Virginia 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.

From a reader in March 2007, who had prevously done a common law name change. Her original note:

I began transitioning at 24 years old, and found that it was quite easy to pass after only a short time on hormones.  I began living my new life almost immediately.  A year had gone by before I started thinking about updating my various form of identification.  By that time, I was PETRIFIED at the thought of  being outed by the name change process.... so I changed my name through common law.
  
After a lot of research, I found that since I had been using my new name exclusively for quite some time, I  was eligible to have it changed on my vital documents without a court order.  The SS administration was willing to change my name after I provided several ordinary documents showing my new name.  These included my medical bills, which had been readily changed by my pro-trans doctor.  Once I had my new SS card, I applied for a new passport.  Since I had my old passport to verify residency and I was able to present one form of ID in my new name, I was able to have a friend sign an affidavit attesting to my name and identity as she knew is (in my new name).  Those Items were enough to get my new passport.  I had the gender designation changed at that time as well, with a letter from my therapist stating that I would need ID verifying  my chosen gender in order to fulfill my real lift test requirement.  Once my new passport arrived, I was able to change my driver's license using my SS card and passport as proof (incidentally, they  automatically changed my gender designation at that time as well, relying on what the passport said and probably by assuming that I had already had surgery).  With my new IDs I began filing all paperwork with my new name, and was able to get the IRS to make the change based on the fact that the federal government had already acknowledged the change.  Make sense?  Well it's a very convoluted way to go about things and I have found, to this day, that it's an uphill struggle each time I must convince people that my name has legally changed.
  
Five years has gone by since then, and I am a thinking about buying a house.  Of course, I'm running into trouble dealing with mortgage brokers.  They don't understand why my name is  different from what it reads on my credit report.  Most have suggested that I must get the mortgage under my 'real' name.  It's impossible to explain to them that my current name IS  my real and legal name.  Rather than deal with the nightmare of getting the credit agencies to recognize my new name, I thought I'd finally just get a court order.... except for one small problem....
  
Since my new name is also my legal name, I can not produce any identification in my old name, except for my birth certificate, which won't be accepted by the court because it doesn't have a picture.  Since I can't change my name to the exact same name, I seemingly won't ever be able to get a court order.....!  The "your current, legal name" box, and your "desired name" box would be the same!!!

(March 2007 follow-up)

I'm sorry for the late response, but I wanted to take a minute and let you know how things turned out with my name change quandary.  Ironically, It turns out that Virginia doesn't require a court appearance or any public notice for an name change, so my reason for putting this off all these years was mute. Anyway, all I needed to do was fill out a one page form, have it notarized and submit it to the circuit court clerk.  I was worried that since I had already changed all my ID's to my new name through use of common law statutes, I would never be able to file an official petition (can't change your name to your name sort of thing).  Anyway, Virginia's petition form allows for the petitioner of the court to be a different name than the name of the person changing their name.  It read sort of like, "I, [petitioner] request that [old name] be changed to [new name] sworn and signed  [petitioner].  The document doesn't make any link between the petitioner and the name change person.  Since the person signing the form is the petitioner, but not necessarily the person having a name change, I was able to use my current name and ID to file the papers.  I didn't have to provide any information beyond that.  I don't know if this is a loop hole or intentionally provided for just such a situation, but the court ordered the change and the official copy arrived in the mail in under a week!
  
Thanks again for your help.  I hope this information will be useful to other women.

In June 2006, a reader sent this:

Virginia has not only gone high-tech (electronic forms), but also now only has a single form to fill in, with questions on the form to categorize them instead of having the 4 individual forms like before.  All of the gender-specific terms have been removed, and you also no longer have to state a reason for the name change.  You just fill in the form with the information as it appears on your birth certificate and click on the "Print for submission to court" button at the top of the form when you are done.  You then head over to the Clerk of the Circuit Court and sign it in front of them and have them acknowledge your signature (you can go to a Notary Public, but you'll have to submit the form to the circuit court clerk anyway, so rather just kill two birds with one stone).
 
I've attached two files:

* namechangeformi.pdf  -  Instructions for filling out the form.
* namechangeformc.pdf  -  The electronically fillable and printable form (note that you cannot save the filled out version of the form)

In February 2004 a reader sent the following:

ONLY If this is you first name change and you do NOT have a felony conviction then you can use [this form] - outdated link.

Changing one's name in Virginia is a relatively simple process.


You will have to go to the law library (there in one in every court house) first and request one of the four name change forms. They will have a copy there for you to reproduce

The forms are as follows:

First name change without a felony conviction.
Second name change without a felony conviction.
First name change with a felony conviction.
Second name change with a felony conviction.

(This is Virginia... YOU figure out why they have to have four seperate forms!)

You then pick out and photo copy only the form that applies to you. Unfortunately Virginia is mired in the mud in many ways and legislation once approved here can literally take centuries to have amended.

This particular legislation was written back in the day when the typewriter was the newest state of the art in document perpetrations, long before photo copiers were even dreamed of, so this form has to be "typewritten."

Don't worry about where do I find a typewriter, just copy the form and take it home or to the library and reproduce it on a computer with the right data inserted.

Once done, your signature on it has to be notarized before filing. When you have finished with all this simply take the completed and notarized form back to the Clerk of the Court for your City or County and hand it to them with thirty one dollars cash.

In a few weeks you will receive your second page back with a judges signature.

That's it ! You are now legally Ms. -------!

Several Notes on this process in Virginia!

A hand written form or a photo copy of the appropriate form with your data inserted by hand will be rejected out right by the Clerk so even don't bother trying this Just take the copy you made in the law library, word process the darn thing and print! .

Secondly. The form does ask "Why you want to change your name." This is the "Old Dominion" after all and home to slavery, the Capitol of the Confederacy and both Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Judges here have absolutly incredible powers, particularly when it comes to exercising their own prejudices. To avoid this possibility, just say where it asks on the form that "I never liked my old name" which given that you are seeking to change it now is probably a very true statement!

Also you will need the date that your birth certificate was registered with the state in addition to the date that you were born. Don't make up a date! Request a copy of your birth certificate if you don't already have one!

Lastly this form is mired in the last century and it is gendered, and like everything else in this state there is a "right way to do things." So no matter how much it might gall you have to say "He" be sure that you choose to enter "he" or"him" everywhere that you have that choice. That is unless you have already had your SRS in which case you would of course enter "she" or "her." To do otherwise runs the risk that the form will be kicked back.

From a reader in July 2005:

I recently submitted my name change form here in Virginia.  It cost $34 and you need to have 4 copies with you.  That is, for the first time name change, with no legal issues of any kind.

Other resources

 

Virginia State law

Precedent for transsexuals

[no specific case noted]