Washington State 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.

Washington State has a very simple process for name change. Some (but not all) out-of-state readers have had success getting an out-of-state name change in Washington State after attempts in their home state failed.

In August 2010, a reader wrote:

Pursuant to RCW 4.24.130 virtually anyone can legally change their name. The procedure is uniform in all 39 counties and the only thing that differs is the fee associated with that particular county (see http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=4.24.130).

(1) I had my name legaly changed in Thurston County Washington. I went in, filed the paperwork, paid the fee and came back three days later to the hearing. The judge called me by my *new name* signed the order and said a copy would be availabe in the clerks office in a few moments. I went, waited about 5 minutes got a few copies and haven't been back since.

(2) Changing your driver's license requires you to fill out a form and have your doctor or pyscologist fill out the back section (I've attached the current form). A LMHC (Lisenced Mental Health Counselor) is not suffient. (see http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/change.html#genderchange).

(3) Your birth certificate requires a letter from your doctor claiming that you have undergone the appropriate clincial treatment (sex reassignment surgery) for them to change the gender.

In April 2009, a reader sent the following:

I'm a resident of Washington, and in April 2009, I finally got around to going down to the local district court in Pierce county. I walked right up to the counter, handed my completed paperwork (it's online now: http://www.co.pierce.wa.us/pc/Abtus/ourorg/distct/dc1faq.htm#namechg ) to a polite woman behind the counter. All that was requested was my driver's licence, not the birth certificate. I went right in to the courtroom. After about 4 traffic ticket hearings, I was called up by my former first name (but no one payed attention). The judge was having a good day and had let several people out of their tickets. After glancing at my papers, he said that he can see why I need to get this done to coincide with the other changes I've made in my life. I was then told to go back to the front office, where I awaited my certified copies. I was in and out of there in less than 40 minutes.

In January 2007, I received the following:

I am a transsexual who recently went to do a name change in the state of washington. On TS road map page on name change in King County, it tells readers that they can get their name changed at the Shoreline and
Bellevue court houses with out even appearing in front of a judge. This is false as I did this today January, 9th 2007 at the Bellevue court house and I did have to appear before a judge. Was kind of a bummer as I was hoping the information written there was correct, and I am writing to update that information that some thing has changed and now you do have to appear before a judge and present to him/her why you want to change your name. I could not figure out how to reply to this post the Transsexual roadmap site, so I was hoping you could tell me how or update the info on that page for me. Just want other trans to know that this has changed since that post was made, so they will not be dissapointed like I was.

In April 2010, a reader sent the following report:

Today I went to the district court located in Burien, for King County, Washington. The day prior I submitted the two papers required for the petition to the clerk's office, as of April, 2010 I was required to pay 150$ for the court petition total, with an addition 5$ per certified copy. I paid for the petition and six certified copies together with the petition. The clerk assigned me a court date the following afternoon.

  I dressed female business casual, even though everyone else seems to come with what ever they feel like. I arrived 20 minutes early, with only a copy of my court summons (no letter of reference or doctors note as is sometimes suggested). I noticed no staring or gawking, but I'm young and seem to fit fairly well as a female. Even though I was last on the courts docket, I was second to be called as in the words of the judge "this one looks easiest." The judge called me by my legal male name, using the prefix Mr. but after looking up from his paperwork he corrected himself to Ms. He seemed not to take any special precautions, care, or treatment me differently than another name change before me of a cis gendered female.

  The questions were simple, after being sworn in I was asked if it was for any fraudulent purposes, he finished with ensure the parts of my name i wished changed. After I confirmed it was correct he signed. It was over in a few minutes. After I got up passing in front of the courtroom everyone seemed focused on something they were doing, the judge, or the clerk, no eyes were on me. I received my certified copies after some waiting and then was done! Over-all the process was fairly strait forward with no hassle, and if anything my own imagination had built up fear for an occasion that was anti-climatic.

In June 2003 a reader sent the following:

Back to the matter at hand. Below is a brief description of what I went through to change my name and driver's license (including the gender on it). If it needs any clarification, I can do that. Anne has a similar article on her main page, but it is beginning to show its age. Washington State name change for transgender women

1. Start the process

The general description of the process is available at:

http://www.lawhelp.org/documents/1488013400EN.pdf [revised December 2008]

The main step is to identify your local district court. The procedure, forms, and fees vary from district to district. Some districts have most of the information online. For example, King County name change guidelines are available at:

http://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/DistrictCourt/NameChange.aspx [revised December 2008]

Call ahead and determine what days name changes are performed. The clerk will probably tell you that if you file by a certain time in the morning, you will appear before a judge that afternoon.

2. Take care of pre-hearing procedures

It is not required for you to have a recommendation letter from your therapist to change your name (the judge did not look at mine when offered). You DO need one for changing the gender on your driver's license, so you might as well get several copies.

3. Go to court

Go to the clerk's office in female attire and file your name change application (possibly filling it out there). You will have to show ID, pay the filing fees, and with some likelihood, be stared at by the clerk. Regarding fees, go ahead and pay for about four certified copies. Although many places I sent them to returned the copies, at one point I had four in the mail.

The clerk will give you a court time, usually for that day. I filed around 9:30am and my session was not till 1:30pm. I spent the time walking around downtown Seattle and enjoying a day off. Get back to the court with time to spare since there is always a chance the room and judge may change (two dockets were combined when I did my name change).

It is likely that you will have a long wait till you are called before the judge. Wait patiently till your MALE name is called. Some courts are nice and will call your intended name, but this is not guaranteed. I was called up by my male name, much to the chagrin of the other people in the courtroom.

The judge will ask you why you are changing your name and will ask you if you are doing this for illicit means (avoiding crime, debts, etc.). Answer succintly and offer your recommendation if necessary. My judge constantly referred to me as "son," and did not need to see my letter. After about a minute of conversation, he signed the order.

4. Get your certificates

Most likely, the signed name change order will be sent right back to the clerk. Go to the clerk, identify yourself, and they will give you the appropriate copies, etc. Congratulations.

5. Change your driver's license

In Washington state, you can change the gender on your license with a recommendation from your therapist. If your therapist is from the state, he will give you the appropriate person to contact. The procedure is basically to mail a certified copy of your name change order plus the recommendation to:

Executive Assistant
Department of Licensing
Driver Services
POB 9020
Olympia, WA 98507-9020

In about a week or two, you will get a letter affirming the gender change. At this point, you can head to any DMV to get a new license. Bring the letter and a certified copy of your name change to get a new license with the right gender, right name, and much better looking picture (all for a nominal fee of course).


All in all, save a few annoyances with the judge and a clerk, the process was very painless. I was extremely proud to be recognized as a woman by my state.


Another reader writes;

Here’s some notes for Western Washington State name change….

You’ll need to obtain the appropriate forms for your County. These can either be obtained from your county courthouse, or you can find some of them online. Additionally, some counties have the procedures listed online.

For some of the more populous counties, the online forms are listed below:

King County
Name Change Procedure: http://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/DistrictCourt/NameChange.aspx [revised December 2008]
Name Change Petition: http://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/DistrictCourt/NameChange.aspx [revised December 2008]

Take your name change petition to your local County Courthouse (be sure to put the
Indicate the courthouse in the petition). Currently, the county courthouses of Shoreline
And Bellevue will process your name change without requiring a hearing before the judge,
Simply drop off your petition and pick it up after they process it.

Other courthouses may require a hearing in front of the Judge.

You’ll need a copy of your drivers license, birth certificate, or passport.

Shohomish County
Contact your local district court for a petition for name change.
District Courts: http://www1.co.snohomish.wa.us/departments/District_Court/ [revised December 2008]

Pierce County:
Petitions for name change are filed with the Court and require two forms: Petition for Changing Name and Order for Changing Name.
The forms may be picked up at the Civil/Infraction Division, 1902 96th St South. If the name change request is for a minor child, each parent must sign an affidavit indicating that they both agree and consent to the change. A $82 filing fee is required. The fee for an additional family member is $34. The additional costs are for three certified copies, statutory transmittal fee to the Auditor's Office, and statutory recording fees.

For other counties, contact your local county courthouse (superior court), and ask them what their procedure is for name change.
Ask them what:
documentation they need.
How much does the name change cost, including extra certified copies of the name change order.
How long will the procedure take.
Do you need to publish your name change in a local newspaper.

I recommend obtaining at least 4 copies of your name change order…One for your ‘safety deposit box’, one for your purse,
one for the Passport agency, and one extra.

If you need to have a hearing, show up on time, with all of the required documentation.

There ya go…you’ve got a name change…

Another reader writes in November 2003

Please note that subsequent readers had to appear in court.

I changed my name in King County, Washington (Seattle) on October 23rd. As per the information on your website, I filed my paperwork at the Shoreline courthouse, hoping that I could avoid a court hearing, and get the change done in a day or two. I was pleasantly surprised when I filed the petition and order, found here: http://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/DistrictCourt/NameChange.aspx [revised December 2008]

The clerk was extremely pleasant, took the paperwork, and told me the fee would be $70 + $5 per certified copy. She stepped away while I gathered my money, and 2 minutes later handed me the signed order and five certified copies! I guess that was about as quick and painless as it gets!

My court ordered name change and 5 certified copies cost me a grand total of $95 and 5 minutes of my time, and I didn't even have to appear in court!

I took my court order, the letter from my therapist, and a letter from myself, stating my intent to live full time, and met with Kristin Partain of WA DOL, driver services, in Olympia. (MUST set an appointment with Kristin in advance) Kristin was VERY helpful and understanding, and withing 5 minutes had a letter instructing Div of Licensing personnel to make the appropriate changes to my license. At the lobby counter, I had my new picture taken, the information was changed, and I was out the door in 5 minutes!

The only negative to my experience was that the lady at the social security office in Kent, WA would NOT change the sex on my social security sex until I had a letter from a surgeon confirming surgery, so anyone seeking to try to slide thru social security may want to try another social security office.

Anyway, just wanted to share my experience with you in hope that the information may be useful to others in the community.

Sent in January 2004

YESSS!!!! I got my new WA State drivers license today - and it says "F". I can't stop looking at it! I even like the picture for once!

Anyway, an important update to the WA State Department of Licensing information (I can write this up better if you like).

The Department of Licensing requires a therapist or physician letter from an in-state practitioner (i.e., a resident of WA). I don't know if this was a recent change or not.

From a reader in May 2004:

Here is what I had to do in order to legaly change my name in Thurston county Washington state in March 2003. Things vary from county to county. I can only tell you what my experiance was.

First you are required to be a resident of Thurston county. All this means is that you live in Thurston county. There don't seem to be any reqirements as to how long you have been living in Thurston county.

I went to the court house website and printed out the name change form. In the section regarding the reason for name change, I gave a compleatly honest reponse. Given the large volume of trans people here in Olympia I am sure they have done many name changes for that. In regards to reasons. It seems that as long as its not for fraud or the like, it doesn't realy matter why you want the name change.

After filling out the form I dropped by the court house. I turned in the form along with the $58 filing fee. My court date was set. It was only a few weeks in the future. I showed up at the court house on the appointed day. I was wearing a skirt and heels. I felt it was important to dress nice when in front of the judge. The judge called me up by the new name. She looked at the form and said "looks like you put a lot of thought into this" I said "yes" and she signed off the form. I then went back to where I had originally dropped off the form.

There I got one free notarized copy of the form, along with 2 others for $5 each. After that was done I went to get a state ID with the new name and get the name on my social security changed. At the department of licensing the guy behind the counter was very nice and it was a simple process. He also explined that he couldn't change the sex designation without a therapist letter. I then went to the social security
office to change the name. I was told there that to change the sex designation on that you need proof of SRS. When it was all said and done the biggest hassle was taking the bus and walking around in heels.

An additional note. In WA state they don't reqire that you publicize the name change in the newspaper like other states do. Also I have been told that in other counties in WA its more expensive for the name change.

Other resources

Residency information for out-of state readers (sent by a reader in May 2005):

Please note that as of 2007, the information below has been applicable for some people and not applicable for others. You need to confirm this yourself rather than relying on this information.

A reader writes in August 2008:

I recently went through the process myself. I am a resident of Washington state and, as per your website, it was easy. I did have to go in front of a judge. I even got to waive most of the fee. In King County, it usually costs $110 total for filing. Because I am low-income, all I had to do was state that I have Social Security and then list my income and my expenses. All I paid for the whole deal was $42. I was in and out, same day, no problems.

However, I do want to caution others who might want to do as the website suggests. You do have to swear in court, under penalty of perjury, that you are a resident of the county in which you are applying for the name change. I am not versed in the entire legal language on this topic, nor am I a lawyer. I thought that I would bring this up so that you would know that there could be complications if someone were to try an out-of-state name change in Washington and they were discovered to be a non-resident. I would really hate to see anyone get in trouble. All states should make it this easy to change a name, but states have individual rights, and some make it harder on its citizens than others. I don't want to see anyone expend all the effort and money on this kind of endeavor only to be thrown in jail. Transfolk have it hard enough.

I thought I'd pass this information along. I hope that it can help.

Another reader writes in October 2008

I had some trouble with a Judge in my local court. It seems that he did not think that transition was a valid reason to change my name and had refused my request on two attempts. I had the option to appeal but after searching your site came on a better solution.

I have relatives living in Washington state, a place where name changes are quite easy.

The first thing I did was to contact the court in the county where my relatives reside and get the requirements. They live in Tacoma/Pierce county. I was informed that all I needed to get a name change was a picture ID and a birth certificate. Out of state ID was OK. There is a residency requirement but the term or permanence of the residency was not an issue.

This is when I remembered the the debate of George Bush Sr. and the question of where he should vote. It seems that although he lived in Kennebunkport, he owned property in Texas and could therefore call it his residence. This was justified by him receiving mail at the Texas address. I simply established my residency by sending myself mail at my relative's address, with their permission of course.

I flew to Seattle/Tacoma, had a nice visit with my relatives and went to the courthouse the next day. The courthouse is quite small and it took less than five minutes to fill out the two page name change request. I walked from the clerk's office to the courtroom and was called for my hearing in less than a half hour.

The Judge was great, she called me by my female name and never once mentioned the former. She was very complementary on my reasons for the name change referring to them as "Definitely Necessary." She congratulated me on my new name, admonished me to followup with my State ID and Social Security, and we were done. She never asked me about residency or had me swear that I lived there. I had two certified copies in my hand no more than ten minutes later and additional copies to be mailed to my Tacoma address in about a week.

The court costs were $117.00. I had travel and lodging expenses but all together it was less than what it had cost me for another attempt in California, and far less then the attorney fees for an appeal.

I got my name change and had a nice few days in Tacoma.

Just thought that this might be helpful to others.

Non-Washington State transitioners could probably benefit from traveling to Washington State to get their name changed. It may be worth it for them, at the price of a couple Southwest Airlines tickets. Washington State is the easiest and quickest state in the country to get a court ordered name change. There are no publication requirements and, as noted on your web site, it can be accomplished in one day, given that the person would need to have obtained a Washington identicard before making the court petition. It takes one or two days and costs about $80.00, plus the cost of additional certified copies of the order with court seals, of which a recipient may want to get half a dozen copies for various future uses. The process would require two trips to Washington State. Teh first trip would be to setup the mailbox and get the new license or ID card, which the Department of Licensing would send to the mailbox. On the second trip the person would return with all the court paperwork prepared, pickup the ID card, go to court, file the papers, and get the court order from the judge.

An out of state person could do it by establishing an address with a private mailbox store in Washington State, in a smaller, out of the way county, then getting a Washington State ID with their old name in that county with the mailbox address, then using that Washington ID as documentation for their name change filing. A day or two later they'll have a name change order that they can use to change their birth certificate in whatever state their birth certificate exists. Those who are specific with the court about their reason for name change might want to consider making a motion to seal the name change petition records as well. Getting an order to seal the court record would probably be more difficult for someone changing their name without being specific with the court about their reasons, and the consequently requisite reason for sealing the court record.

Name changes can and do usually take place in tiny, generally friendly, county district courts, making them harder for the electronic information collectors to gather and database. There are differences in court handling experience when someone goes to the downtown Seattle King County District Court, which is big, and not so good, and the experience in most of the smaller district courts, which is much better and more private, as documented elsewhere on tsroadmap. At the smaller suburban district courts, such as Bellevue, Redmond, or in smaller counties like Pierce, Olympia and Vancouver, the experience is nearly always like the one reported on your web site about them. By the way, most of Washington State is quite liberal and progressive, and consequently so are most of its elected judges. People don't have to settle for the arcane, and often embarrassing, procedures in their home states.

Link to name change forms:
http://www.kingcounty.gov/courts/DistrictCourt/NameChange.aspx [revised December 2008]

The relevant statutes, RCW 46.20, do not include any prohibition against using a private mailbox as the address on one's identification.
http://www.leg.wa.gov/RCW/index.cfm?fuseaction=chapterdigest&chapter=46.20  < http://www.leg.wa.gov/RCW/index.cfm?fuseaction=chapterdigest&amp;chapter=46.20 >
Like most states theses days, the government stores all this information in various databases permanently. In Washington State, the State Auditors Department, which shares information with the State and County Elections Departments, maintains databases of all name changes with old and new names in perpetuity. See:
RCW 29A.08.440
http://www.leg.wa.gov/RCW/index.cfm?section=29A.08.440&fuseaction=section < http://www.leg.wa.gov/RCW/index.cfm?section=29A.08.440&amp;fuseaction=section >
RCW 36.22.200
http://www.leg.wa.gov/RCW/index.cfm?section=36.22.200&fuseaction=section < http://www.leg.wa.gov/RCW/index.cfm?section=36.22.200&amp;fuseaction=section >

RCW 4.24.130
http://www.leg.wa.gov/RCW/index.cfm?section=4.24.130&fuseaction=section < http://www.leg.wa.gov/RCW/index.cfm?section=4.24.130&amp;fuseaction=section >

The issues raised here, elsewhere on tsroadmap and in the news, about the new federal REAL ID statute have broad implications. The implications of the REAL ID statute mean that people are going to want to hurry and get there paperwork in order because it is probably going to be much more difficult after 2008 when that law takes full effect. It also means that people may be deep stealth and assimilated in everyday life, but information about their past identification, and connections between the two, unless its really, really old information before the computer and internet explosion, will always be available to the government, to creditors and others with access to the major commercial information brokers. It appears that privacy on that level no longer exists.

A reader who successfully did all this wrote in April 2006:

For the price of a plane ticket (I decided to make only one trip and make a little vacation out of it) I had my court ordered name change in exactly 7 days and for a grand total of $130 ($100 fee and 6 certified copies at $5 a piece). In my home state, the cost would have been $320, $90 for the privilege of publishing my personal business in a newspaper, and it would have taken 6-8 weeks. Washington was definitely the way to go. And once I got home, I had absolutely no trouble changing my Social Security card, my passport and getting a new license. I must say, if one is so inclined, make the trip to Washington state and you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Please note that as of 2007, the information above has been applicable for some people and not applicable for others. You need to confirm this yourself rather than relying on this information.

Washington State law

Precedent for transsexuals

[no specific case noted]