ID

Every state has its own rules for driver’s licenses and ID cards, so you may want to check with a local lawyer who can explain what you need regarding specific required documents. Generally, many steps to change your license or identity card will be the same across the board.

Most states will require evidence of your legal name change,, such as a copy (or certified copy) of the court order that changed your name. You may also need to show your old driver’s license or state ID.

If you own a vehicle, you must also change your name on your vehicle records (like your car registration). You can do this through your local DMV.

In many states, you must go to the DMV office in person to have your name changed on your records. Depending on your state, there may also be a small fee for your new driver’s license and vehicle registration.

Note that on driver’s licenses and state IDs, gender is self-designated. You don’t need any paperwork or documentation to change your gender on your driver’s license or state ID. It’s easiest to do it at the time you change your name.

Fourth: Change Your Birth Certificate

When changing your birth certificate, many states will allow you to have your gender changed to reflect your identity better. However, some states will not. For example, Tennessee currently will not issue changes to gender designations on birth certificates.

To change your gender on your birth certificate, most states will require one or both of the following:

  • An original letter from a licensed physician certifying appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition
  • A certified copy of a court order that specifically directs amendment of the subject’s sex on the birth record

If you need to obtain a court order instructing the Office of Vital Records to change the gender on your birth certificate, you will have to file a petition in family court. To date, no state has a specific form for that petition. Knowing what to put on the petition is complex – this is an example of an issue you should contact a lawyer about.

Fifth: Change Your Passport

Even if you are not planning any trips, you should update your passport soon after you get the orders to change your name and sex. Your passport is now needed as identification in many circumstances, including getting an upgraded driver’s license. Do it now, before it slips your mind.

Should I Talk to an Attorney If I’m Changing My Name After Gender Reassignment Surgery?

Changing your name and gender on your official documents can be overwhelming, especially if you are unfamiliar with government paperwork and procedures. Some individuals successfully change their name without too much trouble, but making sure you do it right isn’t easy.

If you are confused or uncertain about what documents you need, contact a government lawyer experienced in government work. They can help you if the issue is more complex than you expected, like if there are missing documents or if you have had several legal name changes.

Another good option is to contact a family lawyer. He or she can help ensure that the procedures for changing your name and gender are all completed properly. If your case is more complicated than you imagined, take advantage of the help an attorney can provide.

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