New York name change for transgender people

Disclaimer: This is legal talk, not legal advice. Laws vary by state, and some of the information discussed on this page may not be applicable in your case. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information and provide it without warranty. Laws change and this information may contain errors and omissions. It is up to you to confirm any information herein by doing your own research.

Some people have had troubles in New York, so plan carefully!

If you are in New York City and experiencing problems with your name change, please contact the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund Name Change Project:

http://www.transgenderlegal.org/work_show.php?id=7

For birth certificate changes, see my page on New York Birth Certificates.

From a reader in October 2007:

I saw your website (the tsroadmap), and although I’m an ftm (and your site seems geared toward mtfs primarily), I have very recent (July-August 2007) experience with a NYC name change order.

First, the forms have changed. Now they just give you the petition, and they copy your information into the computer to put into the order. So you have less to fill out.

Second, they’ve added a hearing - it’s really simple and usually there will be no interaction between you and the judge (I was in the courtroom for maybe 10 minutes before they told us to go back down to the Clerk’s office). It does mean that you know when you turn in your petition exactly what date your petition will be seen and signed. This means there’s no more “calling for months” to find out if the judge has signed it yet.

Also, I’m not sure why your site says to go to 60 Centre St. first - I only went to the Clerk’s office at 111 Centre street, and other than having to go to 60 Centre st. for a notary, I did everything in 111 Centre st.

In my petition, under reason to change my name, I had no desire to mention my gender anything, primarily because I haven’t taken “official” steps to change anything yet (my name change was first). I wrote my reason down as “I prefer to use ___ in my personal and professional lives.” It may have helped that ___ is a gender neutral name, but the judge asked no questions, and I was given my certified order a month after submitting my petition (and the only reason it took so long was that I had to wait 2 weeks for the hearing, and then went on vacation before I could pick up the proof of publication).

I published at the Beacon and my friend (an mtf) at the Irish Echo. Both were around $40 for publication, but the court chooses what publication.

From a reader in March 2007:

1. The PETITION FOR INDIVIDUAL ADULT CHANGE OF NAME form has changed. 60
Center Street, the "Self Representation" dept gave me the wrong form today. You need to go to http://www.courts.state.ny.us/courts/nyc/civil/ncforms.shtml to download new form (note: forms have since changed). Please note that item #9 in the petition was whited out. You need to state your reason there for changing your name. Filled it out and get it notarized in the basement of 60 center, room 141.

2. If you have been using your new name, then you don't need the "ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO CHANGE NAME" form. If you have records showing that both names refer to you, then you are a case of an A.K.A. In the forms where they asked for your old name, put "old name a.k.a. new name." Doing a name change is a legal way to handle an A.K.A. Once you changed your name, you will have a court order proving that both names refer to you.

3. Do try to get there before 12noon, because it gets crowded afterwards and staff people break for lunch around 12noon.

4. Bring quarters in case you want to photo-copy.

5. Bring white-out in case you make a mistake. I did and had to go outside to buy some.

In June 2003 a reader sent the following:

Name Change – NYC

What you need:

1) Black pen

2) Original embossed copy of your birth certificate. If you do not have one, call and ask what can be used as a substitute. Make a copy of your birth certificate BEFORE GOING for your records.

3) Cash. Prices may have changed since I did this (city is strapped for cash), but the office still only accepts cash and exact change. Be prepared by bringing EXTRA cash in easy denominations.

As a preface to these instructions by saying that:

  • I am not an attorney and can only pass along my own experience.
  • The following advice is for individuals residing within the five boroughs of New York City. I am told that NY State residents follow a similar procedure, but do not know.
  • I was born in New York City, and although I don’t think it matters, it might with regard to your birth certificate.
  • There has been a considerable time elapse since I changed my name. I will try to be comprehensive, but if there are any errors, I apologize in advance.

Having dispensed with the preamble, I will get on with the instructions.

The whole name change process, picking up forms to having a new driver’s license issued in your new name (and gender), took me about ten (10) weeks. I had several delays (my fault) which hopefully you will not if you follow these instructions. For the first day of the process, take the day off from work. DO NOT TRY TO SQUEEZE THIS INTO A LUNCH BREAK. Trust me on this, if you have extra time when you are done you can go back to the office, or enjoy some you time. Heck, jump on the subway and go shopping at Century 21! To make your life easier, get to the court house(s) early, this will help ensure you get everything done in one day. Wait, and lines can get backed up. My best advice is to be patient, be prepared to deal with inane city bureaucracy, and most important, have a sense of humor. It is not rocket science, but it is slow. You must jump through a sequence of hoops to get to your goal. If you detach yourself from the process, I am sure you will agree that is probably a good thing that it is not the simplest thing to legally change your name. It is for all of our protection. OK, on with the “how to.”

If you live in Manhattan, head down to the Centre Street court houses. If you have never been here, they are just south of China town, near City Hall. If you live in a borough other than Manhattan, you can go to Centre Street, but your better off going to the court where you live. Trust me on this. My friend who lives in Queens finished the entire process in half the time and with a fraction of the frustration I faced.

Also, whatever anyone tells you, you do not need an attorney. Let me repeat this for those in the back of the mezzanine. You do not need to hire an attorney to legally change your name in New York City. Moreover, you do not need to buy name change software. If you are long on cash and short on time, go ahead and hire a lawyer. Otherwise, if you’re willing to put the time in, you can save a pile of cash by taking care of it all yourself. We all know money is tight during transition and any corners that can be cut SHOULD BE.

Step #1: Go to 60 Centre Street. If you have ever been called in for jury duty, this is the same building. On the first floor of the building, ask the officer (after security) to direct you to the room where you can pick up the documents to change your name. I think it is room 100, but ask to make sure. I killed half a day being sent to all the wrong places, but I assure you, this is where you want to be. When you are at the office, ask for the two (2) documents you will need. One document is a two pager entitled PETITION FOR INDIVIDUAL ADULT CHANGE OF NAME. The second is a five page ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO CHANGE NAME. Ask for a additional copy of each document just in case you make any mistakes while filling them out. Trust me again when I say that this will saves you a hefty chunk of time and frustration. When you have your documents, fill them out with a black pen. I was told not to use blue, but a clerk later told me that it did not matter. As you never know if you will get anal Clerk from hell, err on the side of caution and use black ink.

First, Start with the five page ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO CHANGE NAME.

On the first page fill out:

County of (New York)
Address (111 Centre Street)

Leave the index number blank, the Clerk will fill it in.

IN the Matter of the Application of
(Old Name)

For Leave to Change His/Her/Their
Name to
(New Name) + cross out the above “her” and “their” [If you are F2M cross-out “his” and “their”

Next fill in your old name after “Upon the annexed Petition(s) of … cross out the lined space below until verified on. After “to assume the name(s) of” put your new full name. First, Middle, and last. Cross out everything below that until “…and the Court being satisfied that the Petition is true, and it appearing..” Next cross out the text “and it appearing that the interests of the said infant(s)….” Until “ it is hereby ORDERED that;

You are now 20% done with the documents.

On page 2 under ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO CHANGE NAME put (your old name) to (your new name). Just to the right, put page (2) OF (5).

If you have your original birth certificate, you will fill out the top portion of the document on page 2. Check the blank after I___. The individual currently know as: (print old name) who was born on (print DOB) at (Print Name of Hospital)… etc., etc. After “is hereby authorized to assume the name of: (print your new full name). X out or strike the rest of page two from (I ___. The individual currently known as…until the line is hereby authorized to assume the name of.

On page 3 fill out the names again in the upper left hand corner (see page two) and the pages: PAGE (3) of (5).

Also fill in the #5 after “This order consisting of a total of (5) pages…” Leave the rest of the page blank as the clerk will fill it out.

On page 4 fill out the names again and the pages. Leave the rest blank for the time being.

On page 5 fill out the names and pages again as well as the new and old names. Petitioner (Old Name) shall be know as and by the name(s) (New Name). Cross out the (s) and or Minor(s) after Petitioner.

Next, turn to the two page PETITION FOR INDIVIDUAL ADULT CHANGE OF NAME.

In the matter of the Application of (fill in old name)

For Leave to Change his/her name to (fill in new name).

On page one, fill out the rest of the information as instructed. On page two, the only questionable part is question #7) The grounds for this application are as follows:

Here they want to you state why you are changing your name. I was adamant that I wanted no mention of my gender change and wrote: “This is the name that I am known to most people as, and I desire to make it my legal name.” While I accomplished my goal, it did delay the process because the judge sent it back asking for proof that I used this name, i.e. utility bill, credit card, etc. I will get into all that later, but so that you know, that is all I ever wrote on the document and was able to legally change my name.

Once you have finished both document, you need to get the VERIFICATION portion of page two of the PETITION FOR INDIVIDUAL ADULT CHANGE OF NAME notarized. You can do this at any public notary, but if you are still at 60 Centre Street, simply go down to the basement level where they have a free notary public. Hey, every savings counts!

Once your petition has been notarized, you must go to 111 Centre Street with both documents. This is where you will actually take care of everything from now on.

Once in the building, head for room 118. There will be two lines, one for attorneys, and one for “other”. Unless you are an attorney, get on the “other” line. Sometimes this line is long but moves fast, other times, it is short but crawls. You will spend a lot of time, on several days occasions waiting here, so be pleasant, and be patient. Clerks can be kind and helpful or by the book and severe. Avoid making any remarks or a scene. You have been warned. When you get to the front of the line for the first time, the clerk there will take your petition, your ORIGINAL birth certificate, and review the petition you filled out. Note: YOU WILL NOT GET YOUR BIRTH CERTIFICATE BACK. That is why I previously said to make copies before going to the court house. If you have filled the forms out correctly, they will open a file for your name change, and tell you to pay a fee of ($65) which you will do on a separate line in the same room. Once you pay your fee, go back to the clerk you gave your petition to. YOU DO NOT NEED TO STAND IN LINE AGAIN. Once this has been done, your petition will be sent to a judge for review. You will be notified by phone or mail if there are any problems (i.e. the judge has additional questions), and given a receipt with your phone number that you must hold on to. This receipt will have an Index number – a digit followed by NC (name change) and the year.

If everything is kosher, in a few weeks a judge will sign off on both petitions. You will notified to return to room 118 at 111 Centre Street where you will be told in what publication you will need to publish your name change notice. For me, it was the Village Voice. With the new documents that you will get, I headed to the Voice’s office at Cooper Square. The woman at the classifieds dept knew the routine and after paying a $72 fee, and waiting two weeks, my legal notice of name change was printed. Once this is done, you will get an official receipt of printing from the publication. I had to harass the Voice like hell to get this and waited far longer than I thought I would have. Be diligent on this front as there is an “expiration date” by when you need to have this notice published. With your receipt in hand, return to 111 Centre Street where they will take the notice and certify your forms. Viola, congrats, mazel tov, kudos, your name has now been legally changed.

You can buy additional certified copies of the ORDER, and I suggest you do so. I bought six so that I would have extra and could avoid 111 Centre Street for as long as possible.

On that same day, if you have time, head of to the Social Security office and change the name on your SS card. The unpleasantries of filing your tax return will be mitigated by the fact that you can do so as YOU. Having a social security card in your new name will be useful when you go to the DMV to have your name (and in NY your gender) changed on your driver’s license. But that I’m afraid is another story altogether.

This came in from another reader on August 1, 2003:

I just changed my name in NY (Suffolk County Long Island). It was official yesterday! With that in hand I ran down to the DMV and got my new driver's license - and they gave me my F without barely blinking.

I did hire a lawyer because she was fairly inexpensive and I didn't feel like dealing with it. But I am a lawyer myself - and now that I have a copy of the order I could definately guide anyone through the process. It's really simple here - no court appearance - 1 week of publication in a tiny newspaper. It took just over a month.

Another reader writes in August 2003:

I've got some additional information on the name change process (mtf) in New York State.

First, I live in Monroe County so this works here.

Here is the civil law regarding name changes:

http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/menugetf.cgi?COMMONQUERY=LAWS

[website address above revised June 2007]

Its dry, but you should read it first to get a feel for subtle quirks between Monroe County and your county.

To start off you're going to need a few things.

1) Certified copy of your birth Certificate [1]. I'd reccomend buying a certified copy and keep your original.

2) Drivers' License or other Government issue photo ID in your former name

3) A filled out Petition to Change Name [2] in triplicate. One for the County Clerk's files, one for your record, and one for the judge should he or she need a copy.

4) A filled out Proposed Order to Change Name [2]. I also filled this out in triplicate, again, for my record, County Clerk and the Judge.

5) $185 in either cash, checking account, or credit/debit. (May vary per county. I used a Visa Debit card in Monroe County and it was fine.)

6) A photocopy of your birth certificate. NOTE: In Monroe County I was able to get away with a photocopy for the file. Your county may require a certified, or they may insist on making the copy of your Birth Certificate on their own. You should check beforehand or you may end up without a birth certificate and out $15.

The process

1) First, make sure you have EVERYTHING filled out properly! Do not staple anything. Should you have multiple pages for your Petition or Order you should use a paper clip to fasten them together. That is, fasten page 2 of your petiiton to page 1 of the petition, and fasten page 2 of your order to page 1 of your order. Let the people who handle your things use a staple if they want.

2) Next you need an Index Number. To buy this you'll need your $185 and you will have to go to your County Clerk (39 West Main Street, room 104 in Monroe County). Tell them that you're changing your name and you need an index number. They'll give you a form to fill out, the form is similar to the one used when you file a civil law suit so be careful to tell the clerk that you're changing your name, you may have special instructions. When you buy the index number you'll have to write it on the petition you're going to give them (there will be a space on the petition for it).

3) The County Clerk should take a copy of your Petition and Birth Certificate (a copy of it) and you should have a receipt and your index number (you did write it down, didn't you?).

4) Once you have your index number write it down on all of your remaining Petitions and Orders.

*Sanity Check*
So far you should have your Index Number, two remaining copies of your Petition to Change Name, all three of your Orders, Your certified copy of your Birth Certificate as well as a photocopy. One copy of your Petition should be on file in the County Clerk's office (or record hall) along with your Birth Certificate.
*End Sanity Check*

5) Continuing, you'll have to go to the Assigning Office of the Supreme Court in your county. (In Monroe County the War Memorial/Blue Cross Arena and the Hall of Justice share the same parking garage. The Assigning Office is in the Hall of Justice on the 5th floor.) In the Assigning Office you will want to give them your Certified Birth Certificate and your Proposed Order to Change Name, your Petition to Change Name.

Alternate Step 5) In Monroe County I was able to mail (with a SASE envelope) my Order, Petition and Certified Birth Certificate in to the Supreme Court Clerk's Office, 545 Hall of Justice, Rochester NY. A week or so later I got a big envelope from the Judge. He had returned my Petition, Birth Certificate and Signed Order.

*NOTE* If you have to see a Judge in person call the Assignment Office to ask who your case has been assigned to and then go and see him to get the signed order.

6) With your signed order in hand you're almost there. You still have to make a public notification in a newspaper with a high enough circulation. In Monroe County I was able to use the Daily Record (in fact, I had specified in my Proposed Order that I was going to use the Democrat & Chronicle, the Judge crossed it out and hand-wrote 'Daily Record' in its place). Try and get a law journal if you can.

7) Make the public notice and get a signed affidavit from the publication and then file that affidavit with the Office of the County Clerk in your county.

8) You are now legally you!! :-)My personal experience with this was rough, so I would highly reccomend that you have legal help with filing.

[1]: You can get a copy of your Birth Certificate at:

Certification Unit
Vital Records Section
P.O. Box 2602
Albany, NY 12220-2602
for $15, check made payable to: New York State Department of Health.
(Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/howto/w2w/newyork.htm )

[2]: You can find the Petition and Order forms here:

http://www.courts.state.ny.us/forms/namechange.shtml

Another reader writes in October 2003:

This will duplicate some of the info you already have, but I read your alert that some women have had trouble in New York, and as I did have trouble (though I don't know if it was the same as what you mentioned), hopefully my experience can be helpful. The key points I have to add are: a) the likelihood of getting an anti-TS judge when seeking a court order, and some possible solutions, and b) info for changing name on driver's license. I've also heard anecdotally that the man in charge of birth certificates for NYC is extremely hard to deal with, but I wasn't born there, so haven't personally dealt with him.

COURT ORDER FOR NAME CHANGE, NY STATE (NY CITY)

I changed my name in the borough of Manhattan, in the State of New York Civil Court at 111 Centre Street. I went directly to 111 Centre Street, room 118 (on the ground floor, NE side of the entrance hall) to pick up the petition for individual name change from one of the clerks (not the attorneys' line). You can begin at either the State Supreme or Civil Court;I don't know if either improves your chance of a quick procedure. Once your Petition for change of name is filled out, bring it along with an original copy of your birth certificate and (at the time I went) $35.00 in cash back to room 118 to wait in line for a clerk. Get a notarized copy of the birth certificate before this, as the original will not be returned to you. Early morning or right before lunch hour seemed to be the best time for avoiding lines, but a lot depends on the particular people ahead of you, and you really do get all types.

Once you speak with a clerk, they will take your birth certificate and completed petition. As Becky Allison's site notes, NY State has two kinds of birth certificates, a short and a long form. If the clerk is not familiar with both (as the clerk who took my petition was not) they may use this as a bureaucratic stalling technique. But both ARE valid. If your petition and birth certificate check out, the clerk will give you an index number for tracking your case, and tell you to call back within 2 weeks. This where I ran into difficulty. I called back. And called back. Just before close of business day (4 pm for city workers) seemed to be the best for not being kept on hold. Whichever clerks I spoke with invariably said that the paperwork hadn't come back from the judge yet. This went on for two months. Finally, when I had my mother call, the clerks said that the cases went to the judges in batches, so mine hadn't even gotten in front of a judge for another 10 days after I went to the court. So find out ahead of time when the next batch of cases is going to a judge's office so you can take that built-in delay into consideration. Additionally, the clerk told us, my case had been assigned to an extremely anti-TS judge. She wouldn't refuse petitions, but in the words of the clerk, she would "sit on them." So, I procured a letter from my therapist similar to a letter such as one would give to the social security office or an SRS surgeon. We delivered it in person to the judge's office. Then, my mother having established a rapport with the head clerk, she called back, asked for him by name, and checked on not only the case's progress but whether the judge had read my therapist's letter. Less than a week later, the judge had signed the court order.

The rest is easy. The clerk assigned a period of time in which I had to publish notification of my intent to change name in one of an approved list of publications. I chose the Village Voice because it was cheap, easy, and familiar. In retrospect I might have chosen a less well known publication; two or three months later I received a letter from an inmate in a NYS penitentiary who'd read my ad and wanted to meet me. But, the Voice was very easy to deal with, and when I called back a year later to get an additional copy of the proof of publication (required by NYS for changing my birth certificate) they had all the info handy and sent it out within the week.

Once the ad has run, the paper sends you a notarized certification of its publication (get multiple copies if you were born in NY State - you'll need them to change birth certificate). Bring the proof of publication back to 111 Centre Street, room 118 to the clerks. They will then stamp (certify) your court order, and you can pay $5 a copy for as many certified copies as you want. All but one of the people I dealt with at the court were polite, helpful, or downright cheery. So if you feel sufficiently daring, ask what they think of the judge set to receive the batch of name-change orders into which yours will go, and if they give you an answer that seems dubious, ask if you come back a different week, a different judge would be more likely to expedite your case.

LICENSE:

When changing your name on your license in New York, it is very helpful in ensuring success to have a court order, especially in these days, but a 1987 NYS mandate from then Commissioner of Motor Vehicles Patricia B Adduci stipulates in regards to Procedure 4335, page 11,the amendment of a driver's license to reflect a sex change, that "medical, psychological, or psychiatric evaluation with a medical determination that one gender predominates over the other... will be acceptable as sufficient proof of true gender if submitted on physician's letterhead and signed by the physician whose name is on the letterhead. Proof that an operation occurred is no longer necessary" (NB I have a photocopy of this memo, which I can scan in to be posted online so people can print it out and take it into the DMV - the clerks I encountered were not aware of it, and it was very helpful to have both the court order, the therapist's letter, AND a copy of the DMV policy). The DMV did not accept a therapist's letter on laser-printed letterhead; only embossed stationary was deemed "genuine." In total, the 'everything but the kitchen sink' approach seemed best; if in doubt, bring more proof than you think you're going to need, because more likely than not, you'll get a clerk who doesn't really want to help you unless they are forced to.

I hope that is helpful.

From a reader in August 2004:

I have pretty much had the same experiences that the other New Yorkers have had. However, I need to add several very important things.

Most people use the New York City Civil Court, at 111 Centre Street. You can also use the State Supreme Court, for a larger fee and the same results.

First, type everything that you submit (Petition and Order) to the court and keep copies of every document you submit. You can use the boilerplates at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project for your submission. They are at:

http://srlp.org/documents.html

You will need an original of your birth certificate from the issuing agency or another court approved document, along with an original of the doctor's (or therapist's) letter, if you have one. I submitted a doctor's letter that was five years old with no problems. The more supporting documents you submit, the better your chances. It helps a great deal if you are currently using your new name in employment, public assistance, library card, banks, etc. Photocopies of pieces of ID in your new name are a great help and should be submitted with the Petition and cited therein.

Pay careful attention as the clerk reviews your Petition, Order and supporting documentation. I got into an argument with the clerk about the need for an item I submitted. After my explanation, the clerk understood what I was doing. After the clerk accepts your papers, you will go the cashier, pay the fee (no personal checks), and be issued a receipt for your payment that has your Index Number on it.

In about a month, the court will call you and tell you that the Petition has been granted and the Order will be issued contingent upon your publishing a notice in an approved newspaper and serving notice on the appropriate parties (if needed).

Use the Village Voice: it is the cheapest paper. Be sure to get a tear sheet (from them) to check the copy or check it on the Internet the next day. My ad was wrong and had to be re-published. You may ask the court to waive publication (that request will probably not be granted) or to omit your address (likely to be granted, as in my case) in the Notice. After the Notice is published, you will get a notarized affidavit from the paper in the mail, bring it to the court and have it clocked in and get a copy of the clocked-in affidavit. You are done. You may now get certified copies of the Order to present to various entities for a fee.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Correction Division, the agency that changes your name on your NYC issued birth certificate, is a disaster. You will need to submit a VR-172 and the Order to change your NAME only. Make copies of everything and send your material Certified, Return Receipt Requested. Be prepared to wait many months while with wheels of government grind on.

Other NYC agencies are much, much, better, and the Federal government (IRS, Passport, and Social Security) is the best. Many entities will require a certified copy of the Order and not return it. Get extra copies if you feel that you may need them. I got too many copies because most entities returned the Order after they examined it, a fact that I was not aware of. Five Orders seems to be a good number to start with.

Change your name on your social security card first. It is the easiest and many local (Department of Social Services) and state (NYS Dept. of Motor Vehicles) agencies check the name and social security numbers in their records against the social security database and issue a call-in letter if there is a discrepancy.

Change your ID in increments; do not change every piece of photo ID at once. Note that your NYS photo driver's license will take 2 to 3 weeks to get to you. And you may need to show your old photo ID along with the Order to get your name changed in some situations, like my bank did.

Since the Cynthia Frank case, where a judge's ruling was overturned after a Memorandum of Law was filed, name changes for trans women in NYC are less of a problem.

Good Luck

Other resources

New York State law

From a reader in June 2007:

http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/menugetf.cgi?COMMONQUERY=LAWS

Select CVR - Civil RIghts  (New page will open)

     Article 6 - (60 - 65) CHANGE OF NAME

Sent by a reader, this document outlines policies as set out in 1987.

I meant to scan this in and forward it to you for posting on your site literally years ago at this point. It's the actual document I referred to in the tips that I sent you for changing gender on driver's license in New York State. I hope, given the current climate, that it is still in effect. I remember when I went to the DMV, it was very helpful for disarming the clerk's reticence to be able to present her with a physical copy of the regulation.


Precedent for transsexuals

[no specific case noted]